New Channel with Hezbollah Ties Opens Bureau Near White House (PJM Exclusive)

A new Arab satellite channel billed as a "focused on delivering a true and honest message" -- with Hezbollah ties and questions of connections to Iran and Syria -- has opened an office just a couple blocks from the White House.

Al-Mayadeen, meaning "the Square," is attempting to position itself as an alternative to Al-Jazeera and other Arabic media outlets.

But while the channel draws its name from the Arab Spring revolutions, à la Tahrir Square, the co-founders running Al-Mayadeen have disturbing ties to terrorists and undemocratic regimes.

Ghassan Ben Jeddo, a host at Al-Jazeera and former Beirut bureau chief, quit the channel a year ago with complaints that the station had become an "operations room for incitement" and "biased" -- against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, for one.

“I do believe that Al-Jazeera and other channels were not balanced in dealing with the events,” the Tunisian said at the time. “For instance, with respect to the events in Syria and Bahrain, we started to invite guests from America who only criticize the regime in Syria and support the regime in Bahrain and persons who justify NATO intervention. This is unacceptable.”

Ben Jeddo is billed as the only journalist to have interviewed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006. He's also interviewed Fidel Castro.

He was also Al-Jazeera's former bureau chief in Iran.

Ben Jeddo is infamous for welcoming a terrorist out of prison with an on-air party (VIDEO). Samir Kuntar, who in 1979 killed a father and the man's 4-year-old daughter by beating her head against shore rocks in Nahariya, Israel, was released in a 2008 prisoner exchange. To welcome the terrorist home and celebrate Kuntar's 46th year on this earth, Beirut's bureau chief rolled out a cake for the murderer that included a "most beautiful picture," in Kuntar's words, of Nasrallah.

"Brother Samir, we wish to celebrate your birthday with you," said Ben Jeddo in the broadcast. "You deserve even more than this."

When Ben Jeddo announced the Al-Mayadeen venture just a few months after his highly publicized Al-Jazeera resignation, he had his new business partner by his side at a Beirut press conference.

Nayef Krayyem, owner of a satellite provider called Union Media, is a former spokesman for Hezbollah and onetime general manager of Al-Manar, Hezbollah's satellite television station.

In 1995, Krayyem was selected to be head of Hezbollah's Central Information Office. He would help the group's TV arm get off the ground.

In 2001, as CEO of Al-Manar, Krayyem took credit for the Israeli pullout from Lebanon, which was actually a ceasefire agreement, in Operation Grapes of Wrath.

“In 1996, for the first time we shocked the Israelis with our Hebrew broadcasts and pulled the rug from under them," Krayyem said.

“It began under pressure of need and with limited means in Beirut’s southern suburbs, but in 1997 it became officially licensed so we could invest more in the operation,” he said of Al-Manar's founding and eventual registration as the Lebanese Media Group Company. “...One phase may have ended, but our struggle isn’t over since we also have social, economic and educational goals."

Once describing the relationship between Hezbollah and Al-Manar, Krayyem said, "They breathe life into one another. Each provides the other with inspiration. Hezbollah uses Al-Manar to express its stands and its views, etc. Al-Manar in turn receives political support for its continuation."

In 2006, the Treasury Department placed Al-Manar under sanctions as a specially designated global terrorist entity, noting that the official media arm facilitated Hezbollah activities, employed Hezbollah members, supported Palestinian terror organizations, and supported Hezbollah fundraising and recruitment efforts.

In a posting on the Idealist job board, where the media organization had advertised last month for a research intern in its Washington bureau, Al-Mayadeen describes itself as "an integral part of a larger broadcast network that utilizes social media and consists of a production entity to supply content, news, advertising, documentaries, movies and entertainment."