Israel shuts down Palestinian media!

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ISRAELI army, intelligence, and civil administration forces raided several offices of Palestinian media outlets and arrested two journalists overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday.

They also confiscating equipment and shut down eight offices under the pretext that the organisations were ‘broadcasting inciting material’. In the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli forces raided the Transmedia and Palmedia offices and confiscated all equipment before closing the offices with a six-month military order.

Locals said that clashes erupted during the raids, resulting in the injury of several Palestinian youth. Meanwhile, in the southern West Bank, Israeli forces raided the Palmedia offices in Bethlehem city and confiscated equipment.

In Hebron, Israeli forces raided the al-Quds TV, al-Aqsa, Palestine Today, Transmedia and Palmedia offices and confiscated equipment. The TransMedia and Palmedia offices were closed for 6 months by a military order.

Israeli forces also arrested the director of TransMedia in Hebron, Amer Al-Jaabari, and the managing director, Ibrahim Al-Jaabari. An Israeli army spokesperson claimed that Israeli army and security forces searched media offices ‘suspected in broadcasting inciting content and promoting violence and terrorism against Israelis.

‘Forces seized documents from companies that provided services to associations that promote terrorism and violence,’ the spokesperson said, adding that the TransMedia and Palmedia offices in Nablus and Hebron were closed for ‘providing services’ to Hamas-affiliated news channels al-Aqsa and al-Quds TV.

The Palmedia company released a statement on Wednesday condemning Israeli authorities, saying that ‘these actions threaten the company’s ability to continue its job providing services for TV channels and producing programmes for local, Arab and International media.’

Palmedia called upon all Palestinian officials and human rights institutions to ‘aid the company to regain its equipment and reopen its offices, and to end this policy that threatens the existence of Palestinian media outlets and their continuance of sending the free Palestinian voice to the world’.

The Palestinian government strongly condemned the raids and closures on Wednesday, with government spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud describing the raids as a ‘blatant violation of all international resolutions’, according to the official Palestinian Authority (PA) Wafa news agency.

Al-Mahmoud said: ‘The assaults come as part of Israel’s plans to distract attention from the atrocities committed by it,’ adding that: ‘Such assaults will sap any international efforts, including those of the US, to advance peace and security in the region.’

The Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) also released a statement expressing their ‘grave concern’ over the drastic violations which we believe is a new harsh blow to the media profession and media freedoms in Palestine generally, that attempts to exile and silence the Palestinian media through shutting it down, and incurring it huge losses and prosecute it under the allegation and pretext of incitement.’

MADA said: ‘We hereby call on all media and human rights international organisations to put real pressure on the Israeli Occupation Authorities to reopen all these media outlets and repair them of the losses and return all confiscated items and equipment, and to put an end to all violations that target media freedoms and hold all perpetrators accountable.

Israeli authorities have led a crackdown on alleged incitement since a wave of violence began in October 2015, with Palestinian media outlets often being raided for allegedly inciting violence and hundreds of Palestinians detained over social media posts that Israeli forces believe amount to incitement against the Israeli state.

However, Israel has been accused of labelling any media that is critical of Israel and its policies in Palestinian communities as ‘incitement’ in order to stifle criticisms of Israel’s discriminatory policies in Israel, its half-century occupation of the West Bank, and its decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip that has collapsed the territory into an interminable humanitarian crisis.

In a high profile case, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has targeted the news network Al Jazeera with allegations of incitement, most recently during the two-week long civil disobedience campaign in occupied East Jerusalem held in protest of Israel’s security measures at the holy site last month.

Netanyahu has since worked to shut down Al Jazeera’s office in Israel and revoke the official credentials of Al Jazeera journalists. Palestinian journalists often describe their work as a form of ‘resistance’, as they believe their stories show the world the devastating effects of Israel’s policies on Palestinians and provide Palestinians an outlet for their voices in a media climate that is often overshadowed by pro-Israeli narratives.

Meanwhile, Israeli settlers from the illegal Havat Gilad settlement in the northern occupied West Bank Nablus district allegedly stole the harvest of more than 450 olive trees on Tuesday, according to local sources. Ghassan Daghlas, an official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank said that Israeli settlers stole the harvest of olive trees belonging to Palestinians from Jit, Surra and Faraata villages in the Nablus area.

Daghlas added that the Palestinians were shocked after arriving to their lands – only after receiving permits from Israeli authorities to access the land and harvest the olives – that what they had picked was stolen by settlers.

Similar reports of Israeli settlers stealing olive trees from Palestinian lands emerged on Sunday, with NGO Rabbis for Human Rights reporting that the settlers had been arrested in a rare case of Israeli authorities apprehending settlers for crimes committed against Palestinians.

The Palestinian government has no jurisdiction over Israelis in the West Bank, and acts carried out by Israeli settlers often occur in the presence of Israeli military forces who rarely act to protect Palestinian residents. The majority of settler attacks committed against Palestinians are met with impunity, with Israelis rarely facing consequences for such attacks.

Only 1.9 per cent of complaints submitted by Palestinians against Israeli settler attacks result in a conviction, while 95.6 per cent of investigations of damage to olive trees are closed due to failures of Israeli police, according to the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din.

Yesh Din, along with Israeli rights group B’Tselem, have previously condemned Israeli authorities for failing to protect Palestinians from settlers violence or investigate attacks, particularly during olive harvest season, when incidents of attacks on harvesters and their olive groves have been a near daily occurrence in past years.

Elsewhere, the head of the Palestinian Authority (PA) borders and crossing committee Nathmi Muhanna arrived in the Gaza Strip on Monday in order ‘to carry out the first article of the reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo regarding taking over the crossings,’ Muhanna said.

Muhanna entered Gaza through the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing, and was welcomed by the Palestinian Minister of Public Work Housing Mufid al-Hasayna. Upon his arrival in Gaza, Muhanna said that a committee to oversee the takeover of Gaza border crossings by the Fatah-led PA was formed upon instructions by President Mahmoud Abbas.

In the reconciliation agreement signed last week by Hamas and Fatah, it was reportedly agreed that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza would be operated by PA presidential guards by November 1st.

Muhanna stressed the importance of the PA ‘carrying out its duties’ at all of Gaza’s crossings including Rafah, Kerem Shalom and Erez. He added that he hoped his visit could ‘open the way for enabling the government and all its ministers and institutions to bring back the Gaza Strip’ to how it was prior to the split between Hamas and Fatah in 2007, after Hamas’ 2006 victory in general elections held in Gaza.

Commenting on a timeline for when control of the crossings would be transferred from Hamas to the PA, Muhanna said that the handover would officially begin on Monday. After the reconciliation deal was signed, the Egyptian government called for a meeting between the factions in Cairo on November 21st to discuss the next steps in implementing the agreement.

Hamas spokesman, Hazem Qassem, said that ‘the next phase of reconciliation will be a meeting of representatives of all the Palestinian factions in Cairo to discuss the major national issues – such as Hamas’s military wing, the issue of weapons and political positions.’

Numerous attempts have been made in the past to reconcile Hamas and Fatah since they came into violent conflict in 2007. In addition to resolving the issue of public employees and Hamas’ military wing, Hamas and Fatah plan to pave the way for legislative elections for the unity government that would rule both the occupied West Bank and Gaza.