Israel is waging a war against Palestinian journalists in Jerusalem. Plainclothes police officers came to the offices of an East Jerusalem production company Monday, arrested five journalists and slapped the company with a six-month closure order. Why? Because the company provides production services to Palestinian television.
The reason for the closure provided by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was the 1994 law governing implementation of the Oslo Accords, which bans the Palestinian Authority from operating inside Israel’s borders. But a closer look at the law reveals that its purpose was to prevent “activity of a diplomatic or governmental nature.” The law doesn’t apply to Palestinian journalists in Jerusalem – a city where 40 percent of the population is Palestinian. But Ben-Gvir isn’t a pioneer in this field; he is continuing the policies of his predecessors Gilad Erdan and Omer Bar-Lev, who were also fond of using this law against Palestinians in Jerusalem. Among other things, they shut down a festival for clowns, a soccer tournament and PTA meetings, for fear the Palestinian Authority was involved in organizing them.
The current harassment of Palestinian journalists joins other moves aimed at restricting Palestinians’ press freedoms. Lama Ghosheh, a Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem, has been under house arrest for the past six months. Prosecutors have asked that she be sentenced to a year in prison, after she was convicted of identifying with a terrorist organization and incitement to violence over social media. This sentencing request might be seen as reasonable but for the fact that the prosecution blatantly ignores innumerable examples of much more serious incitement spoken, written or posted by Israelis. Examples include the finance minister, who called for wiping out an entire Palestinian town; Likud party activists, who for years have waged a campaign branding leftists as “traitors”; and ordinary people who called on Twitter to “gouge the eyes” of protest organizers and media figures.
Palestinian journalists working in Jerusalem have for years experienced Israel’s iron fist. It’s hard to find a single Palestinian journalist in the city who hasn’t been injured by sponge-tipped bullets, beaten with batons, falsely arrested or humiliated by police officers. Most have suffered all of these, sometimes more than once. And even though many of these assaults on journalists were recorded, the Justice Ministry department that probes allegations of police misconduct has never investigated the officers.
The government’s fight against media freedom and the Palestinian public’s right to know is illegal, immoral and, in today’s media reality, also pointless. Its aim is to erase the Palestinian presence and identity in Jerusalem. This is another arm of the occupation, that tries to suppress freedom of expression, and now it has a helping hand from the most dangerous government Israel has ever had.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.