Interview with Mahmoud Al-Aloul, Governor of Nablus
October 10, 2002

Mahmoud Al-Aloul has been the Governor of Nablus since 1995. Capitalizing on the Oslo Accords, Nablus became a revitalized city, contributing to the advancement of Palestinian culture and society while celebrating its epic and powerful history. Sadly, the days of prosperity are but a fading memory as Nablus has been crippled by the Israeli forces over the past two years. Suffering from the most severe curfews, with longest lasting over 100 days, Nablus has been brought to a standstill. MIFTAH sat with Mr. Al-Aloul to ask him about the dire circumstances in Nablus and his reflections on the situation.

Q. What is the moral behind this belligerent and continual attack on the Nablus Governorate and the city of Nablus, specifically over the past three months in a manner that is beyond imagination, and at a time when all the Palestinian territories are the targets of aggressive and incessant Israeli incursions?

A. The Israeli incursion has ravaged all the Palestinian governorates but it is more heavily concentrated on the Nablus Governorate. From the perspective of the Israelis, Nablus is the “capital of terrorism,” where most operations and aggression have stemmed from, and that it has factories and laboratories for manufacturing explosives. To justify their fabrications, the Israeli forces have demolished a number of buildings- including a library, a pharmacy, and a gold factory- claiming that they are factories for manufacturing explosives.

In my opinion, the underlying Israeli motive for this concentrated attack on Nablus is the desire to prolong occupation by fragmenting the Palestinian society into small isolated cantons that are easier to manage. Nablus is an obstacle to the achievement of this hidden aim because it is a pivotal political and economic center as well as a leadership center in the north. The Israelis believe that in order to dismantle this unity in the north, they have to hit Nablus ferociously.

Q. Describe Nablus prior to and in the aftermath of the attack. What is the hidden agenda of the Israeli occupation that has led to such an attempt to obliterate the historical dimensions of the old city of Nablus? To what extent has Israel exercised racial discrimination throughout the incursion?

A. The attack has severely disfigured the features of the city. Prior to the incursion, the city of Nablus and the surrounding villages witnessed an acceleration in the rate of progress and development at all levels including construction, economics and industry as well as infrastructure (roads, electricity and water networks and others), in addition to a promotion in cultural and social activities that had their impact on the life of the community.

The Israeli incursion has annihilated all attempts at development through unprecedented, discriminatory and aggressive measures. The total closure has resulted in deterioration in the economic situation and thus an escalation in unemployment rates even inside the city of Nablus itself due to the restrictions placed on the inflow of raw material or export of products. Agricultural products from the surrounding areas of Nablus have been prevented from entrance into the city.

The closure has had its impact on the health sector as well. Health services show a marked deterioration seen in the prevention of patients and paramedics from reaching hospitals, in the number of patients who died at the Israeli check posts, in the number of pregnant women who had their deliveries at those check points, and in the disruption of primary health care and child immunization programs specifically in the outskirts of the city. In addition to that, the likelihood of an outbreak of epidemics and diseases in the area due to the accumulation of garbage and demolition debris is maximized now.

The devastating Israeli attack has caused the total destruction of 282 houses, leaving a number of homeless families, in addition to the partial destruction of thousands of houses and shops. Most damage is seen in the old city of Nablus, a long standing ancient historical site. In addition to the houses, three ancient mosques and three churches have been ruined. The ancient soap factory and Roman baths, and quite a number of schools have been destroyed as well.

The incursion has also greatly impeded the educational process. The continual closure and curfew have left the school and university educational systems almost totally paralyzed. The closure of Al-Najah University, the largest Palestinian university with a student body of 10, 000 is a case.

All this, coupled with the brutality of the Israeli occupation forces seen in the occupation of Palestinian houses and in driving the Palestinians away, has caused great suffering.

Today, Nablus has been under a 95-day- curfew lifted only 53 hours.

Q. Nablus has been declared a disaster area due to the destruction of health institutions, the disruption or paralysis of health programs like immunization, and the accumulation of garbage coupled with the comprehensive devastation of institutions, shops, buildings and the economy. How have the inhabitants of Nablus been responding to this? How have you been able to withstand all these unprecedented events?

A. This reality threatens the lives of 160,000 inhabitants of the city and its surrounding. The inhabitants have started to defy curfew by leaving their houses and risking their lives to tank-mounted machine guns that have caused the death of a number of people on a daily basis. The people risk their lives to secure medicine for their children and, more importantly, to send their children to school because education to them is not any less important than food or medicine. Therefore “popular education” schools have now been open in the neighborhoods in addition to a number of official schools that have been re-open in defiance of the curfew, the shooting and the tear gas directed towards the students on a daily basis.

Despite the great suffering, there is an assertion of a sense of utmost defiance on the part of institutions and inhabitants who are quite aware that the tanks can definitely occupy our cities and houses but they can never shake our will and determination to maintain our legal rights. We do not seek the impossible. We seek our fundamental rights of freedom, independence and an end to occupation. To consolidate our steadfastness and provide an impetus, a higher national committee, as well as popular neighborhood committees, has been formed.