Reporters Without Borders condemned the secret arrest of Mohammed Abu Khdeir by the Shin Bet, and his being held incommunicado under gag order. Israel’s media may not report this story nor name the detainee who was arrested–solely for the practice of journalism. Only a country that dishonors freedom of the press can arrest a journalist under these circumstances.
Here is RSF’s press statement:
Reporters Without Borders condemns Palestinian journalist Mohamed Jamal Abu Khdeir’s detention by the Israeli security services since 6 November, when he was arrested at Ben Gurion airport on his return from a reporting trip to Cairo and his Jerusalem home was searched.
A reporter for the Jerusalem-based Palestinian daily Al-Quds, Khdeir is being held for questioning. His detention was extended yesterday until 18 November. He has not been able to receive visits from his lawyer or his family.
“We call for Khdeir’s immediate release and the lifting of the gag order on Israeli media coverage of his detention,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Detaining this journalist in connection with his work and the court order banning coverage of the case are a direct violation of freedom of information, democratic principles and the rule of law.”
Khdeir went to Cairo to cover an Arab League foreign ministers meeting. Reporters Without Borders has been told that he is accused of endangering Israel’s security, contact with terrorist organizations and “meeting Israel’s enemies.” He is currently held at the Ashkelon interrogation centre.
The gag order on Israeli media coverage of his detention was issued on 10 November and is currently valid until 19 November.
I note that the terms under which he is held, including “endangering Israel’s security, contact with terror organizations,” and “meeting Israel’s enemies,” can mean anything or nothing. If Abu Khdeir had coffee with the Sudanese foreign minister that is sufficient to throw him in a Shabak cell. If he said hello to the hotel bellboy, who may or may not be a Muslim Brotherhood member…the same fate.
These are the same terms used against Ameer Makhoul, who allegedly had coffee with Hassan Jaja in Amman. Jaja, a professional landscape designer, spoke at a conference Makhoul attended about environmental issues. Jaja is allegedly a Hezbollah operative according to Shabak. They never have to produce any proof of the charge. The mere statement was enough to get Makhoul nine years in prison.
The moral? Don’t ever have coffee. Don’t leave Israel. On second thought, don’t breathe.
I fear the same fate may befall Abu Khdeir. His real mistake was refusing to bow and scrape before Shabak agents who demanded that he disrobe in order to attend a Hillary Clinton press conference. If you’re Palestinian you have to know who’s “di massa.” If you forget, they’ll remind you as they have Abu Khdeir.
I’m grateful to RSF for taking up this Palestinian journalist’s cause. Now I don’t have to be the sole individual calling out for justice for him.