Israeli reporters covering Palestinians face threats

Palestinian reporters, activists threaten Israeli colleagues covering Palestinian affairs beat; call for ban from W. Bank.

Journalists cover a protest in Hebron 390 (photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
Journalists cover a protest in Hebron 390
(photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
Palestinian journalists on Thursday called on the Palestinian Authority to ban Israeli reporters from entering Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
Over the past few weeks, Palestinian journalists and activists have threatened or harassed a number of Israeli reporters covering Palestinian affairs.
The most recent incident occurred this week when Channel 1 correspondent Yoram Cohen was forced to leave a press conference in Ramallah after Palestinian journalists protested against his presence.
One of the journalists, Naela Khalil, later boasted that she had managed to expel an Israeli reporter from the press conference.
The PA minister for prisoners’ affairs was holding the press conference following Maissara Abu Hamdiyeh’s death from cancer in an Israeli prison.
Cohen’s attempt to explain that he had received permission from the PA deputy minister of information to cover the press conference did not persuade the journalists, who demanded that he leave immediately. The PA official has since denied granting Cohen permission.
In a similar incident, Ohad Hemo, who covers Palestinian affairs for Channel 2, said that activists had threatened him and his crew when he arrived at central Ramallah’s Manara Square to cover a rally.
Palestinian activists and journalists also published photos on Facebook depicting what they said was an assault against another Israeli journalist in Ramallah. One of the photos featured the correspondent’s smashed microphone on the ground after the assault.
“It has become dangerous for Israeli reporters to enter Palestinian cities, mainly because of the incitement by some Palestinian journalists,” a veteran Israeli correspondent told The Jerusalem Post.
“We are trying to solve the issue by talking to senior Palestinian Authority officials, and we hope we will find a solution.”
But on Thursday, more than 200 Palestinian journalists signed a petition calling on the PA leadership to issue an order banning Israeli reporters from entering and working freely in Palestinian cities.
The petition claimed that the PA leadership was discriminating against Palestinian journalists because top PA officials preferred to deal with Israeli reporters.
The journalists also demanded that the PA refrain from providing any security for Israeli correspondents.
“This measure would be the least that can be done in response to ongoing assaults on Palestinian journalists,” the petition said. It specifically protested Israeli restrictions preventing Palestinian reporters from entering Jerusalem.
The journalists said their demand was aimed at “isolating the Israeli media which is contributing to misleading and relaying a false and harmful image of the Palestinian reality.”
Last month, the PA Ministry of Information, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and the PA governor of Hebron issued an order banning Israeli reporters from entering the city without permission from the PA authorities.
The Palestinians also warned local journalists against cooperating with Israeli colleagues who entered Hebron without permission.
PA Deputy Minister of Information Mahmoud Khalifa accused Israel of restricting the work of Palestinian and international journalists in the West Bank.
“Israel does not honor international laws and conventions calling for the protection of journalists,” he charged. “Israeli reporters have become accustomed to entering the lands of the State of Palestine without permission from the relevant authorities.”
Khalifa said that any Israeli or international journalist caught without permission would be detained and handed over to the Israeli-Palestinian District Liaison Office.
Jihad Qawassmeh, a senior member of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, confirmed that the ban had been issued following pressure from Palestinian journalists.
Defending the ban, he said it was designed to “protect Palestinian journalists and restore their dignity in light of [Israeli] restrictions imposed on them.”
Qawassmeh pointed out that the ban also applied to international journalists, who would need permission in advance in order to