Palestine Note: 'Cultivator of community and perspectives of issues facing Palestine'

porبسام سبتي
Nov 16, 2009 em Miscellaneous

Since conflict between Israel and Palestine began six decades ago, traditional news organizations across the world have strived to cover the conflict from all angles. Now, new media technologies are reshaping coverage of the conflict and its major players.

The recently launched Palestine Note (at www.palestinenote.com) Web site is attracting widespread attention for its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as for its platform that allows people to read, comment and share information on the topic.

Founded by Hani Masri and A. Huda Farouki, American businessmen of Palestinian origin, the site was launched in English, with Arabic, Hebrew and Spanish to come. As Americans, Masri and Farouki wish to foster peaceful voices among Americas, Palestinians and its neighbors through a platform where anyone can express opinions, read news and debate issues in a respectful and productive way.

Palestine Note is a multimedia platform that offers news, stories and views about Palestine and Palestinians by various sources from all over the world, according to Fadi Elsalameen, Palestine Note CEO. Elsalameen (pictured, right) was formerly the director of Institutional Advancement at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP). He speaks Arabic, Hebrew, English, French, and Mandarin-Chinese. Last week, IJNet sat down with Elsalameen to learn more about the new venture.

Briefly, what is the idea behind Palestine Note?
Palestinenote.com is an information and blog site that offers news, stories and views about Palestine and Palestinians by various sources from all over the world. Beyond that, palestinenote.com is a cultivator of community and of perspectives about vital cultural, economic, social and political issues facing Palestine and its friends, as well as its critics, around the world. That is why you will see that the comments on our site are from people living in places like Israel, Australia, Palestine, the United States, and almost every Arab country.

Who funds your project?
The seed money to launch palestinenote.com was from the founders Hani Masri and A. Huda Farouki. Today, 100 percent of our funds are private donations from people who care about the region and frankly see a huge potential in a project like Palestine Note. Anyone is welcome to be part of this project and help us make it larger and more effective.

What distinguishes Palestine Note from other Web sites?
We are very unique. There is no other site like palestinenote.com. It is the first of its kind for three reasons: 1) the topics that we cover; 2) the people that are working on the site and writing for it; and 3) because we are very objective, we have built an audience and an ability to reach high profile individuals for interviews and get people’s reactions on such views. There is no site like this on Palestine and Israel.

You have to remember that we are not only a news and opinion site -- we are a cultivator of community and of perspectives about vital cultural, economic, social and political issues facing Palestine and its friends, as well as its critics, around the world. And we do that objectively.

Who is your main audience?
We have seen that most of our readers are Americans, Palestinians, and Israelis. These are the areas where we get the most clicks on our site. Right after that comes the Arab world, and that includes countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon.

Why are you targeting this audience?
We are happy to see that the audience we are getting to read Palestine Note are Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, and Arabs in the Arab world. As you can imagine, they are the people directly involved in the Israeli-Palestinian question, and if we are to be an agent of positive change among these groups, we need to have their attention, listen to their comments, concerns, and make sure that our reporters and opinion writers are responding by asking the right questions when interviewing people. This will establish a channel of communication not only between the various readers but also between the readers and the policy makers in the different countries. This is crucial for the future of the region.

What kind of stories do you provide for your audience?
When you visit palestinenote.com you will see that we have a great diversity of topics that range from politics to music and arts. We have a news section that covers current events, a blog section that covers opinions by experts and various commentators on current events or featured stories. You will see a culture section that includes arts, movies, books and theater in Palestine, Israel, and the United States related to the region.

Do you think Palestine is covered fairly in international English-language media? If not, how do you think Palestine Note could change that?
Palestine Note is objective in its coverage. A common question -- or rather a complaint -- that people always make with regards to Palestine in the news is "the coverage is not fair." We would like to bring Palestine -- and, frankly, the region -- into the news on a positive note, and Palestine Note will do that. We bring positivity to the debate, we want people to express their opinions, we will ask our writers to write about the subjects of concern, and we will try to drive the debate closer to policy makers so that a change could come about. We are not interested in people debating and commenting for the sake of commenting. We aim to be a channel of communication between the public and the policy makers.

Do you depend on new media to reach your audience?
Heavily. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are part of every story we have on palestinenote.com. We update Palestine Note's pages on Twitter and Facebook everyday, so I encourage people to be part of these pages and follow us.

Where do your writers and editors come from?
We have Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, Jordanians, etc. We have an A quality team, and that's why you see A quality content on the site. The beauty of this team is that they were journalists and editors from various backgrounds that wanted to work together and when we started hiring people for Palestine Note, they started recommending each other and that’s how we built our team.

Are guest writers welcome to write for Palestine Note? What are the qualifications you are seeking among writers?
Yes, everyone is welcome to write for Palestine Note as long as they have something interesting to add. That's why you will see a section devoted to encouraging people to make their voice heard by writing for palestinenote.com. Our excellent editors decide on whether or not something is ready for publication. What we also do is work with our contributors to improve their pieces so they can be published. Something other sites or papers do not do.

Do you also cover the issue of the Palestinian Diaspora around the world?
Absolutely! We are interested in everything Palestinian. We are now working on stories about Palestinians who are actors in Hollywood movies, artists, executives, refugees, drivers, writers, you name it as long as it helps tell part of the Palestinian story we are interested in it.

How do you think Palestine Note helps the Palestinian people?
One thing guaranteed: The world will learn and hear more about Palestine, and take note that we are a people that works hard and loves life. This is the place where people of all backgrounds including Palestinians can write, show videos, pictures, and tell stories about their lives and experiences with Palestine. If anything, I hope this site will be an interactive medium were we will show our love for life, our constant work towards peaceful lives and a brighter future for the next generations.

How do you see Palestine Note 10 years from now?
I want to see it as THE site on Palestine-Israel issues. If I have a problem in Tel Aviv or Hebron, I want to write to Palestine note, I want Palestine Note to cover my issue, and I want the people in control to respond to it and address it. I also would love to see 2 million active users on the Palestine Note web site, reading, making comments, submitting pieces for publication. This is where we want to take it, and it will need everyone’s help to get there.

Palestine Note seeks to become a watering hole in the blogosphere and a convener for those who want to share thoughts and concerns about the future of Palestine. Our goal is to present a pluralistic, diverse set of on-ramps into the tectonics of one of the world's most heavily reported conflict regions.

Any last thoughts?
We are always looking for interesting, original new content -- written, or in the form of video, or thoughts on programs and perspectives that would be constructive for building the kind of work and community I described earlier.

To submit your stories, videos and photos for publication, submit them as attachments to editor@palestinenote.com. Similarly, if you are interested in becoming one of our regular bloggers, please send a sample of your writing and a CV for consideration to editor@palestinenote.com.