On Sunday morning, Tel Aviv District Court judge Kobi Vardi will hear the case of Jared Malsin, the American Jewish journalist serving as English editor for the Palestinian Maan news agency. The Shin Bet seeks to expel him from Israel as a security risk because he secured a visa by indicating (falsely they claim) that he might take Israeli citizenship via the Law of Return and because he originally came to Israel on a Birthright trip (among other reasons). None of the reasons listed can legitimately be terms a “security threat” to Israel or anyone else.
The judge can rule on the spot to deport Malsin or free him. Or he can call for a full hearing later in the day. If the judge decides to deport the journalist, then the defense has the option of appealing to the Supreme Court. The difficulty in this is that the detainee will remain in Israeli detention for the duration until his hearing. Currently, Malsin is being held in a small cell with blacked out windows and access to nothing other than the small suitcase he had when he returned from his Prague vacation. There is no indication that Israel is prepared to move him to less punishing accommodations.
The International Federation of Journalists released this statement:
“We condemn this intolerable violation of press freedom,” said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. “The ban of entry in this case appears to be a reprisal measure for the journalist’s independent reporting and that is unacceptable.”
“Journalists cannot be sworn to support governments in order to gain entry into countries,” White added. “This kind of interference has no place in a democracy.”
My blog colleague, Ray Hanania, of the National Arab American Journalists Association released this statement:
“Any action to censor or restrict or threaten or intimidate journalists for the sole ‘crime’ of expressing an opinion or covering stories frowned on by the occupation government is a violation not only of international law but a violation of Israel’s claim to be Democratic and fair,” said Ray Hanania, Chicago coordinator of NAAJA, which has issued formal letters to Israel’s embassy in Washington, to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and to Israel’s Ministry of Information in Jerusalem.
“NAAJA is not only calling on Israel to immediately release Jaslin, but also urging Israeli journalists who claim to be objective and concerned about free speech, Democracy and the accuracy in reporting to also publicly protest the arrest,” he added.
Speaking of which, the Israeli Jerusalem Association of Journalists, while affirming the right of journalists to report freely from Israel (and not necessarily defending Malsin himself), attached this unintentionally ironic statement:
The JAJ warned against campaigns which have a political motive and “ try to portray Israel as a state without media freedom.”
Seems to me you have a wee problem, Israeli journalists. You claim that in general you support freedom to report from Israel regardless of favoring or opposing government policy. Yet you won’t specifically defend Malsin and you want to claim that his case does not mean that “media freedom” is absent in Israel. You can’t have it both ways. If there IS media freedom, then you defend Malsin and insist that Israel free him to be a journalist and do his job. If there isn’t, then you refuse to defend Malsin and accept his deportation when or if it happens. Let us see what transpires.
Those wishing to support Malsin and who are Americans should write to Hillary Clinton and your Congressional representatives as both Malsin and his girlfriend, who WAS deported, are U.S. citizens. You should also blast your local Israeli consular office.
Malsin’s partner, Faith Rowold, a Lutheran Church volunteer was deported to Prague after being detained with him at Ben Gurion. She released this statement about the general harassment by the Shin Bet and immigration officials of foreign aid workers in the West Bank:
“Israel is really making it difficult for humanitarian organizations and churches to do their work in Israel and the Palestinian Territories,” Ms. Rowold commented. “It seems like Israel especially discriminates against organizations that are working with Palestinians or in the Palestinian Territories, making it difficult for workers and volunteers to get the visas they need to stay and do their jobs. So many people are on tourist visas now, leaving every three months and hoping to get back in. It is really an insecure situation and it makes long-term planning impossible.”
It has also been reported that approximately 100 church and NGO workers who had previously held B1 work visas from Israel had been denied renewals. Some were given 6-month tourist visas instead, which do not legally allow the holder to work in Israel.