Palestinian Radio Station Calls For Rebellion
JERUSALEM (AP) _ In buses and taxis, private homes and grocery stores, Palestinians have tuned in a new radio station that urges them to strike and demonstrate against Israeli occupation.
The Voice of Jerusalem for the Liberation of the Land and People, apparently broadcasting from Syrian-controlled territory, is being blamed by some Israeli officials for fanning unrest in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
″At the moment, we know that the station has a wide range of listeners,″ said Edmund Zahayak, director of Israel Radio’s Arabic Service, a rival of the Voice of Jerusalem in the psychological war of the airwaves.
″It’s having an effect because the station is being listened to and some people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip think it is being broadcast from Jerusalem,″ he added.
Zahayak said the Palestinian radio had broadcast the names of people, saying they were killed when they were only wounded. He said this stirred emotions and contributed to recurring violence.
Elias M. Zananiri, managing editor of the Arab-run Palestine Press Service which monitors events in the occupied lands, said the station reflected the viewpoint of Syrian-backed Palestinians who oppose Yasser Arafat’s leadership of the PLO.
He said the radio concentrates on the occupied territories, reading out the contents of leaflets calling for strikes or demonstrations. It also plays national songs, martial music and verse by Palestinian poets.
Zananiri said most people learned about strike calls from leaflets distributed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but the broadcasts did stimulate opposition to Israeli rule.
″It contributes to the resistance in terms of creating an atmosphere. Listening to patriotic songs and nationalist music puts people in a different mood than love songs and the other silly things broadcast on the other Arab radios″ in Israel and neighboring Arab states, he said.
Rima, a 31-year-old housewife from the West Bank town of Bethlehem, said the radio had credibility. She spoke on condition that her last name not be used, saying she feared Israeli reprisals.
″You go into any Arab home, and the PLO station is on. You can hear it in buses, inside gas stations, anywhere where there is a radio,″ she said.
″This radio station knows what’s going on before even the demonstrators know what’s happening. People believe this radio station. It is unifying the people,″ she added.
As an example of the radio’s timelineness, she said that when a Palestinian woman was killed recently by an Israeli bullet while hanging out her wash in the West Bank village of Ram, the radio broadcast a song commemorating her death and giving details of her life.
Zananiri said the Voice of Jerusalem may be operated by the pro-Syrian Ahmed Jebril Palestinian group, which claimed responsibility for a hang-glider attack Nov. 25 along the border. A guerrilla killed six Israeli soldiers and wounded eight in that incident.
Jebril operated a station from the southern Syrian town of Deraa and may have reopened it, suggested Micky Gurdus, who monitors radios throughout the region for Israel radio. Gurdus said the Voice of Jerusalem has a powerful transmitter that could reach the Gaza Strip.
He said the station aired greetings in English, French, Spanish and Russian and had a Hebrew-language program with an announcer who sounded like the man who did Hebrew broadcasts for Syria’s state radio.
In one recent broadcast, Gurdus said, the radio urged residents of the territories not to stone cars carrying foreign press and to limit their attacks to Israeli military vehicles.
Zananiri and Gurdus said the radio’s hard-line politics had emerged only in recent days, when editorials began urging residents not to listen to moderates who called for ending the rioting nor to give in to Israel’s terms for peace. It urged Arabs to keep demonstrating until Israeli troops withdrew.
Gurdus said Yasser Arafat’s Fatah guerrilla group used Baghdad Radio frequencies to air a one-hour nightly program which claimed to have reports from correspondents in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
There are also reports of a pro-Arafat station broadcasting from the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon.
″The (Voice of Jerusalem) station has been broadcasting for several months, but the programs were mostly music and nobody knew what it was until two or three weeks ago,″ Gurdus said.
A senior Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Voice of Jerusalem was one of many Arab stations ″broadcasting false information as part of a campaign of psychological warfare.″
But he said Israel did not plan to jam the broadcasts, in part because the expense would be too great.