Appeal from Journalists in Nablus Under Siege
Sent: Monday, August 12, 2002 7:05 PM
Greetings from Nablus which has been languishing under a continuous curfew imposed by the Israeli military since June 20th with only sporadic lifting for a few hours every two weeks or so. Every single dimension of social, economic, cultural, and human life has been disrupted. And now, we have been struck by the latest Israeli aggression against the old city of Nablus, more specifically the Kasabah neighborhood, in which at least 3 Palestinians were killed, scores injured, homes demolished and the history of our ancient and beloved town erased from existence. This attack against our past, present and future can only be withstood with the support of freedom, peace, and justice loving people around the world.
It is from our specific location under siege--with food and medicine running out, water cut off and electric generators destroyed, children terrorized, and social, economic, and political developments stunted-- that we issue an appeal to all of you for you are our last and only hope. We ask you to intervene and use the resources at your disposal to pressure Israel to lift the curfew off Nablus and the other Palestinian communities that are held hostage to the whims of Sharon and his ruthless government.
We are trying desperately to carry out our journalist mission and inform our public in Nablus of the developments on the ground. However, as you may already know, our job is dangerous and complicated. Not long ago, a colleague of ours, Nasser Ishtaia, of Reuters, lost his 4-day-old daughter, as they were stopped endlessly at Israeli checkpoints; other colleagues of ours were killed, injured or arrested by the Israeli military for no reason. In April, Israel decided to reoccupy all towns and villages in the West Bank. During that time, our station was shelled almost killing two of our reporters who refused to leave the station and insisted on giving the Nablus population news of what was going on. Unfortunately, heavy bullets and rockets shuttered our studios completely destroying two transmitters and other equipments valued at over $50,000.00 dollars (the sum may seem small to people in the US and Europe but it is a huge investment to us here).
Things are getting worse as days pass by. Unlike journalists elsewhere, our mission is not only to report the news. We do not exaggerate when we say that we are the lifeline of this community. Before April and the direct Israeli re-occupation of Nablus, we used to give out a bulletin on the "road situation" every 15 minutes to inform our public of what back-roads people could take to get the injured and the ill to hospitals or to get some important documents processed (sometimes people outside of Palestine do not realize that no one would make a trip and pass Israeli checkpoint unless their trip were absolutely necessary. It is not just the danger involved in taking such a trip, but the hardship of walking long distances at the risk of being turned back and most importantly at an exuberant cost when people have no money for food, medicine, or water and electricity bills). These bulletins were heard by the population of Nablus and the surrounding villages and refugee camps, such as Balata, Askar, and Ein. We would issue an emergency bulletin every time someone spotted an Israeli patrol near the open roads and called on by Jawwal (local Palestinian mobile phones) to notify us. Now that the roads are completely blocked and no one comes in or leaves Nablus, we serve as the only source of information as we sadly announce the names of the martyrs to allow people to attend funerals and offer condolences--the only form of social support people can give to each other in the face of a continuous 24-hour curfew. Life style has changed for everyone in Palestine: The high school general matriculation exams usually end by mid June. In Nablus, the Tawjeehi exams were delayed until the end of July. The delay in the taking, grading and posting the results of the exams (August 6th) has already deprived Palestinian high school students from much needed time to apply for and seek acceptance at Palestinian and other Arab universities.
Most of the spots have already filled up and the road blocks and border closures, combined with the high cost of travel when 75% of Palestinians live below the poverty line (at $2.00 per day for a family of four) will surely make it impossible for Palestinian students to enroll in colleges in September thus losing a year and maybe more of their future. Under normal circumstances, newspapers and school post the results of the high school exams. But since we are under curfew, no newspapers have reached Nablus for quite a while. Schools are the other place at which students find out their results. But most schools in Nablus have now been occupied by the Israeli military and turned into armed posts. As a result of these obstacles, we decided to keep operating our radio station in order to announce the name of each student and the average she or he received in the exams on the air. Although this decision has cost us funds we do not have, not to mention the risk we took to get to the station to make the announcements, we were more than happy to bring some good news to our public that has had nothing but bad and worse news day after day. Students called to thank us and parents were celebrating their children's success; this made it all worth the risk.
Our services have also included receiving calls from ill people requesting medicine or medical advices. When we receive such a call, we contact doctors, neighbors and paramedics to provide medical aid to those who cannot otherwise obtain it. We have also called and have been called by families who were held hostage by the Israeli military. For example, on August 4th, we called Mr. Nidal Shafiee, who was locked up along with 97 other relatives and neighbors who live in the Freitekh building in the old city of Nablus. Mr. Shafiee explained on the air that the 98 people had no electricity, no water, and no baby milk. We contacted the relief committees who were able to get in through the Israeli military siege to provide help.
All of our services are free of charge. We are listed as a commercial radio station. We started out as a medium to promote social justice and human rights. We used to offer cultural and social analysis and cover all local and national news. We would get sponsors for various shows, especially from merchants who wanted to promote their business. Since the outbreak of the Aksa Intifada, however, we have not been able to raise funds to pay the salaries of our staff nor cover the phone, fax, mobile, or internet bills. We used to have a link to the internet to broadcast live but we had to suspend it for lack of funds. Even before the recent Intifada, the Israeli military has seized our transmitters from the top of the Jerzim mountain under the pretext of stopping pirated Israeli radio stations. And although the Palestinian Authority has made it clear to its Israeli counterpart that we are a legitimate and fully licensed radio station, our transmitters were never returned to us nor were we compensated for their loss. As a result, we could no longer have broadcast coverage all over Palestine; we had to limit ourselves to Nablus and the northern parts of the West Bank. Now, even this is threatened by the Israeli occupation on one hand and the lack of funds on the other.
We therefore call on all of you to please help us in our mission. Continue and escalate your efforts to end the occupation of our land so that we could live freely and peacefully like all people on the face of the earth; we deserve no less than other human beings. And we also ask you to help us raise funds to support this station that is truly the only lifeline to the people of Nablus. We promise you that we will continue to resist all attempts to uproot us from our land and erase our identity. We hope that you can offer the support to allow us to maintain our sacrifices.
For Justice, Peace, and a free Palestine, Amer Abdelhadi, General Manager of Tariq Al-Mahabbeh 97.7 FM