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?