Video: Soldiers beat journalists filming demonstration, Kafr Qadum, 21 June 2013
Update: On 30 March 2014 the Office of the Military Advocate for Operational Matters informed B'Tselem that the case had been conveyed to the relevant military officials for their response.
On 21 June 2013, a regular weekly demonstration was held at the village of Kafr Qadum. Since July 2011 demonstrations have been held there on a weekly basis to protest the closing of the road that links the village to the city of Nablus. In the course of the demonstration, Israeli soldiers attacked a reporter and a photojournalist of the Palestinian television. The men were then detained and held in custody for two days. The IDF Spokesperson published its response to both the incident and the filming of it on “news1” website, stating as follows: “In the course of a violent and unlawful disturbance of the peace in Kafr Qadum, in which 50 Palestinian threw stones at security forces, Palestinian photojournalists who clashed with the troops and attacked soldiers were arrested. The photographers were handed over to Israeli Police. Even though the video clip under discussion does not present the full picture of the situation as it unfolded on the ground, the issue will be examined.”
However, the footage showing the arrest as filmed by two other photographers raises questions as to the military’s version of events. The footage was shot by two men: ‘Udai ‘Aqel, a resident of Kafr Qadum and a volunteer photographer in B’Tselem’s camera project, and by photographer Khaled Sabarneh. In this footage, the soldiers are seen violently attacking journalist Ahmad ‘Othman, who is trying to protect himself. Later, the soldiers are seen dumping the camera’s tripod into a trash can. While the video footage does not show the beginning of the violent incident, which was not captured on film, at no point of the video are the journalists seen to be attacking the soldiers. If it was indeed necessary to arrest the journalists, the arrest could undoubtedly have been achieved without resorting to such violent force.
Documentation of the incident does not include footage filmed on the camera of Bashar Nazzal, the photojournalist who was arrested, because it was deleted at the time of his arrest.
Ahmad ‘Othman, of the city of Qalqiliyah in the West Bank, is a Palestinian TV journalist. On Friday, 21 June 2013, he arrived as usual at Kafr Qadum to cover the regular weekly demonstration there. He was accompanied by a Palestinian TV photojournalist, Bashar Nazzal.
Following is ‘Othman’s account of the incident as he gave it to B’Tselem field researcher ‘Atef Abu-Rub. ‘Othman related that right after the Friday prayers at the mosque, the villagers began walking toward the road whose closure is the motivation for the demonstration:
A large military force was in place even before the procession set out. The soldiers tried to halt the progress of the demonstrators, who began to flee from them. Some demonstrators threw stones and the soldiers fired tear-gas canisters and rubber[-coated metal] bullets at them. We filmed what was happening. The soldiers were acting with violence. The started removing the journalists from the area. Bashar and I tried to keep away from the soldiers, but they passed us and we found ourselves among them. The soldiers tried to take Bashar’s camera from him to see what we had filmed. Bashar tried to keep them from taking it. He lifted the camera off the tripod and tried to move away. I told the soldiers they can’t do this and I grabbed the camera’s tripod. One of the soldiers pushed me hard, and I fell and collided into another soldier. That soldier fell on the ground and then the soldiers assaulted me and Bashar and started beating us. They used force to take us to their jeeps and there they stopped beating us, and only shouted at us and cursed us.
In his testimony, photojournalist Bashar Nazzal recounted the incident as follow:
The soldiers told us journalists to move away. My friends started moving away and I stayed on just a bit and continued filming. The camera was mounted on a tripod. One of the soldiers tried to grab the camera and lift it off. I detached the camera from the tripod and tried to get away. The tripod stayed there. I tried to keep the soldier from taking the camera. Ahmad came over and grabbed the tripod. The soldiers grabbed Ahmad and tried to take it away from him. They started assaulting me and Ahmad. They knocked me to the ground, punched me and took my camera.
A few minutes later the soldiers stopped beating us. They took us to the jeeps and bound our hands behind our backs with plastic cable ties. I saw one of them toss my camera on the hood of the jeep.
The soldiers took the two journalists to the police station in the settlement of Kedumim. About an hour and a half later, the men were taken from there to the police station in the city-settlement of Ariel, where they were questioned. After their questioning the two men were taken to Ariel Detention facility near the Palestinian community of Huwarah. Two days later they were taken to Megiddo Prison in Israel. That evening they were released on bail. They are to remain free on bail until their trial. A trial date has yet to be set.
Upon the men’s release, the soldiers returned the camera to Bahar Nazzal. The camera’s battery was missing, yet apart from some scratches, the camera sustained no real damage. The filming of the arrest had been irreversibly deleted from the camera. Locals found the tripod in the trash can in which it had been thrown and it was returned to Nazzal.
B’Tselem applied to the MAG Corps demanding that it open an investigation of the incident.
Since the commencement of the weekly demonstrations in Kafr Qadum, B’Tselem has documented several instances of soldiers assaulting demonstrators and journalists. Moreover, B’Tselem has recently documented an incident in the village in which the Israeli military put up placards carrying photographs of minors and a threat to catch these minors should they be seen.