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Secret police hold Palestinian journalist in secret

Three reports arranged chronologically, 1 and 2 from Richard Silverstein, 3 from Ali Abuminah.

Palestinian activist-journalist Majd Kayyal
Palestinian activist-journalist Majd Kayyal

Israeli Security Services Arrest Israeli Palestinian Journalist, Activist; Israeli Media Under Gag

By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
April 12, 2014

I received an urgent message from Jamil Dakwar of the ACLU that Palestinian journalist and political activist, Majd Kayyal, age 22, was arrested on his return to Israel from a trip to Lebanon and Jordan.  I’ve checked with an Israeli source who tells me he was arrested as a national security suspect. The combination of his trip to Lebanon, where he attended an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of As-Safir(considered a pro-Hezbollah publication), his participation in a 2011 flotilla voyage to break the Gaza siege, and his activist role in Adalah (where he was the website editor) and Balad (Hebrew), made him a ready target.

Kayyal also edits the political and cultural website, Qadita and the English-language blog, Message to the Tricontinental.

At midnight Saturday Israel-time, a few hours after his arrest, the security police raided his Haifa home and confiscated his computer and other electronic devices and materials.  Jamil reports he has been denied access to an attorney, which is standard procedure for Israeli Palestinian security suspects.  A judge will be asked to extend his remand tomorrow and will automatically do so, again as is standard for the Only Democracy in the Middle East.  Majd can also expect abuse and even torture from his security service interrogators just as Ameer Makhoul did.

For those with good memories, who’ve been reading this blog for several years, you’ll recall his case.  He was also a Palestinian community activist from Haifa who founded the Ittijah NGO.  He too returned from a trip to Jordan, where he allegedly met a fellow activist Hassan Jaja at an environment conference.  The Shabak made Jaja out to be a key Hezbollah operative, when in reality he owned a landscaping business in Amman.  My guess is that Shabak discovered a similar meeting Kayyal had with a suspect individual who the security forces can turn into an Islamist bogeyman.

This persecution is part of the ongoing effort by Israeli secret police to criminalize Israeli Palestinian nationalism.  As I’ve reported here, Yuval Diskin, then Shabak chief, said in 2007 that any such political expression would be viewed as sedition and criminally prosecuted by the State.  That is what is happening in this case.  Nothing more.

Here is a Mondoweiss interview published with Kayyal before he joined the 2011 Gaza flotilla.  Read the words of this ‘mortal danger’ to the Jewish State:

Are you concerned you will be treated worse because you are Palestinian?

I hope not, but usually Palestinian activists face more problems from Israeli armed forces. However, as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, it’s extremely important to show the unity of the Palestinian people to the international community and remind the political leadership that they cannot abandon our rights and must include the status of ’48 Palestinians in any just solution.

How do you see the Palestinian struggle right now?

I think that the Arab spring is the most inspiring and is providing us with a renewed motivation. I see that we need to rebuild the popular struggle on the ground. We need to revitalize the participation of the youth and the students in forging a more powerful movement, as we can see their importance in the uprisings of Egypt, Tunisia and others. Now is the time to move beyond partisan problems and focus on the main target, which is the colonial and racist regime Israel has imposed on the Palestinian people.

This arrest, which constitutes a severe assault on press freedom, since Kayyal is an Israeli Palestinian journalist, is under gag order in Israel.  It has not been reported in Israeli media.  I hope this publication will poke a hole in the shroud of opacity that favors such assaults by the security apparatus.  An international group of activists joined together to fight on Ameer’s behalf.  I’ve begun a process which I hope will lead to the same support for Majd.

Shin Bet Gags Reporting on Secret Arrest of Israeli-Palestinian Journalist-Activist

By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
April 14, 2014

Yesterday, I reported that the Israeli secret police had arrested Israeli-Palestinian journalist and political activist, Majd Kayyal. A judge extended his remand by a week to next Sunday so that the security apparatus could work wonders on his willingness to cooperate with their “interrogation technique.”

The court transcript notes the judge’s name as Ziyad Falah. He is a Druze and former military prosecutor. No surprise there. Israeli Jews consider Druze to be the “good Arabs.” They serve in the IDF, unlike most other Palestinian citizens. This judge appears happy to approve the security apparatus’ dirty work and to do so as an Israeli Palestinian citizen. Though I should be fair and say that there are many Druze who object to such servility to, and collaboration with the power elite.

Kayyal has been refused access to his lawyer, who works for Adalah, the NGO whose website he edits.

I reported that there likely was a gag order prohibiting Israeli media from reporting the story. Abir Kopty confirmed this in a tweet in Arabic. My Israeli source has provided me a copy of the gag order which I display here.

I’m proud to report that the o139 blog has broken the gag. The Israeli author is a brave man.

Electronic Intifada has also obtained a copy of the charge sheet and translated it, also featuring photos of Kayyal’s arrest and his Beirut conference appearance (an event which undoubtedly angered the security goons). EI inadvertently hasn’t linked to my own reporting of the story, which preceded theirs.

Some Israelis will say: what did Kayyal expect? Lebanon is an enemy country. Visit it and you’re breaking the law. Except there’s one small problem with that: it’s not true. Yes, it is illegal to visit Syria or Lebanon, technically. But if you’re a Jewish journalist you’re fine. Lisa Goldman visited Lebanon and aired footage on Israeli TV, thereby endangering the unknowing Lebanese whom she interviewed. They threatened her with prosecution, but somehow never did. Another Israeli journalist also reported from Lebanon and wasn’t prosecuted.

Kol Yisrael reports that Israeli Druze also complain that they are not allowed to make religious pilgrimages to their holy sites outside Israel. The chief Druze religious leader appealed in recent days to Shimon Peres to intervene on behalf of priests who’ve been arrested for such pilgrimages to Syria or Lebanon. Israeli Jews from Arab countries, on the other hand, are allowed to make “under the radar” return visits to their homelands to explore their ‘roots.’

The Shin Bet are extremely sensitive to Israeli Palestinians who express their solidarity too strongly with Arab nationalist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas or even Syria. This was how Ameer Makhoul got a nine-year jail sentence and Azmi Bishara was driven into exile. You may be an Israeli-Palestinian as long as you meekly accept your second-class lot in life. But once you express support for a one-state solution or solidarity with Gaza, as Kayyal did by joining the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in 2011, you become an enemy of the state.

Let’s remember we’re talking about the Only Democracy in the Middle East, where all citizens are created equal and treated so–unless you’re Palestinian.

Israeli secret police holding journalist in cell with no bed or window

By Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada
April 17, 2014

Majd Kayyal in Beirut. (As-Safir/Facebook)

The journalist and activist Majd Kayyal has met with lawyers for the first time since his detention by Israel’s Shin Bet secret police last Saturday.

Following the lifting of a gag order on all public discussion of situation, the legal advocacy group Adalah said its lawyers met with Kayyal, a 23-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel, on Wednesday evening at a Shin Bet detention center.

In addition to the gag order, an Israeli judge had prohibited Kayyal from meeting with lawyers for the five days since he was arrested.

No bed or window

“Kayyal informed his lawyers that since the beginning of his detention, he has been held in a cell with very poor conditions. The cell does not have a bed or a window for sunlight. The cell is lit with a bright yellow light 24 hours a day, to the extent that Kayyal lost track of the time and day,” Adalah states in a press release.

“Kayyal also went through very long hours of intensive investigations, including questions about his personal life. The investigation revolved around his trip to Beirut, which Kayyal had publicized on his social media pages. He was also interrogated about his meetings with a number of participants at the As-Safir conference he attended,” the statement notes.

Kayyal was arrested following his return from Lebanon, where he attended public events marking the fortieth anniversary of the Beirut-based Arabic newspaper As-Safir, for which he writes. Kayyal is also a web editor for Adalah and known for his activism for the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“Kayyal told the investigators that all of his meetings in Beirut fell within the context of his work as a journalist. During the interrogation, Kayyal underwent a polygraph test, which showed that he was telling the truth,” Adalah states.

Despite the lifting of the gag order and the ban on meeting with lawyers, Kayyal has been ordered held until 22 April. Adalah has said it will file an appeal to seek his immediate release.

In addition, Israeli police have searched Kayyal’s home twice, reportedly seizing items including computers. A photo posted by Arabs 48 shows Kayyal’s ransacked suitcase full of his clothes and books.

Double standards

Adalah places the persecution of Kayyal in the context of Israel’s broader repressive measures specifically targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel:

In Adalah’s view, the core issue is the prohibition on Palestinian citizens of Israel from entering numerous Arab countries, which in this case prevents journalists like Kayyal from enjoying their right to work, communicate and be in physical contact with Arab journalists and Arabic language newspapers. The Emergency Regulations Law (1948) and the Israeli Infiltration Law (1954) apply a sweeping prohibition on entering several Arab and Muslim countries, including Lebanon, which are defined as “enemy states.” Applications to the Israeli Interior Ministry by Arab citizens for permits to travel to these countries are generally refused regardless of the trip’s purpose such as family visits, professional trips or cultural events. These laws affect all Palestinian citizens in Israel and violate their right under international law as a national minority to maintain their relations with their own people. Moreover, the crimes for which Kayyal is accused of are essentially the fulfillment of his duty as a journalist, and his rights to freedom of movement and freedom of expression.

By contrast, Israeli media – and apparently the authorities – consider it a major achievement when Israeli Jewish journalists enter Arab countries, perhaps considering this a sign of normalization of ties or national prowess.

There have been several recent instances of Jewish Israeli journalists “sneaking” into Syria with no reported negative consequences.

In another instance in 2007, Lisa Goldman, a Canadian who settled in present-day Israel, traveled to Lebanon to file reports for Israel’s Channel 10.

Goldman, accused of breaching journalistic ethics, told CNN she was driven by “pure curiosity.”

Goldman, who now works for the New America Foundation, is also not known to have been detained incommunicado, interrogated, banned from meeting with lawyers, or suffering any other negative consequences.

Gag order
Following the lifting of the gag order, Israeli mainstream media have begun to report on Kayyal’s case, including Haaretz which had remained totally silent about it.

At the blog +972, Dimi Reider notes Israeli mainstream mainstream media held back “in line with its habitual kowtowing of the security services line.”

But he notes that “media outlets abroad took the lead on ignoring the ban, with [The] Electronic Intifada even posting the classified transcript of the remand hearing, which prompted a question on the arrest at the State Department hearing on Monday. On this occasion, a growing number of Israeli independent publications also chose to defy the ban.”

These included Hebrew blogs and the Arabic-language press serving Palestinians in present-day Israel.

Israel Social TV has posted this video of a rally outside Haaretz headquarters yesterday protesting media complicity in Israel’s repression of Kayyal and other Palestinians.

The video carries the ironic Hebrew title “Palestinian journalism – a danger to security.”

Arabs 48 reported that supporters of Kayyal were to hold a protest in his hometown of Haifa this evening, demanding his release.


When the Israeli press reported the arrest of Majd Kayyal:
Israeli Arab journalist arrested upon return from Beirut visit, Haaretz, April 17th, 11.45 Israeli time (DST).

Shin Bet arrests Arab-Israeli journalist who visited Lebanon, published by Ynet news April 17th, 13.50 Israeli time (DST).

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