Several high-profile Israeli reporters have been assigned bodyguards following what the Union of Journalists in Israel has described as “an unprecedented number of attacks” on members of the press during the current conflict.
Channel 12 correspondents Dana Weiss, Rina Mazliah, Yonit Levi and Guy Peleg were all provided security details earlier this week in response to violent threats. An unnamed suspect was arrested on Monday for sending Weiss threatening messages online.
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The current spate of attacks, which coincided with the beginning of Arab-Jewish clashes during Ramadan, intensified following the beginning of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.
Journalists have been attacked while covering riots, rocket strikes and other events connected with the conflict.
Last Thursday, Kan reporter Yoav Zehavi and cameraman Rolan Novitzky were beaten by far-right Jews in Tel Aviv while reporting on Jewish retaliatory attacks against Arabs.
According to media reports, suspects Yosef Peretz and Yosef Ma’atuf, who were later indicted over the assault, screamed that the journalists were “antisemites” and leftists before attacking them, leading to Novitzky’s hospitalization.
Several journalists were attacked during clashes in the mixed Arab-Jewish cities of Ramle and Lod. Channel 13’s Baruch Kra, Ayala Hasson and Omri Maniv were attacked by Jewish rioters in three separate incidents, while a car belonging to Channel 20’s Moshe Kadosh was vandalized by Arabs. Maniv had previously been attacked by an ultra-Orthodox mob during anti-lockdown protests earlier this year.
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On May 10, two Palestinian journalists working for a Turkish outlet were injured by Israeli security forces while covering clashes in Jerusalem. One was identified as Fayez Abu Ramila, who holds a press card issued by Israel. His beating came several days after Channel 12 reporter Moshe Nussbaum was filmed being shoved by several police officers.
Last Saturday, Channel 13 reporter Lior Keinan was attacked by men screaming that she was “spreading hatred” and “delegitimizing the country” as she reported from the site of the rocket strike in Ramat Gan.
“The past week has been marked by an unprecedented number of attacks on journalists, against the backdrop of growing violence between Jews and Arabs, the missile attack on Israel, the war in Gaza and the ongoing incitement on the Internet against media outlets and journalists,” the Union of Journalists in Israel said in a statement on Tuesday welcoming the indictment of Peretz and Ma’atuf.
According to the union, “dozens” of journalists and broadcast crews have come under attack in recent weeks.
Speaking with Haaretz on Wednesday, union chairman Yair Terchitsky said years of delegitimization of the media, especially from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters, created an environment conducive to violence against the media.
“If people are made to think journalists are the enemy” it can lead to violence, he said, calling on the police to take such attacks seriously and on politicians to stop creating “a public atmosphere that legitimates this violence.”
Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, has repeatedly tweeted anti-media messages to his more than 132,000 followers in recent days, accusing Israeli media outlets of producing “hostile propaganda” that “serves our enemies” and claiming that “100 percent of the arguments of the antisemites in the world and the international media against Israel are based on arguments presented on Israeli channels.”
“The press is in the service of the enemy,” he declared.
This rhetoric largely echoes that of his father and his allies, who have accused the media of leading a “witch hunt” and an “attempted coup” against him.
In a statement Friday, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on Israeli authorities to “do their utmost to protect Palestinian and Israeli journalists covering unrest and conflict, and should ensure that members of the press can work safely and freely.”
The current spate of attacks comes less than a year after a series of violent assaults against journalists by ultra-orthodox Jews angered by media coverage of widespread communal violation of Health Ministry pandemic rules. At least eight assaults were committed last October, followed by several more after anti-lockdown protests turned into riots in Bnei Brak in January.