On 26 April 2004, the organisation sent a letter to Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, demanding a “swift and full investigation to find and punish those responsible for this unacceptable violence.”
“Whether it was a racist attack or politically motivated - Benchetrit’s documentaries often tackle controversial subjects within Israeli society - the seriousness of the incident demands a strong and public reaction,” RSF said.
Benchetrit, who is currently working on a film about “refuzniks” - Israeli soldiers who, as conscientious objectors, refuse to serve in the Palestinian territories - was attacked on 21 April on his way to a meeting with Defence Ministry spokesperson Ruth Yaron.
Describing the incident, his wife Sini Bar David said, “He was waiting on the sidewalk opposite the ministry when a security guard approached him and ordered him to identify himself, then struck him when he did not comply quickly enough.” Three more security staff then appeared and hit him repeatedly with their fists and the butts of their guns.
“In 30 years of covering wars, I have been injured several times, but I have never been as afraid as I was then, ironically, right by my own home,” Benchetrit told RSF in a telephone interview.
“I don’t know if the guards recognised me and were reacting to my films or if they thought I was an Arab because of my beard. In either case, it is extremely worrying that this type of thing should happen in a democratic state,” he said.
Following the attack, Benchetrit was taken by ambulance to Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv, where surgeons found his right leg to be badly damaged and requiring surgery that took nearly four and a half hours. Doctors said he will not be able to walk again for six months but were unable to comment on the possibility of a permanent disability.
For many years, Benchetrit has been making hard-hitting documentaries on sensitive topics such as discrimination against Sephardic Jews in Israel, the Israeli occupation and Palestinian uprising, and the oppression of Palestinian women.