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Hizbullah broadens its  airwaves battlefront
Al-Manar’s satellite television channel moves into Palestinian homes for an extra 14 hours a day

Ranwa Yehia
Daily Star staff

As Arab media mobilizes to support the Palestinian intifada, Hizbullah’s al-Manar has joined the struggle through an intensive campaign to make inroads in the Palestinian territories and the Arab world.
The risky decision to increase al-Manar’s satellite broadcasting time from four to 18 hours a day, supported by the same number of staff, has been a tremendous and burdening task, but one that has paid off.
Al-Manar first began its four-hour satellite broadcast on the eve of the May 24 liberation of the South, “because we wanted to transmit the message of this liberation to the Arab world,” said Nayef Krayyem, the station’s General Manager.
“Our message was clear: to encourage the Arabs and show them a model of resisting the enemy. Our main target was specifically the Palestinians living in occupied Palestinian territories,” Krayyem said.
After the intifada broke out again Sept. 28, Krayyem decided to increase satellite broadcasting hours to encourage and show support and solidarity with the Palestinians.
The feedback from Arabs, particularly Palestinians, was “beyond expectation.”
“We moved to become one of the first satellite stations watched by Arabs during this time and the main reason behind this success is Hizbullah’s credibility,” he said.
The 18-hour satellite broadcast is solely dedicated to airing anything related to the intifada. Besides broadcasting Arab nationalist songs, breaking news updates and on-the-hour news bulletins, throughout the day television hosts take telephone calls from Arab supporters expressing their views.
The station has also been airing provocative clips in both Arabic and Hebrew. One that has been on for two weeks now shows photos of the three Israeli soldiers and the colonel Hizbullah captured last month. The numbers 1, 2 and 3 are written on top of the pictures of the three soldiers and the sign +1 is written on top of the picture of the Israeli colonel.
An empty frame appears with a question mark, hinting that more such captures might be on the way. Below the frames, in both Arabic and Hebrew, Hizbullah says “Barak, count your soldiers every Sabbath.”
Krayyem said that the station will soon begin broadcasting bulletins in Hebrew. The idea is not new, but Krayyem was confident it would to happen within a month. A more long-term plan also includes airing a news bulletin in English.
“Al-Manar did not only give the Arabs the chance to make contact with Hizbullah but also gave them an opportunity to express their views on regional developments,” he said.
The station has also become an effective tool for showing Palestinians how much Arab support they enjoy. “We’ve got thousands of phone calls and e-mails from Palestinians telling us how much al-Manar is giving them determination to continue to fight,” he said.
Viewers’ enthusiasm was not only limited to expressing support over the phone. Hizbullah’s policy against Israel and the Palestinian Authority prevents it basing a correspondent in Palestine. But this has not hurt the coverage.
“Every single one of our viewers has become a correspondent. We’d receive calls from someone to tell us that a Palestinian was just killed, or an Israeli attack was being staged, and we’d immediately broadcast the news, becoming the quickest news provider to the Arabs about the attacks on Palestinians,” said Krayyem.
The secret of al-Manar’s sudden popularity is not only news. “We’re addressing the heart of the Arab nation, reflecting the Arabs’ determination to not accept the current situation anymore.”
Krayyem explained that Arab viewers could see that al-Manar was transmitting a completely different message from that of other stations. “We’re carrying the message of facing the Israeli enemy. We consider the plight of the Palestinian people as our own and we consider ourselves a basic part of this struggle.”
Another small but meaningful decision on al-Manar’s part is its listing the times of its shows according to Jerusalem and Greenwich Mean Time.
Although Hizbullah is proud of the station’s accomplishments, which Krayyem maintained were beyond expectations, the party official solemnly acknowledged the huge responsibility shouldered by the television station.
“Our main goal is to give all Arabs the opportunity to speak against the Israeli occupation from a credible platform. It’s not our goal to criticize anyone else because we have a deeper objective to achieve,” he said.
As a result, al-Manar’s policy is to prevent viewers shouting obscenities about Arab leaders. “We’re not a station for expletives. We take objective criticism anytime. This is not a problem, but not more,” he said.
He explained that al-Manar’s policy is not to promote a battle between Arab people and their rulers, regardless of Hizbullah’s view of Arab leaders.
“We don’t want to lose sight of our main target, which is fighting the enemy. If we’re able to show Arab leaders that their people think strongly against Israel, we may eventually achieve something. However, attacking the leaders will do more harm than good.”
Al-Manar’s satellite logo, which mirrors the station’s logo with the words “The Arab and Muslim Channel” below it, is no coincidence.
“We make it a point to have Arab guests from all political affiliations, so you’ll see an Arab nationalist expert, then an Arab communist one. We believe it’s our strength to link all these Arab potentials and direct them to one target: the Israeli enemy,” he said.
Krayyem proudly recounted how, last week, when Israel’s Channel One television was interviewing a Palestinian official at his home, the television behind him showed he was watching Al-Manar.
The satellite channel is received in all Arab and European countries and Krayyem is certain Israel has people monitoring the station 24 hours a day.
“It seems obvious that, whatever information Hizbullah intends to broadcast about the captured Israeli soldiers, it will first be aired on al-Manar. So we’ve forced the Israelis to rely on us to know what’s happening,” he said, confirming that the party has the capture of the three Israeli soldiers on video.

DS 02/11/00

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