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Israeli police arrest journalist over tweet praising Palestinian suspected fighter

Lawyer of ultra-Orthodox reporter Israel Frey says detention was aimed at terrorising and intimidating opposition to the new government
Israel Frey (L) pictured after his release following a brief detention by Israeli police on 27 December 2022 (Twitter/David Zonsheine)
Israel Frey (L) pictured after his release following a brief detention by Israeli police on 27 December 2022 (Twitter/David Zonsheine)

Tel Aviv police briefly detained an Israeli journalist on Tuesday over tweets in which he praised a Palestinian who was allegedly planning to carry out an attack against Israeli forces. 

Israel Frey, a reporter from the ultra-Orthodox community and an MEE contributor, was arrested on suspicion of inciting terrorism. Police said he was released late on Tuesday after questioning. 

An investigation into Frey had been launched by the state attorney's office in November. He failed to appear for questioning at the time, which prompted an arrest warrant, according to the newspaper Haaretz.

In September, Frey praised a Palestinian man who was caught by Israeli police in Jaffa with weapons and an explosive device. He was allegedly planning to carry out an attack in the city. 

'A political arrest aimed at terrorising and intimidating... anyone in the opposition'

- Israel Frey's lawyer

In a tweet at the time, Frey called him a "hero" for making it "all the way from Nablus to Tel Aviv" and looking for "legitimate targets". 

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"Even though all the Israelis around him somehow take part in the oppression, crushing and killing of his own people, he still looked for legitimate targets and avoided harming innocent people. In a reformed state he would have received a medal," he said. 

The right-wing nonprofit Btsalmo organisation filed a complaint accusing Frey of inciting terrorism and violence over the tweet.

After his release on Tuesday, Frey accused the new Israeli government of being "fascist" and wanting to make us "weak and scared".

"There is only one way to keep your chin up when facing a fascist regime; there is no middle ground, there is no statesmanship. [The only response] is to fight for full equality and freedom for every person from the river to the sea," he said in a video posted online by Haaretz's Noa Landau.  

Gaby Lasky, a former MP and Frey's lawyer, confirmed his arrest in a statement, saying it was a "political arrest aimed at terrorising and intimidating... anyone in the opposition".

"Today it's Frey, tomorrow it's all of us," she said.

Referring to the new government with significant far-right influences, Frey said in response to being summoned in November that the "new regime" wanted to scare him. 

"The new regime has already arrived. It is violent, fascist, terrorises and bleeds political opponents, and now wants to scare me. Our dear country is coming under the control of anti-democratic forces, the police minister is an avowed nationalist. I have no intention of lowering my head," he said. 

While it is uncommon for Jewish Israelis to be arrested over incitement against the police or other state bodies, Palestinian citizens of Israel have been disproportionately facing such accusations for years. 

In August, a study by the Israel Religious Action Center found that prosecution authorities in Israel were "enabling incitement" against Palestinians by their "insufficient enforcement policy".

The study found that between 2014 and 2021, 77 percent of all indictments for incitement to violence and racism were filed against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up only 20 percent of the country's population. 

When it came to convictions, only two indictment cases against Palestinian citizens did not end in a conviction. In comparison, a third of indictments against Jews did not end in a conviction.

Around 99 percent of convicted Palestinian citizens on indictment charges received a jail sentence, while around 54 percent of Jews received no jail time.

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