Israel’s incommunicado detention of journalist raised at State Department briefing

On Saturday, Israel’s Shin Bet secret police arrested the journalist Majd Kayyal, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and is holding him incommunicado and without access to lawyers.

Kayyal’s arrest followed his return from a visit to Lebanon where he participated in the fortieth anniversary celebrations for As-Safir newspaper, for which he writes.

The Electronic Intifada exclusively revealed the court transcript in which a judge approved these undemocractic violations of Kayyal’s basic rights.

Kayyal also works for the legal advocacy organization Adalah.

Israeli media are strictly prohibited from publishing any details about Kayyal’s detention under the terms of a Shin Bet gag order approved by the judge.

An anarchist collective calling itself “Ahdut” – unity – has called for a protest tomorrow, 16 April, outside the building of Haaretz newspaper in Tel Aviv.

According to an announcement on Facebook, the rally will demand the release of Kayyal, the end of “ethnic and racist-based political persecution of Palestinial activists, writers, intellectuals, political activists and even members of parliament,” and will protest the Israeli media’s “submissiveness” to the gag order.

Detention of Mariam Barghouti

On Friday, 11 April, Israeli occupation forces arrested 20-year-old Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian with US citizenship, who is in detained until 16 April. According to the International Solidarity Movement:

Mariam was arrested while leaving the village of Nabi Saleh. Mariam, along with Abir Kopty (a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship who was later released on bail), and three foreign journalists were detained by soldiers and searched. Mariam had been in Nabi Saleh accompanying some of the journalists on their assignments and translating for them. Soldiers on the scene fabricated charges against her and handed her over to the police who arrested her along with Abir. At her hearing yesterday Mariam was charged with stone-throwing and entering a closed military area; her detention has been extended until Wednesday. Mariam sobbed throughout the whole hearing and told her lawyer that the charges are simply lies.

State Department “concern”

At yesterday’s State Department briefing, the Associated Press journalist Matt Lee raised both cases. The exchange begins 34:20 into the video above.

While the US government spokesperson Jennifer Psaki provided no significant information, she said the US was aware of both cases and the report of the arrest of Kayyal was a cause of “concern.”

She refused to discuss details of Barghouti’s case on the grounds it would violate the Privacy Act.

Under the terms of Israel’s draconian censorship, Israeli media are not even allowed to report the exchange that happened at the State Department regarding Kayyal’s case.

It is nonetheless important that the cases were raised publicly in order to deprive Israel of the ability to to arrest, detain and abuse journalists and others in darkness.

Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

QUESTION: On Israel, two of them have to do with arrests made by Israeli authorities over the course of the past week or so. One involves an American woman, Mariam Barghouti. Do you know anything about that?

MS. PSAKI: Due to privacy considerations and no Privacy Act waiver –

QUESTION: Oh, great. This is going to be another – we’re going to go through the –

MS. PSAKI: – we’re unable to provide further or additional information, Matt.

QUESTION: So, okay. So we’re just going to go through the Egypt airport experience all over again. Then there’s a second one. This is not an American citizen, but it’s a journalist –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: – Majd Kayyal. I don’t know if I’m pronouncing the name right. He was arrested over the weekend. Are you aware of this case?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen the reports, but – that he’s being held incommunicado detention, but we have not been able to confirm these reports. We’re continuing to seek more information.

QUESTION: Is this – recognizing that you don’t have an interest because he is not an American citizen, do you – is this the kind of thing that you – that causes you concern, these types of arrests, or is this something –

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, reports of journalists being arrested certainly cause concern, but we don’t have any confirmation of that specific case, so we’re just looking for more information.

QUESTION: Do you know if you have asked the Israelis about it?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that. I believe we were exploring through all avenues we have, but I don’t want to speak out of turn, so let me check back with our team.

QUESTION: Okay. And the PAW [Privacy Act waiver] for Ms. Barghouti, that – you can’t say – because you don’t have a waiver, you can’t say whether you’ve raised her case with the Israelis? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t – there’s no more details I can discuss.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the last one, which is very briefly, is that it’s come up that apparently the Israeli defense ministry has done something that would allow the construction of more housing in Hebron. Are you familiar at all with this?

MS. PSAKI: I believe I’ve seen some news reports about it, but I’m not sure what the impact of it is. But go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t know – no, no, I’m just wondering if you had seen it, and if you had, if you had any reaction to it or – beyond what you usually say about settlements.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything new to report, but I will venture to follow up on that one as well.

QUESTION: Can you check –

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: – because this just seems to be a new, or relatively new, development?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Happy to.

Comments

what sort of privacy act should keep the American government from being concerned or giving out details about one of it's citizens detained in another country? Sounds like a conspiracy, it's quite sickening.

Hopefully we can encourage the AP reporter to receive answers to his/her questions, especially construction in Hebron. The addition of settlers to this most conflicted area will be most difficult and life threatening for Palestinians living there. Possibly initiate a world wide campaign.

I wonder if State would refuse comment if, say, Russia was holding an American journalist. Or if Hamas was holding an Israeli journalist incommunicado.