Palestinian Cameraman Loses Eye at West Bank Demonstration
Reporters, officials accuse Israel of widespread targeting of Palestinian journalists
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and human rights groups condemned Israel this week for allegedly targeting and violating the rights of journalists in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Jerusalem, saying it is part of a systematic policy to reduce coverage of Israeli security forces’ actions against unarmed Palestinians.
In the most recent incident, Palestinian photojournalist Muath Amarneh, 35, lost his left eye when an Israeli soldier allegedly shot him while he was covering an anti-occupation demonstration in Surif village, 8 miles (13 kilometers) northwest of Hebron, on November 15.
Wala’a Amarneh, Muath’s wife, told The Media Line that her husband was currently undergoing surgery to enable doctors to assess his condition and decide on future treatment. “The damage is huge, but the doctors are trying to minimize it as much as possible,” she said.
Wala’a Amarneh said she could not visit her husband, as he was being treated in an Israeli hospital (Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem), and that would require her to obtain Israeli permission to enter the country. “The children and I haven’t seen him since he was transferred to Hadassah a day after his injury. I applied for a permit at Gush Etzion, but they told me that the kids and I can’t get a permit now.”
She said that once Muath left the hospital, they would pursue legal measures against the alleged shooter, “after collecting all evidence and videos. What happened is awful where I can’t even describe the feeling. I just want to be with my husband, whether someone helps me get a permit or transfers my husband to a hospital in Palestine; I’m waiting for that.”
Mohammed Laham, a member of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and the Palestinian Liberation Organization Revolutionary Council, told The Media Line that the “Israeli occupation’s targeting” of Palestinian journalists and media staff comprised criminal human rights violations.
“Last year, two Palestinian journalists were killed by the Israeli army. This year, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate recorded 650 violations against journalists; 62 of them involved bullet wounds,” Laham elaborated. “This is a very significant indicator that reflects a methodology linked to the highest security and political echelons in Israel. These soldiers don’t make the decisions on their own. They are being instructed in advance to [target journalists].”
He cited [Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s repeated statements against Palestinian journalists, as well as decisions by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to impose sanctions against media people who took pictures of Israeli soldiers. “Regarding Muath’s injury, it’s an attempted murder, as he was covering the clashes from an area that is away from the area of friction, and still he was targeted, which was documented by his colleagues who were covering events in the field.”
Laham said that Israel used to be able to rely on the complete adoption of its narrative by the leading media outlets around the world, but that nowadays, thanks to social media, it was no longer possible to block the Palestinian narrative. “Israel deliberately targets the press for intimidation of journalists, but the Palestinian media people are aware of the Israeli targeting and what it aims for, and they insist on continuing to practice their profession and play their humanitarian role in communicating the truth without fear.”
Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld, Israeli police spokesman, denied the Palestinian allegations, telling The Media Line that the security personnel operating in Surif faced dozens of rioters, some of them masked, who threw stones at officers and burned tires. “The response by the forces used nonlethal means to disperse the rioters, in accordance with the [approved] procedures and after receiving permission. The use of the nonlethal means was not directed at all at the photographer, and his injury could have been caused by the violent rioters.”
This is not the first time that Israeli security forces have been accused of deliberately shooting at Palestinian reporters and photographers as they covered anti-occupation events and other allegedly peaceful activities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Saleh al-Masri, the head of the Journalists Support Committee in Gaza, told The Media Line that there was a clear targeting of Palestinian journalists in Gaza, as during “all confrontations” with the Israeli army, journalists were injured, despite the safety measures they take – wearing protective clothing and keeping a proper distance from soldiers.
“The type and location of the injuries indicate that the Israeli occupation soldiers have the intention of killing when targeting the press,” Masri continued. “The situation in the West Bank is no less dangerous, as the Israeli occupations aims to silence their voice here [in the Gaza Strip], in the West Bank and also Jerusalem.”
He said that since the beginning of 2019, the Journalists Support Committee had recorded 557 Israeli violations against journalists in the West Bank and Gaza that ranged from direct shooting, severe beatings and confiscation of equipment to raiding their offices and other abuses. “One hundred fifty-two cases involved bullet wounds: 84 in Gaza and 68 in the West Bank,” Masri said.
The Amarneh incident went viral on social media and he received widespread support because his injury was documented live by other journalists who were covering the clashes and because of the immediate launch of a social media campaign by leading Palestinian journalists under the hashtags #MuathEye and #EyeOfTheTruth. Using those hashtags, the journalists shared pictures of themselves with their left eyes either closed or covered to express solidarity with Amarneh.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh joined in the campaign, sharing a picture on his official Facebook page of him covering his left eye and saying: “If the occupation wants to extinguish Muath’s left eye, all our eyes are his eye. Israel targets Palestinian journalists to silence the voice of Palestine and the truth. We support the popular solidarity campaign with Muath; we want it to grow and deliver the voice of Palestine to the world.”