Deadlines and Red Lines: Why Are IDF Attacks Against Palestinian Journalists on the Rise?

Palestinian journalists are slow in understanding. They have yet to get the message that they are forbidden to cover the protests.

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A demonstration in the West Bank, February 13, 2015. Why are more Palestinian journalists being hurt at these rallies? They're not getting the message that they're not meant to be covering them.
A demonstration in the West Bank, February 13, 2015. Why are more Palestinian journalists being hurt at these rallies? They're not getting the message that they're not meant to be covering them.Credit: AFP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

What can we say about the Israeli soldiers who shot a live bullet directly at the leg of television cameraman Bashar Saleh on December 5, 2014, in Kafr Qadoum? That they are good shots? That they are excellent soldiers carrying out their duties faithfully, the pride of every mother, father and commander?

Saleh did not endanger their lives, being armed and armored to the tip of their heads as they were. If there was the slightest possibility whatsoever that they claimed so in their defense (if anyone in the army even bothered to clarify it with them), their claims would have already made their way into the response provided by the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman to Haaretz.

Saleh’s wound did not make the headlines in our Israeli media, and because of that I am actually writing about it once again. Inspired and shielded by the public’s lack of interest, the authorities will take no public legal and disciplinary action, which will demonstrate that the commanders do not encourage their soldiers to harm Palestinian journalists.

Since the wounding of a Palestinian cameraman by an Israeli soldier does not interest us, the question of why soldiers should shoot a Palestinian cameraman who was covering the weekly demonstration in Kafr Qadoum is also not asked. Like everyone else, he had fled from a vehicle spraying foul-smelling dispersal liquid – another fruit of the occupying Israeli creativity. Saleh positioned himself with his camera and tripod at a distance of some 80 to 100 meters from two soldiers in firing positions, and three Border Police officers standing near them.

If Saleh’s injury was only a single case, so be it. But as Palestinian journalists have noticed, in recent years there has been a steady increase in Israeli violence directed toward them. Every month, MADA – the Palestinian Center for Development & Media Freedoms documents the injuries to journalists at the hands of the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli authorities. It divides the injuries – which it calls violations of press freedom – into a number of categories: Physical attacks (beatings and, occasionally, shootings); detention and arrest (for example, of those posting on Facebook); prevention of coverage; entering the workplace or the home; confiscating materials; obstruction; threats; interrogations; and prevention of travel.

The documentation of Palestinian attacks on Palestinian journalists is fascinating. I am sure an article on this subject would greatly interest some Israeli readers – those for whom Israeli attacks on Palestinian press freedom is of no interest. Therefore, I will return now to the Israeli attacks.

In its total for the first half of 2014, MADA tallied 132 reported instances committed by Israeli forces in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). In the first six months of 2013, the group counted 78 Israeli violations of press freedom against Palestinian journalists. The same period in 2012 saw 67 cases, with 44 in the first half of 2011.

The trend is clear. Every year, the number of direct physical attacks by soldiers and police comprises about half of all attacks: 24 in the first half of 2011; 31 in the same period of 2012; 43 in the first six months of 2013; and 64 during the comparable period of 2014.

I also added up MADA’s monthly tallies from last July to December and reached 115 injuries caused by Israelis to Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Why do soldiers harm the freedom of Palestinian journalists to work? The answer is simple and does not need any learned casuistry: The role of the IDF is to safeguard the freedom of the settlers to prosper. Therefore, its role is to repress the popular Palestinian demonstrations against the settlements. The role of the IDF is to scare and deter the demonstrators, and to scare and deter those covering the demonstrations. Why is the number of physical attacks on the rise? Because the Palestinian journalists are slow in understanding. They have yet to get the message that they are forbidden to cover the protests.

Compensation for the kibbutz

Along with reports of suspicions of corruption in the Israel Land Authority, I mentioned here a month ago the story of the lands of Qa’oun in the northern Jordan Valley. Thirty years ago, the ILA transferred private land of the residents of the West Bank villages of Bardala and Tubas to Kibbutz Merav, of the Religious Kibbutz Movement. The Israel Land Authority (formerly Administration) – an institution that has no authority over Palestinian lands captured in 1967 – already recognized its mistake three years ago. But the land was not returned to its legal owners and the kibbutz continues to farm the land, as one of those responsible from Merav confirmed to Haaretz. For technical reasons, the response of the ILA was not published then. Here it is in its entirety:

“The Israel Land Authority acted to correct the mistake once it became known. A number of meetings were held with the kibbutz, and the authority told it that the areas must be vacated immediately. Some of the cultivated areas were included in the framework of the kibbutz’s permanent allotment, and some were held through the power of a seasonal lease. Regarding the seasonally leased areas, the contract with the kibbutz was not renewed. As for the allotment, the areas were removed from the allotment. Today, negotiations are being held with the kibbutz for setting the level of compensation it will receive in return for vacating the areas. Upon its completion, the lands will be returned to their owners.”

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