'You’re Under Surveillance': Senior Israeli Officer Threatens Palestinian Activist

The activist was photographed shaking hands with an Israeli soldier after helping Palestinian harvesters. The officer later messaged him to 'stop the incitement'

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
Harvesting olives in the West Bank.
Harvesting olives in the West Bank.Credit: Hadas Parush
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

A senior officer in Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank threatened to keep a well-known Palestinian activist under surveillance and demanded that he stop his “incitement and provocations, on the ground and online.”

The officer, Lt. Col. Tali Kroitoro Aharon, also sent the activist, Munther Amira, a photograph that showed him shaking hands with an Israeli soldier. Amira said the photo was later obtained by the Palestinian security services, even though he never shared it.

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Kroitoro Aharon is the head of the Civil Administration’s District Coordination Office for the Bethlehem region.

On Wednesday, Amira had joined a group of Palestinian activists who were helping Palestinian farmers harvest their olives near the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. The group was accompanied by a South African diplomat as part of the Fazaa project.

Both Amira and another activist said that Israeli soldiers forbade them to stay and used a stun grenade to force them to leave. Amira was also detained for three hours.

The message the officer sent to Amira, yesterday.

“All kinds of soldiers came and asked me what Fazaa is and why we had come here,” Amira said. “I explained to them that we come to help the harvesters in places where there is settler violence.”

The soldiers also asked him about his activity on social media, Amira added. Finally, an officer arrived and told him that even though a decision had been made to arrest him, he could go home.

“He told me not to make trouble and said I’m the same age as his father. He tried to portray himself as a good guy.”

The soldier then shook Amira’s hand, and someone took a picture of both of them. Amira said he doesn’t usually shake soldiers’ hands or even talk to them. Both he and the other activist that accompanied him said that only after that were they allowed to leave.

A few hours later, Amira received a message from Kroitoro Aharon, accompanied by the photo of him shaking the soldier’s hand.

“This is Tali, director of the Israeli District Coordination Office,” the message said. “I’m happy that you’re telling everyone you were arrested while discussing life with one of my officers. And another thing – you’re under my surveillance. Stop the incitement and provocations, on the ground and online. You’re only hurting yourself. I advise you to calm down and change the way you educate your children. They’ll also be harmed. And if we’re already talking, this is a very nice picture.”

Amira viewed the photo and the message as an explicit threat. “A threat of this kind can destroy your life,” he said. “And this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten threats.”

“This won’t frighten me; I’ll continue to defend human rights,” he added. “But I do feel that there’s danger – that this could affect me and my family.”

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, which runs the DCOs, said that Amira had served six months in jail after being convicted of disturbing the peace and incitement. “But even after his release, he continues to incite, disturb the peace in Judea and Samaria and create friction with security forces in the area.

“Contrary to what you were told and to reports Amira has disseminated, the defense establishment isn’t aware of any arrest or detention by security services,” the statement added. “Nevertheless, following repeated arrests, they did speak with him in an attempt to prevent further friction with security forces and keep the peace in the area.”

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