Rights and Accountability 18 December 2015
Israel’s Government Press Office appears to be building up files on international journalists who criticize the oppression faced by Palestinians.
The conduct of this surveillance has been revealed by German journalist Martin Lejeune who has been deported from Tel Aviv.
Lejeune was held for 14 hours in Ben Gurion airport last week, during which time he was told that Israel considers him “a threat to the national security.” Lejeune had covered Israel’s 51-day attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014.
Although Israeli police and officials refused to discuss the reasons for his detention and subsequent deportation with his lawyer, Lejeune was told that he was being denied entry to Israel because he had been on a ship destined for Gaza earlier this year.
Mohamed El-Khatib, a Palestinian with German citizenship who was helping Lejeune with research, was initially allowed to pass through security and travel to Jerusalem. However, when El-Khatib returned to the airport, both men were deported.
One day before his trip, Lejeune received an email from the Israeli Government Press Office, stating that his application for a press card had been denied.
The message from Ron Paz, a senior member of staff in the press office, stated that it had “evidence indicating you are a pro-Palestinian activist, rather than a journalist.”
Paz also stated that he had “a long file” on Lejeune. Rather than sending Lejeune the file, Paz asked him a series of loaded questions.
The questions related to comments that Lejeune had made in radio interviews and at public meetings, when he urged that Germany cease providing weapons to Israel and described himself as anti-Zionist. They also claimed — without backing up the assertion — that Lejeune had “trivialized the Holocaust” by changing the words of “Death Fugue,” a poem by Paul Celan.
The detailed nature of the questions indicated that the Israeli authorities have been gathering information on Lejeune for a number of years. They even contained a description of business cards that he no longer uses.
Lejeune had testified about his experiences in Gaza last year at a side event of the UN Human Rights Council and at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a forum where lawyers, political activists and artists listened to eyewitness accounts of Israel’s crimes.
In the summer of 2015, Lejeune had been scheduled to sail on a boat towards Gaza, in an attempt to break the blockade Israel has imposed on the strip. Yet the ship did not undertake its voyage.
Lejeune has written for a number of German publications, including Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau and Die Welt.
Paz also asked Lejeune “did you glorify Hamas terror”?
In an email, Lejeune suggested that Israel was trying to portray the fact he had interviewed Hamas representatives as support for that organization.
“Israel considers independent journalism as support for terrorism,” he stated. The treatment of Lejeune contradicts Paz’s assertion that “freedom of the press is an important value in Israel.”
Clearly, he was denied entry because he has reported things that the powerful in Israel do not want us to know. Isn’t that what journalists are supposed to do?
- Martin Lejeune
- Ron Paz
- Russell Tribunal on Palestine
- Tel Aviv
- Ben Gurion airport
- Mohamed El-Khatib
- Paul Celan
- UN Human Rights Council
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
- Frankfurter Rundschau
- Die Welt
What constitutes a
Permalink Anonymous replied on
What constitutes a "journalist"?
Journalism and Activism
Permalink Robert replied on
It should be noted, though, that Martin Lejeune hasn't worked as a journalist since most, if not all media organisations have stopped publishing his work, following a series of controversial remarks and actions during and after the Gaza war in 2014. Mr Lejeune has always tried to accompany those statements and actions with as much publicity as possible. Thus, it would have been difficult, if not impossible for the Government Press Office not to take notice of the massive amount of debate surrounding him. It takes just a few minutes with Google and some German language skills to compile the list Mr Paz mentioned in his mail, which, I have to say, I do not agree with in its central point: It should not matter, if somebody is an activist for whatever cause. If a media organisation decides to employ journalism-related service of such a person, this should be enough.
The rules an guidelines for the issuing of a GPO card are clear, and accessible for everyone on the GPO's website. The only question that should be the deciding factor is, whether an applicant is a journalist according to those guidelines, or not. It is also not the task of the GPO to determine whether reports are accurate, or if a govenment spokesperson has been contacted for every single report. The High Court fo Justice did, in the case of the censoring of the Film "Jenin, Jenin" state, that it is not up to the government to censor on the basis that a piece of art is, as it was claimed at this time, "a series of lies". The same standard should be applied in this case.
The rules and guidelines would have been more than enough to deny the press card: There is no evidence that Mr Lejeune has worked as a journalist according to the GPO's definition since the summer of 2014 and therefore he is just simply not entitled to a press card, unless he proves that he actually does meet the requirements.
The reasons given for not
Permalink Zohar replied on
The reasons given for not issuing Martin Lejeune with a press card went much further into the political and the final document denying him entry into Israel gave illegal immigration as the cause, obviously false as he never intended to stay. The issue at hand is basically how long will Israelis who like to think of themselves as democrats keep accepting the restrictions put on free press.
Re_Robert and Anonymous
Permalink Anonymous2 replied on
I believe it is incorrect that M. Lejeune does not work as a journalist anymore. I've read elsewhere that he was actually on a media job when he was denied entrance this month, and so it was impossible for the GPO to deny him entrance on the basis of what Robert presented as a fair argument below. Instead, the official documents stated Israel had concerns this journalist would try to "illegally immigrate" - a charge that seems surprising/far-fetched in this case. "What constitutes a journalist?" is a very good question. Obviously, the GPO's definition is that journalists must support Israeli politics, i.e., according to this definition, journalists actually must be activists of some sort.