Israeli Soldiers Arrest B'Tselem Researcher Who Documented Protest Against West Bank Outpost

Arif Daraghmeh says his arrest was intended to intimidate him, tells Haaretz one of the soldiers copied photos on his phone while he was examined at the hospital

B'Tselem researcher Arif Daraghmeh.
Courtesy of the Daraghmeh family

Israeli soldiers arrested a researcher for the Israeli human rights NGO B'Tselem on Thursday because he had photographed a protest against an illegal West Bank outpost a few days earlier, according to the researcher.

Arif Daraghmeh, 50, from the Palestinian West Bank City of Tubas, was detained at the Tayasir checkpoint, which isn’t usually manned by soldiers. He was released only late that night.

At no point during his detention was he handcuffed, which he says proves his arrest was false and intended to intimidate him.

Daraghmeh said that he had arrived at the checkpoint in a vehicle along with a few friends. “The soldiers immediately asked us strange questions, like if there’s any activity today and if we’re going to plant olive trees,” he said. “They called an officer in the Civil Administration, who was also interested in any planned activity in the Jordan Valley.”

The B'Tselem researcher then heard an army officer tell a policeman whom the soldiers had summoned that they have a video of him participating in a demonstration on October 26 against the Shirat Ha’asavim outpost in the Jordan Valley.

After about an hour and a half later, Daraghmeh’s friends were allowed to leave, but he was taken to an army base near the settlement of Mehola. He said the soldiers left him sitting by the gate, in the sun, without cuffing him or otherwise restraining him.

He was then sent for a physical examination, as required in every arrest, and the doctor referred him to Haemek Hospital in Afula for further tests and initial treatment. While he was between tests at the hospital, he said, the soldiers copied all the photos on his cellphone.

At about 10 P.M., Daraghmeh was taken to the police station in the West Bank settlement of Ariel for questioning. He was asked about his presence at the protest against the outpost, and also at another protest that took place shortly thereafter near the village of Ein al-Biddya, to which he replied that he was merely doing his job as a B’Tselem researcher. He was finally released at about 3 A.M. on Friday.

During his day-long arrest, attorneys Gabi Lasky and Itay Lasky tried to find out where Daraghmeh was held, but didn’t receive clear answers from the army and the police.

The police told Haaretz on Thursday that questions about Daraghmeh’s arrest should be referred to the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit. That unit responded only on Friday.

“During routine IDF operations, a Palestinian was arrested on suspicion of disturbing the peace,” the IDF spokesperson said. “As part of his arrest, the detainee underwent physical examinations at an army base, after which it was decided to take him to the hospital.”

The Shirat Ha’asavim outpost has been expanding since 2016 despite stop-work orders issued against it. Moreover, work recently began on a road between it and another illegal outpost – Givat Salit, which is in the process of being legalized – and the road is also being paved without a permit.

Palestinian shepherds say shepherds from Shirat Ha’asavim have restricted their access to pasture lands they have used for decades.