Nablus: The Intifada, two years and still going

Black flag (Photo: AEF, 2002)

Two years have passed since the beginning of the Intifada on September 28, 2000. Two years that have changed Palestinian lives completely, two years that had killed so many innocent lives and still killing more, and two years that have made people more aware that unless they have all their rights, they cannot stop the Intifada, even of they want to. They are aware that if they stop, they will loose more. The majority of the people I talked to shared the same view.

Two years ago: The negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli sides - supervised by the United States - reached a dead end. The Israeli offer of a lasting peace agreement was impossible to accept for Palestinians. The Americans were not helping too, on the contrary, Critics, Americans, Israelis and Arab, wrote that Israel couldn’t find a better sponsor than the Americans; the former Secretary of State Madeline Albright had rained the Israeli side of the negotiations when they were discussing concessions. When the negotiations ended fruitlessly, it was noted that Palestinians were blamed for not accepting the generous Israeli offer.

Many years before, the Israelis were committing human rights violations, they never really stopped since 1948 and 1967, Palestinians were suffering, before and after the Oslo accord.

When the Intifada started, Palestinians used peaceful means of resistance like demonstrations and throwing stones, as symbol of resistance. The army returned fire, the escalation of violence started. Young Palestinians, both sex, arrived at hospitals in very bad states; many were severely injured or dead, some times whole and sometimes in parts. The number was increasing rapidly.

At the studios – Radio Tariq Al Mahabbeh -, sometimes we couldn’t keep up with the toll. Our reporters were covering up to three different clash locations, two hospitals and phone, email and fax reports, in Nablus alone, let alone the reports coming in from other Palestinian cities and areas. Calls were coming from everywhere, asking for names of martyred, injured or arrested. The sad toll was sometimes reaching nine martyrs and seventy to ninety injuries in a single day in a single city. Not many were arrested. Execution was the preferred method.

We all saw how Mohammad Al Durra was killed on TV, but that was one incident that was, ironically lucky to be captured by a TV camera, many were not. Few days after Al Durra was killed, the Israeli army shot and killed 2.5 years Sara from Telfeet, a village near Nablus, the series of the killings continued, only more frequent. In no time, the toll was in 3 digits. The world was watching, harshly denouncing Israel and requesting it to abide by international law.

Soon after we started getting reports about lands being re-leveled, farming lands and industrial. Many trees were burnt or simply stolen. (The Israeli settlers, carefully guarded by the Israeli army, pulled trees from their roots and implanted them again in remote settlements. The trees may appear in brochures about green settlements belonging to history).

The despair was mixed with anger and frustration. The escalations were moving up and faster tone. Our reporters were busy all right, but too many things were making instant breaking news at the same time, sometimes we couldn’t keep up and stay sane.

The series of events happening at the same time, and on all fronts, kept reporters busy all the time. The sad thing was; we had a duty to entertain people, (radio entertainment) and try to relax them, make the wait for our listeners easier. Deep inside we were looking at a very scary future, and it was.

Entertainment programs turned into talk shows, news, reporters rounds and children programs. Anyway breaking news was interrupting everything.

Palestinians were fighting many fronts. This is a fact that is ignored by the world community. The army shooting Palestinians on city outer limits, or inside the city – from the mountain - and the settlers burning trees, killing shepherds, farmers or anyone they find in their way. The settlers were very active then, they were putting their hands on more Palestinian lands, more during the Intifada than before. Some farmers were killed trying to save their lands, from burning trees or invading settlers.

Closures were imposed, the siege was tightening and businesses were falling. Like was suffocating, only very slowly.

The first shelling by Israeli helicopters was frightening, I remember well that we had many warnings to evacuate the studios incase the Israeli army decides to bombard all media stations, public and private sector after shelling the voice of Palestine, the PA voice. We were lucky, but not for long, we were shelled Last April, our transmitters destroyed and confiscated twice. The series also picked up and demolitions followed the shelling. The world was watching, denouncing and regretting events.

Assassinations of the mostly wanted started. Public figures, political leaders, guards, companions and relatives followed suit. Soon after, children got in between – being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as if there is a right place or right time - the agonies were multiplying in numbers. The world was watching, their words near whisper.

When the first incursion occurred, most world leaders strongly denounced Israel’s actions requesting it to immediately withdraw their forces. When the incursions were repeated, the requests were more lenient. Soon after, the incursions turned into full occupation, mass destruction everywhere and curfews followed. The world was watching, yet has done little.

Massacres committed, requests for investigations denied. When massacres were repeated, the world was watching, Period. Or was that a polite whisper?

What would have happened had the world intervened?

Peace could have been achieved, peace in the whole region. Justice for all Palestinians guaranteed. The war would end, once and for all.

Trade would be exchanged between Palestine and all countries in the world, education and medicine would follow suit. In no time, Palestine would stop being dependant on world contribution; Palestine would stand on its own and makes its own money, neither granted nor begged for.

Alas, the world has just watched, watched and watched again. At the end, they just turned a blind eye. Back to reality.

Today, day 99 of the curfew, the Israeli military presence is at minimum. Schools forced the break of the curfew, normal life is picking up - with the exception of patrolled areas or occupied buildings.

At mid-day, an Israeli tank opened fire on a civilian car injuring two children, Dana and Amr Qanadilo. Dana, 3 years, was admitted into Rafidya hospital emergency room while her brother Amr, 2 years was rushed into the operating theatre in the same hospital. Eyewitnesses reported that the tank opened fire suddenly and randomly, for no reason whatsoever. There were no clashes taking place nor where the army in danger of any sort. Funny though, some people said children were lucky to be alive as if killing was an everyday event, which sadly is.

Why would an army soldier open fire on an innocent civilian family? If it were the army you are asking, they would probably claim that the car belonged to a terrorist, or the people in the car were armed – these are the probable replies Israel had gotten away with for a long time. But in reality, there must be other factors that bring any soldier to lift his machine gun, or the tank’s, aim and shoot at civilians; the soldiers had orders to shoot or the soldier that had pulled the trigger is mentally sick and in desperate need for psychological treatment. Whatever it is, the world is letting it pass as they have for a long time. Nothing explains shooting children in cold blood, not even when soldiers are not endangering their lives, which they weren’t.

Amid all this and while the Israel is besieging all Palestinians, killing them daily, demolishing their homes and burdening them with nightmares, one Palestinian or a group of them would take no more of the humiliation and endless wait for world intervention and strike back. The world would suddenly wake up and blame Palestinians for not taking advantage of the calm situation that’s been breaking a record and praise Israel for their competent policies. Palestinians become the terrorists and Israelis become the victims.

On the second anniversary of the Intifada, which I don’t want to celebrate again, I wish the world would not only watch, I wish they would monitor, detect, witness, study, examine and correct. After two hard years and 99 curfew days, we are not asking for much are we? It is a just peace we are after.

The world is watching, I wish they would do more.

Amer Abdelhadi is General Manager of Radio Tariq Al Mahabbeh, TMFM 97.7, in Nablus