Two prominent Haaretz journalists were detained by the Israeli army at the Tul Karm checkpoint and questioned by police on Monday on their way back from the West Bank to Israel, in what the newspaper described as an attempt to undermine the “essential work” of journalists.
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Reporter and columnist Gideon Levy, who has written extensively about Palestinian life in the West Bank, and photographer Alex Levac were released after police questioned them at the police station in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
The police officers were summoned Monday afternoon by soldiers at the checkpoint, who accused Levy and Levac of spitting at them and verbally abusing them, police said. Police questioned Levy and Levac about insulting the soldiers at the checkpoint and entering a forbidden zone, but did not mention any spitting accusations.
“It is the role of the military and police to aid journalists in their essential work, not to undermine it through false accusations, and by all means not to arrest journalists while they are doing their job,” Haaretz said in a statement.
Haaretz has asked the Israel Defense Forces for a copy of the footage taken by security cameras at the checkpoint. The IDF had not issued a statement on the matter by press time.
The award-winning journalists were coming from Tul Karm, which is in Area A, the part of the West Bank that is under full Palestinian control.
Last week a Jerusalem court ruled that the enforcement of military decrees prohibiting Israelis from entering parts of the West Bank is discriminatory, but the army is still enforcing the orders.
Since the start of the second intifada in 2000, the IDF has prohibited Israeli Jews from entering the parts of the West Bank designated under the Oslo Accords as Area A. The military order states that only Palestinians may enter these areas, but in practice the army lets in tourists and Israeli Arabs, banning only Israeli Jews.
Levy said he would not be deterred by what he called the “false arrest.”
“We must call a spade a spade,” said Levy. “It was a false arrest of journalists, meant to harm their work. I have been covering the occupation for 30 years, and I will continue to do so even if I get arrested every week.”