A Palestinian journalist shot in the leg by Israeli forces will receive no compensation for the injury, continuing a worrying trend of the Jewish state’s military facing no consequences for harming Palestinian reporters.
Freelance photographer and journalist Ahmad Tal’at was covering a protest in the West Bank in 2015 when he was shot in the leg — by, he claimed, an unknown member of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
972 Mag reports that, according to a lawsuit filed on his behalf, Tal’at at the time was wearing a vest with “PRESS” printed on it as well as a helmet, and was carrying three large professional cameras, which he said made him easily recognizable as reporter. He also claimed he was shot while standing on the side of the road, accompanied by other journalists.
The IDF had a different story. Its lawyers said Tal’at’s lawsuit was merely “another in a series of cases in which those who were among the rioters and those riling up the crowd to riot dare to file a lawsuit as if they are the victims,” according to 972 Mag.
IDF lawyers argued that Tal’at’s injury occurred after the protest had ended, and “that even if Tal’at was wounded that day, ‘it was in the context of attacks by the rioters that endangered the security forces there,’” 972 Mag reports.
The judge hearing the case at a top Israeli court sided with the IDF, ruling that Tal’at would not receive compensation for his injures. The reason, per the judge, is that he was shot during an “act of war,” and thus Israel is exempt from any liability. The IDF, therefore, doesn’t have to pay Tal’at for any damages. Tal’at was seeking 40,000 Israeli shekels (about $11,600) in recompense.
At first, this could seem like an isolated case. The problem is that Tal’at is the latest in a long line of Palestinian reporters that Israeli security forces have harmed or killed but failed to compensate. Security forces also rarely, if ever, face legal consequences for their actions.
Even more troubling, there’s no sign that this trend will end anytime soon.
Israel’s abuse of journalists is nothing new
Palestinian journalists frequently report abuse by Israeli security forces.
In April 2018, Ahmed Abu Hussein was shot in the abdomen while covering Gaza border protests, in which demonstrators demanded the right to return to their ancestral homes in Israel. Hussein died from his wounds two weeks later.
A day later, Yaser Murtaja was fatally shot in the abdomen by Israeli snipers while covering the same protest. He, like Tal’at, was wearing a vest marked clearly marked with “PRESS.” The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in Gaza said five more Palestinian journalists covering the event were wounded.
In November 2019, Muath Amarneh was blinded in one eye after Israeli Border Police opened fire to disperse protesters at a demonstration near the West Bank city of Hebron. Other journalists at the scene said Amarneh was hit by a bullet that ricocheted off a demonstrator. Again, Amarneh wore a clearly marked “PRESS” vest.
Two months later, Israeli troops fractured Abdul Mohsen Shalaldeh’s skull while he reported on demonstrations against President Donald Trump’s Israel-Palestine peace plan. He feels he was targeted “as a clear message to journalists that they had to leave the field,” he told AlAraby.
Clearly, there is a sustained pattern. But if Tal’at’s case is any indication, there is little hope for change or recourse.
“The ruling against Tal’at is a blow to the hopes for redress of Palestinian journalists who were injured or killed because it gives full impunity to members of the IDF … whether or not their actions are in line with the IDF’s own regulations,” Ignacio Miguel Delgado Culebras, the Middle East and North Africa representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told me.
He also noted that he’s unaware of any cases in which Palestinian journalists received compensation for their injuries. What’s more, in many of these cases, the IDF has failed to employ nonlethal methods to deal with demonstrators while ensuring the safety of journalists. In fact, Culebras said the IDF routinely delays any investigations into its misconduct.
Which means it’s more likely than not that the IDF will continue this behavior — and Palestinian reporters will continue to suffer.