Soldiers destroy cameras belonging to Palestinian and Italian photographers in the West Bank town of Beit Furik. A firsthand account from the photojournalist who filmed the now-viral video.
By Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills.org
Israeli violations of Palestinian “freedom of press” in this country are not uncommon. In fact, the opposite is true. But what I witnessed yesterday in the West Bank town of Beit Furik was nothing short of shocking.
I was there covering the clashes that followed the funeral of Ahmad Khatatbeh’s funeral, 26, who died from his wounds after being shot by Israeli soldiers at the Beit Furik military checkpoint last Friday. While I was on air for the Beirut-based Al Quds television station, I noticed two journalists coming from the Israeli side of the checkpoint, where some soldiers tried to stop them.
Suddenly a soldier snatched a camera from one of the journalists’ hands, smashed it on the ground and threw it beside the road. The journalists tried to complain, but the soldiers pushed them back. I couldn’t actually comprehend what I was looking at. I immediately pressed the record button to start documenting; I was sad that I had missed the moment, but it was only the beginning.
While the journalists were on their way back toward the checkpoint, another soldier picked up the camera from the side of the road and smashed it in the middle of the street. Then another soldier decided to follow the journalists in order to confiscate more cameras and equipment from them. He was followed by more soldiers who came to the scene in their military jeep. One of the soldiers managed to snatch another camera and destroyed it immediately. More cameras and equipment were forcefully confiscated.
Several minutes later, one of the journalists tried to get close and collect some of his camera’s wreckage, At this point the soldiers jumped on him pushed him to the ground.
The two journalists were identified later as Andrea Bernardi, an Italian videographer working for AFP and Abbas Momani, a Palestinian photographer from the same organization. They reported that everything in their pockets had also confiscated, including batteries and memory cards.
My video of the unprovoked assault was rapidly distributed on social media websites. It is worth mentioning that my colleagues and I at our production company, PALMEDIA, were prevented from entering the village from its main road, so we took another, longer way. Another flying checkpoint popped up, where they checked our van and confiscated a gas mask for no apparent reason, saying that “if we enter the town, we will not be allowed to leave later.”
I was lucky to have documented the attack, while dozens of violations committed by Israeli forces against journalists take place every month. Several days earlier, a student was allegedly directly shot while filming a night raid in the university residence of the West Bank city of Nablus. A few months earlier, another popular video made the rounds on social media showed soldiers attacking journalists in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Moreover a colleagues of mine almost lost his eye in another unprovoked attack on journalists.
To be a journalist covering the Israeli occupation is often dangerous. But it is a commitment — a commitment to show the truth, or at least, what we think is the truth.