Israel arrests Palestinian journalist in West Bank

Abdelrahman al-Thaher (38) is Palestinian journalist and filmmaker from Nablus (Screengrab)

Middle East Eye  /  October 27, 2020

Filmmaker Abdelrahman al-Thaher one of more than 20 Palestinian journalists reportedly currently detained by Israel.

Israeli forces on Tuesday arrested Palestinian journalist and filmmaker Abdelrahman al-Thaher at his home in the city of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank. 

Rasha al-Sayeh, Thaher’s wife, told Middle East Eye that the family woke up to the sounds of military jeeps and then heavy knocks on the doors of nearby houses at 2am, before soldiers arrived at their house and Thaher opened the door.

“The Israeli officer asked [Thaher] if he was ‘the famous journalist’,” Sayeh said. “He then requested to search the study and his personal belongings.”

Thaher’s arrest by Israeli forces came shortly after the 38-year-old filmmaker had been detained by the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) preventive security apparatus on 19 August, as he was leaving his workplace at the An-Najah media centre in Nablus, where he produces and presents a number of TV programmes.

PA security forces had raided his home the following day at 1am and confiscated his equipment, laptop and files. Thaher was charged with “insulting the authority”, based on the PA’s Electronic Crimes Law, after posting on social media. He was ordered to pay 5,000 Jordanian dinars ($7,050), before his release on 21 September.

The PA faced a widespread backlash after the Electronic Crimes Law had been passed by executive decree in 2017, with critics accusing the West Bank-based administration of seeking to stem opposition voices and criticism of its political and economic policies, including its ongoing security coordination with Israel.

Arrest condemned

The charges behind Thaher’s arrest by Israeli forces had yet to be made public. 

Sayed said the couple’s eight-year-old son woke up and was surprised by the Israeli soldiers inside the house who terrified him. “[He was] crying the whole time and demanding the return of his father,” she said.

“This is the first time that Abdelrahman has been arrested [by Israel], he is not engaged in any political activities, and we are unable to guess why he was arrested and prosecuted. Even his journalistic work does not constitute a reason to pursue him,” Sayed added.

The Palestine International Forum for Information and Communication condemned Thaher’s arrest in a statement, adding that more than 20 Palestinian journalists were currently detained by Israel.

“We condemn the arrest of journalists, we affirm the freedom of journalists to do their work and we call on the (Israeli) occupying forces to immediately release Abdelrahman and all fellow journalists,” the statement said.

The film director holds a BA in architecture, yet has long worked in the media and arts field as a journalist and presenter, with programmes on channels including the Jordanian Roya TV, local Wattan TV and UK-based Al Araby TV.

Thaher has also produced a number of documentaries and satirical shows.