Nothing to report here: Israel's persecution of Palestinian journalists
Israel’s colonial violence cycle is very predictable, particularly when it comes to the application of human rights violations against particular segments of the Palestinian population, be it Bedouins in the Naqab, Palestinian activists in the West Bank, or journalists striving to document Palestinian history and memory.
As soon as statistics emerge by human rights groups which portray the extent of systematic oppression, Israel seeks to upstage the report by indulging in yet another bout of brutality, as if seeking to exceed what had been previously reported.
Mohammed al-Qiq’s hunger strike as a form of protest against torture and administrative detention elicited considerable attention, particularly as reports emerged that Israel had attempted to apply the force-feeding clause against him under the usual pretext of security concerns. Behind the hype generated by brief updates, the reality behind his indefinite incarceration was lost to the more sensational details. Al-Qiq’s administrative detention order was part of the crackdown initiated by Israel since the commencement of the Jerusalem Intifada.
Recently, news of yet another Palestinian journalist detained by Israel has elicited furore in Palestine, but considerably less so in international media.
Omar Nazzal, who was on his way to attend the General Meeting of the European Federation of Journalists in Bosnia, was arrested while trying to cross into Jordan. Nazzal, a member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and President of the Association of Democratic Journalists, was sentenced to four months’ administrative detention on May 2 by the Ofer Military Court, upon the pretext of alleged secret evidence.
In a brief conversation with Nazzal’s wife, Marlen Rabadi, issues such as the lack of solidarity in the wake of Israeli persecution of Palestinian journalists was at the helm.
"Nazzal always stood up for his fellow journalist colleagues and freedom of speech. Israel did not want him to reveal the systematic targeting of journalists, including murder, arrests and bans enforced by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF)."
|Nazzal always stood up for his fellow journalist colleagues and freedom of speech. Israel did not want him to reveal the systematic targeting of journalists, including murder, arrests and bans enforced by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF)|
Prior to Nazzal’s sentence, a peaceful protest organised by Palestinian journalists in front of Ofer Prison was dispersed by Israeli forces, who used excessive force against a small unarmed gathering. Tear gas canisters and stun grenades were used, which led to an injury, according to Wafa news agency.
A parody of freedom of expression
According to a statement by the Shin Bet, Nazzal’s arrest was linked to alleged terror activities and involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In part, the Shin Bet statement reads: "It should be made clear that his arrest wasn't because of his activities as a journalist but because of his involvement in the terror organisation," with reference to the PFLP.
Haaretz reported Nazzal’s lawyer Mahmoud Hassan voicing an opinion that his client’s arrest might have been due to Nazzal's coverage of the murder of PFLP member Omar Nayef Zayed.
Zayed’s assassination in the premises of the Palestinian Embassy in Bulgaria drew sharp criticism and calls for accountability, as the operation was hailed a collaboration between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Both the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticised Nazzal's arrest and demanded his immediate release.
IFJ President Jim Boumelha declared, "It was shocking to hear that a participant to a congress for journalists from all over Europe has been arrested by the Israeli authorities on his way to attend and banged in Etzion prison without any reason being given."
Last April, the Palestinian Committee for the Protection of Journalists documented 42 Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists, including the banning of protective equipment for journalists in Gaza under the perpetual clause of alleged security concerns, as well as calls for interrogation, detention and renewals of administrative detention orders.
|Last April, the Palestinian Committee for the Protection of Journalists documented 42 Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists|
International solidarity and Israeli impositions
Marlen Rabadi voiced the opinion that the international community should be exerting more effort to highlight Nazzal’s case as well as the issue of Israeli repression of Palestinian journalists.
"The coverage given by the international media on Omar’s case was very weak and limited. I believe that the international media should talk more about this problem – Israel’s detention of Palestinian journalists – and calls for his release and his fellow journalist colleagues should resonate collectively as well as part of global solidarity."
Undoubtedly, when it comes to the media and international solidarity with Palestinians, a lot is lacking as regards the ultimate manifestations of such support.
Primarily, unless there is significant coverage in Palestinian media, most human rights violations committed by Israel are ignored – a convenience which Israel is aware of as it can perpetuate the security narrative without international scrutiny. Had Nazzal not been on his way to Europe for the journalism conference, his plight would have suffered the usual oblivion.
|The coverage given by the international media on Omar’s case was very weak and limited|
Secondly, the impunity under which Israel operates has generated a blatant form of secrecy in which information is distorted and such decisions are legally validated.
Lack of knowledge, or better, lack of information regarding particular cases can create impediments for international solidarity. However, it is possible for the international community to spread awareness by elucidating upon the lack of information as a deprivation of a detainee’s rights.
Sadly, unless a case is accompanied by some form of hysteria, international media prefers to pursue other less controversial topics.
The international community has been conditioned to refrain from even questioning such practices, thus making it easier for Israel to persist in pursuing obscure international legislation such as administrative detention and inventing a context for its application.
If the media and the international community persist in diluting Nazzal’s case, the disservice to him and Palestinian memory, as happened on other occasions, will impart a permanent laceration.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law. Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.