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IDF shuts down Palestinian radio station — but won't explain why

The Israeli army shuts down the West Bank-based ‘A-Sanabel,’ claiming it incites against Israelis without so much as providing any evidence. Such is life under a military regime. 

Israeli soldiers stand outside the A-Sanabel radio station, Dura, West Bank, August 31, 2016. (photo: IDF Spokesperson)

Israeli soldiers stand outside the A-Sanabel radio station, Dura, West Bank, August 31, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson)

The Israeli army shut down Palestinian radio station A-Sanabel in the early hours of Wednesday morning, arresting five of employees and confiscating equipment. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the station was closed “due to inciting broadcasts.” However, the IDF Spokesperson could not provide examples or statistics on such incitement.

According to Israeli news site Ynet, A-Sanabel openly supported “harming Israelis,” praised violent attacks, backed campaigns for rebuilding demolished homes of Palestinian attackers, and “promoted participation in resistance marches.” That is, the reasons provided by “army sources” — without going into detail — include a strange mix of incitement to violence and calls for completely legitimate actions.

I had never heard of A-Sanabel before. I have no idea what kind of content they broadcast. It could very well be that they call for the murder of Jews. Perhaps. But it is also possible that they broadcast news and lifestyle shows, that they employ journalists who report on local corruption cases or broadcasters who promote positive, nonviolent actions such as protesting the occupation or repairing the damage that results from the army’s collective punishment.

The point is that we cannot know, since the army neither needs nor wants to provide details beyond a general statement on “inciting broadcasts.” The army does not need to give explanations about its actions to the station, the journalists who lost their jobs, or the listeners.

Israeli soldiers confiscate equipment from the A-Sanabel radio station, Dura, West Bank, August 31, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson)

Israeli soldiers confiscate equipment from the A-Sanabel radio station, Dura, West Bank, August 31, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson)

Last November, when the Shin Bet and the police shut down two newspapers belonging to the Islamic Movement in Israel (the stations were never accused of partaking in incitement, just ask the head of the Government Press Office Nitzan Chen), the Union of Journalists in Israel sent a leader to Prime Minister and Communications Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denouncing the closure. According to the union, even if the Islamic Movement’s stations did publish a certain text that includes incitement, “the way to deal with it is through criminal proceedings vis-a-vis the inciters — not through shutting down a media outlet and firing many journalists who did nothing wrong, and silencing a voice among the public discourse.”

Read: Israel’s covert war against Palestinian media

The same goes for the journalists in Dura. It is unreasonable that the army can simply shut down a radio station without explaining itself. It is illogical that if two, three, or five journalists incited, that all the workers must pay the price. One cannot accept the fact that the words “incitement broadcasts” replace legal proceedings, in which the station has the opportunity to present its stance before such a dramatic decision is made.

But such is life under a military regime.

Over the past year, the IDF has similarly shut down a number of radio and televisions stations in the West Bank, and five Palestinian journalists are currently in administrative detention, including Omar Nazzal, who was arrested on his way to an international journalism conference in April. Israel’s High Court recently upheld the army’s request to extend Nazzal’s detention by three months.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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