Journalists recount abuse, arrest covering Jerusalem riots

Al Jazeera correspondent Givara Budeiri was arrested and accused of assaulting a female Israeli police officer and not identifying herself as press while she covered the developments in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on June 5. She claims to have been kicked while in the police car.

Videos of her arrest clearly showed Budeiri wearing her press vest with the logo of the channel and a notebook in hand. The Israeli police released her a few hours later.

Budeiri’s arrest is not an isolated incident. Many attacks by Israeli forces on journalists in east Jerusalem have been recorded since tensions between Palestinians and Israelis rose at Bab al-Amoud (the Damascus Gate) at the beginning of Ramadan (early May), followed by settlers repeatedly raiding Al-Aqsa Mosque and efforts to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Batn al-Hawa neighborhoods.

Apparent impunity seems to have increased the boldness of Israeli attacks on Palestinian journalists in Jerusalem, and more such incidents could surface with the ongoing developments in the city.

Civilian journalists who are tasked with covering armed disputes must be protected from any form of deliberate attack under international humanitarian law codified in the 1949 Geneva Convention and other international treaties that provide journalists with the same protections afforded other civilians, provided that they do not directly engage in hostilities.

Diala Jwehan, a correspondent for the Ramallah-based Al-Haya al-Jadida newspaper, told Al-Monitor about her experience covering the developments in Jerusalem. She said, “I suffered several injuries from stun grenades and baton strikes on my back and legs as I covered events around the clock for two months.”

She added, “This is not my first assault in my 20-year career. Israel impeded my access to areas of confrontation at the gates and streets of Jerusalem, while facilitating the work of Israeli journalists and protecting them.”

Jwehan said, “Our only concern is to communicate the message with credibility and transparency to show the world the violations that are happening on the ground.”

She said, “What bothers the occupation is the real image reaching the world about arrests, abuses and house demolitions. Journalists have managed to document this image quickly and accurately. The attacks on them aim to conceal the truth.”

Photographer for the Turkish Anadolu Agency Mustafa al-Kharouf told Al-Monitor, “I was wounded twice. The first time was at Al-Aqsa Mosque on May 7 while I was covering the settlers’ raids, when an Israeli soldier shot me with a rubber bullet in the back from a distance of five meters even though I obeyed his request to leave the place.”

He added, “The second time was on May 10 while I was covering the Bab al-Asbat developments.” He said he left when soldiers came to clear the area. “I headed to my car, carrying the photography equipment to go to the office to send off the material. I was surprised with a rubber grenade from a distance of seven meters hit my chest and shoulders.”

Kharouf added, “The second injury left me with second-degree burns and rips in my muscles as well as difficulty sleeping kept be from working for 10 days.”

He said, “The psychological pain I feel is worse than the physical, because I thought the police were a source of protection for journalists, but they turned out to be a threat instead.”

Jerusalem journalist Christine Rinawi told Al-Monitor about her own experience, saying, “Lately, the occupation forces decided to expel me from Sheikh Jarrah, which is besieged and locked down. A battalion of female Israeli soldiers arrived to push me out of the neighborhood.”

She added, “I have been covering events in the field for more than 10 years, and repression and brutality against journalists has been going on the whole time.” She said that she was arrested eight times in 2020 and asked with disdain, “What kind of journalist is arrested so many times in a year?” Rinawi concluded, “It is ridiculous to target journalists for [their reporting] in the city of Jerusalem.”

Freelance photojournalist Maram Bukhari told Al-Monitor, “They tried to push me away from the vicinity of the events in an effort to prevent me from documenting violations in Jerusalem.”

Wahbi Makiya, a photographer for the Palestinian Al-Kofiya TV, recounted his experience being arrested in Sheikh Jarrah, saying, “I came to cover the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood events, and while I was filming a kite that the neighborhood children were flying, I was suddenly arrested and beaten violently, even though I was carrying the camera.”

He told Al-Monitor, “While I was being beaten, I was hit in the head in seven places. The soldiers let me bleed for an hour before they sent me to the hospital. After that, my hands and feet were handcuffed, and I was put in a chair from 11 p.m. until 10:30 a.m.”

He noted, “I was treated like a criminal rather than a journalist, and my detention was extended to five days in the Al-Maskobiya detention center in Jerusalem. I was deprived of the medicine prescribed by the doctors, except for one Acamol pill at 5 a.m.”

He continued, “I was fined 1,000 shekels ($300) immediately and ordered to pay another 7,500 shekels ($2,300). I received a 30-day ban on coverage of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and was prevented from speaking to Al-Kofiya reporter Zina Halawani for 15 days. I also put under a five-day house arrest on charges of assault, which the videos that circulated online prove wrong.”

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