Israel’s security services arrested Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, after he returned from a reporting trip to Egypt two days ago. He had traveled there to cover a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers dealing with the crisis in Syria and Palestinian issues. Abu Khdeir, who reports for the Palestinian Al Quds and the Kuwaiti Al-Rai, was arrested at Ben Gurion airport when he arrived on a flight from Egypt.
News of his arrest is under Israeli gag. Abu Khdeir, as is common in security cases, has been denied any contact with his attorney. During this period, the Shabak commonly “works over” suspects for information, using abusive techniques like sleep deprivation and hours-long stress-inducing interrogation techniques. That is why it’s critical to spread word of his arrest.
The Israeli court system is complicit in this abuse and in this case a Beersheva court has granted the Shabak request for a gag and ordered him detained without charge until November 13th. It’s also usual in these cases for remand to be extended without any real oversight by the court. You can expect the suspect to be detained as long as the Shabak wants him there.
In 2007, Israel refused to accredit Abu Khdeir as a journalist. He sued, and in a ruling by the Supreme Court which relied on secret evidence not accessible to his attorney, it agreed with the State that he engaged in “hostile activity.” This is closer to the standards of a police state than a democratic one.
After examples of behavior like this, it should be no surprise that Israel’s rankings on world press freedom indexes are quite low. Unfortunately, one of the few ways to fight such outrageous violations of freedom of the press is to report them here.
It’s entirely possible that this arrest is based on sheer spite, and is certainly entirely arbitrary. A year ago, the Palestinian journalist embarrassed the Shabak by refusing to cover a Hillary Clinton press conference to which he’d been invited. The Shabak agents who provide “security” for such events, demanded only Palestinian journalists pull down their pants before entering the press venue. Abu Khdeir refused along with several others.
An unnamed Israeli official told FoxNews, apparently with a straight face:
…Israel is trying to provide the best possible security for Clinton and that similar procedures are used at Western airports and in secure facilities in Western capitals.
Last I checked, no Israeli reporters were forced to disrobe before entering the White House to cover Bibi’s press conferences. This is a clear case of Reporting While Palestinian. His recent arrest seems like a good example of payback.
The other possibility is that Abu Khdeir may’ve annoyed the Egyptian military junta during his visit by contacting figures from the Muslim Brotherhood. If he did so, Israel too would want to warn him that such contact with Islamists is considered an offense against Israeli state interests. Not that this is, or should be against the law. But when you’re Palestinian there doesn’t have to be a law. Shabak is the law. You may’ve done something wrong, you may’ve gazed a moment too long into the eyes of the security official at Ben Gurion. There doesn’t have to be a reason.
The only thing we can be thankful for is that Shabak didn’t kidnap him inside Egypt as they did recently in the case of a Gazan who disappeared there and turned up in an Israeli jail, where he presumably still sits. But they knew they didn’t need to since he was returning via Ben Gurion, where they could nab him.