IDF soldiers launch attack on photojournalists

By Mati Milstein: Tuesday, August 2 2011|+972blog

If you seek to obtain a truly comprehensive picture of the state of press freedom and freedom of expression in territories under Israeli control, come watch Israeli soldiers shoot at journalists in the West Bank.

On Friday, 29 July, at the start of the weekly Palestinian demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, Israeli army infantry reservists opened fire with riot-control weapons on a group of some 10 press photographers.

An Israeli Border Police officer aims a tear gas grenade launcher at news photographers while advancing on Palestinian protesters in the West Bank (photo: Mati Milstein)

This attack crossed a red line.

The troops had just repelled a march of several dozen Palestinian, Israeli and foreign protesters with a few rounds of tear gas grenades and forced them back towards the village’s central square and out of view. The only individuals on the street visible to the soldiers at this time were photographers. They carried multiple still and video cameras and tripods and they wore unique blue flak jackets and helmets marked with “PRESS” or “TV.” The distance between the journalists and soldiers was less than 100 meters and visibility was clear.

Nevertheless, soldiers began firing riot-control weapons (primarily rifle-fired tear gas canisters and gas grenades) directly at journalists. The sustained attack on the journalists, who work for Israeli, Palestinian and foreign media outlets, lasted between three and five minutes.

Photojournalists working in the West Bank are used to being caught in the cross-fire, and are sometimes hit by rocks thrown by Palestinians or by various types of ammunition fired by Israeli troops. This is part and parcel of the job and rarely does anyone make an issue of it.

This is the first time I am speaking publicly about any perceived abuse of the media by any side involved in this conflict.

When once punched in the face by a Fatah activist a number of years back, I kept my cool and simply resumed working. I also kept my mouth shut earlier in July, when a Border Police officer in Nabi Saleh fired a tear gas grenade directly at me, hitting my camera and left hand at a time when I stood alone in the street while Palestinian protesters were located behind the rise of a hill at a distance of several hundred meters.

But here is the difference: the attack of 29 July was intentional and sustained and the troops were fully aware of what they were doing. I had never before come under a sustained, direct and intentional attack by an Israeli military force aimed directly at me and at fellow journalists.

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Rebuttal: A Representation of Israeli Soldiers

Audrey Faber responds to the brutal beating of Palestinian journalist, Moheeb Barghouti and the claim of Israeli Occupation Force soldiers that they are being “misrepresented”.

by Audrey Farber: 1 August 2011

If this is what happens to photographers who “misrepresent Israeli soldiers,” here is my rebuttal:

In the last eight or nine months, Nabi Saleh has become more and more the epicenter of military violence against non-violent protesters in the West Bank. In a situation where protesting is not just against the wall but against the very nature of the occupation, the soldiers have become more and more brazen in their aggression against the villagers and the protesters.

From the start, non-violent protesters are surrounded by heavily armed soldiers.

Tear gas is launched from army trucks blocking the road out of the village before anything other than marching and chanting has taken place.

The soldiers begin their game of cat-and-mouse.

Children are targeted, only temporarily at an advantage for better knowing shortcuts through the homes and streets of Nabi Saleh, a village on a hill.

The onslaught begins, and continues.

Soldiers try to force their way into a home…

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