Israel shuts down Palestinian radio stations
RAMALLAH - Since the onset of renewed Palestinian violence in September, Israel has been increasingly targeting Palestinian media offices, journalists and social media activists to thwart what it calls Palestinian “incitement” against Israeli occupation.
A patriotic song by Lebanese singer Fairuz called Sanarjiu Yawman (We’ll Return One Day) played on a West Bank radio station was considered a provocation. The song is dedicated to Palestinian refugees and their descendants who fled or were driven out of their homes in wars with Israel since its creation on May 14, 1948.
Social media were not spared. Tamara Abu Laban, 14, posted on Facebook an apology to friends and family if she had upset them. She was questioned, placed under house arrest and fined by Israeli authorities who suspected she was voicing remorse ahead of a suicidal attack, as jihadists do.
National flags or slogans are as much a violation as graphic images posted on social media of Palestinians stabbing Israelis in the latest violence fuelled by Palestinian suspicion that Israel seeks to change the status quo at a revered Jerusalem shrine.
Israel’s moves underline its anxiousness about a Palestinian population irked by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. With peace talks unlikely to resume, Israel is opting for muzzling public freedom.
In November, radio stations in Jenin and Hebron — north and south of the West Bank — drew unwanted Israeli attention. Israeli authorities warned the Jenin station that it faced closure and property confiscation and police raided the Hebron broadcaster under the pretext it was “encouraging the public to commit acts of violence against the state of Israel”.
Israeli journalist Yoray Liberman said he was against the closure of any media outlet, or choking freedom of the press, opinion and expression. “That would only inflame the situation,” he said.
Liberman insisted there has been “incitement by both sides, Israeli and Palestinian. Everyone is scared and fear is running high on both sides.”
He said Israel was responsible for preventing provocations but noted that he does not “think it is doing enough to stop the incitement on the Israeli side”.
Israeli Civil Administration cautioned that Nas FM in Jenin was “regularly broadcasting phrases of incitement, which encourage committing acts of violence against [Israeli] citizens and soldiers”, according to the warning sent by fax on November 27th and made available to The Arab Weekly by station officials.
Palestinian journalists at stations that received similar threats claim they have never used phrases that would encourage acts of violence or even fuel the current unrest.
Tariq Switat, Nas FM manager, said he demanded explanations from Israel but only “received vague answers”.
“Israel might consider verses from the Quran or even the national anthem or the term ‘occupation’ as a form of incitement,” he said.
Nas FM has stopped broadcasting patriotic songs to protect the station from being raided and shut down, Switat said.
He explained that he was archiving all shows in case such a claim was used to close the station or harass its journalists.
While Nas FM’s broadcast continues to be monitored, Hebron’s al-Hurriya radio station was closed following incitement allegations.
Station Manager Ayman al- Qawasmi said the station was ordered closed on November 3rd for six months for alleged incitement against Israel.
“Fourteen Israeli Army patrols raided our neighbourhood. Israeli soldiers then broke into the station, vandalised the interior and confiscated all transmission devices, computers, cameras, microphones and printers,” Qawasmi said.
He said the station was targeted because it documented and exposed Israel’s attacks against Palestinians. “We are heard by 3 million Palestinians and we have continuously managed to expose Israel’s deception and violations. They want the Israeli story to be heard only and muzzle the Palestinian voice,” he said.
The closure will cost al-Hurriya $350,000, Qawasmi added.
Deputy Information Minister Mahmoud Khalifa said Israel was liable for encroaching on areas under Palestinian command and that “Israel has no jurisdiction there”.
Israel’s main goal, Khalifa said, was to drive the Palestinian media “into submission”.
“To Israel, a Palestinian has only two options: either fully submit and accept the occupation or be labelled anti-peace, murderer and terrorist,” he said.