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Israeli Police Detain Palestinian Journalist Attacked by Settler Mob

Israeli police only intervened when they also attacked an Israeli journalist, Palestinian photographer Saif Kwasmi said.

Israeli right-wing activists scuffle with Palestinian freelance journalist Saif Kwasmi on June 5, 2024, during the so-called Jerusalem Day flag march.

Israeli police arrested Palestinian photojournalist Saif Kwasmi after he was attacked and injured by a mob of Israeli settlers on Wednesday in a series of events emblematic of what daily life is like for Palestinians under apartheid.

On Wednesday, Kwasmi was donning his press vest and covering the annual Jerusalem Day march, in which Israeli settlers flood the streets of Palestinian neighborhoods in the city, when a group of settlers attacked him.

According to Ha’aretz, Kwasmi was attacked amid a riot of about a hundred Israeli boys, ten of whom surrounded him. They beat him, threw things at him and tried to grab his cell phone. His head was “slightly wounded,” the publication reported, but didn’t require treatment.

Israeli police officers present at the scene did not intervene until they realized that an Israeli journalist, Nir Hasson, was also being attacked, Kwasmi told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Palestinian journalist Diala Jweihan was also targeted in the attack, he said.

In fact, an Israeli police officer joined in on the beating, Kwasmi said, before detaining him — at which point police blamed him for inciting violence, which he denies. On the other hand, Ha’aretz reports that none of the members of the settler mob have been arrested.

“An Israeli police officer started hitting me and took me to a side street to arrest me. I told him that I am a journalist and produced my card. They escorted the journalists outside of the Old City and to a place for journalists,” Kwasmi told.

Later in the day, police approached and questioned Kwasmi for an hour and a half, told him he didn’t have permission from Israeli authorities to be a journalist and confiscated his equipment. This came as a result of a tip from a known Israeli extremist activist Yedydya Epstein who encouraged police to arrest him and accused him of being affiliated with the group Hamas, a CPJ witness and Kwasmi said.

Ha’aretz reporter Nir Hasson said that settlers were specifically attacking journalists during the march in order to stop press from covering the event — a goal also shared by Israeli police who allowed the attack.

“At some point the settlers attacked Saif and two other journalists in front of Israeli border police officers who just stood there and did nothing at first so I had to step in to stop the attack. I was pushed to the ground and beaten by the settlers. I didn’t sustain any serious injuries,” Hasson said. “[Police] gathered all the journalists in a place away from settlers instead of stopping the attackers. They prevented journalists from covering what was happening to the local residents.”

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller declined to condemn the attack when questioned in a press conference later that day.

Many Palestinians had closed their stores in order to protect them from the settler violence that pervades Jerusalem Day. Each year, Israeli ultranationalists typically attack Palestinian journalists and community members during the march, chanting “death to Arabs” — but Hasson wrote that, amid Israel’s genocide of Gaza, this year’s march was “the most violent and ugliest” he’s seen in 16 years.

Photographs of Kwasmi surrounded by the mob circulated on social media, garnering horror, while commentators noted his arrest showed how Israeli apartheid criminalizes all Palestinian people and subjects them to violence, and then blames and further suppresses them for their own suffering.

“This is what apartheid looks like. This,” wrote Zeteo editor in chief Mehdi Hasan.

This is the second time Israeli forces have detained Kwasmi while he was on the job in a matter of months. In April, Kwasmi was detained, beaten and arrested while he was reporting at Al-Aqsa Mosque as hundreds of Israeli settlers stormed the important holy site during Passover. Police once again questioned Kwasmi, accused him of incitement and then banned him from Al-Aqsa for a week.

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