Far-left journalist arrested over tweets praising Palestinian attackers

Yisrael Frey, who said man who planned Tel Aviv terror attack is a ‘hero,’ questioned under caution after ignoring summonses, police say; critics decry ‘political arrest’

Haredi journalist Yisrael Frey appears on Democrat TV in 2020. (Screenshot used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Haredi journalist Yisrael Frey appears on Democrat TV in 2020. (Screenshot used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Journalist Yisrael Frey was arrested Tuesday and questioned under caution for hours over several tweets praising Palestinian attackers for purportedly seeking out military Israeli targets, rather than civilian ones.

The Tel Aviv Police Department said in a statement that Frey had ignored multiple summonses to come in for questioning and had said he would refuse to take part in any investigation. Therefore, police said, a warrant for his arrest was issued, and he was investigated on charges of incitement to terrorism and violence.

He was later released.

Frey, who is an outlier in the ultra-Orthodox community for espousing far-left political opinions, tweeted approvingly in September of a Palestinian man arrested and accused of planning a large-scale terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.

“See what a hero is: He traveled the whole way from Nablus to Tel Aviv, and despite all the Israelis surrounding him who take some part in oppressing, crushing and killing his people — he regardless sought out legitimate targets and avoided harming innocents,” tweeted Frey in reaction to the arrest. “In a proper world, he would get a medal.”

While the Palestinian who was arrested claimed that he was seeking to harm IDF soldiers, a security official previously said that the Nablus-based Lion’s Den terror group was involved in sending the man to attempt to commit a “large-scale” attack in Tel Aviv.

And in October, Frey reacted to the fatal shooting of IDF soldier Noa Lazar at a checkpoint in Shuafat in East Jerusalem, tweeting: “Harming security forces is not terrorism.”

Sgt Noa Lazar, 18, who was killed in a shooting attack in East Jerusalem on October 8, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

In fact, international humanitarian law (IHL) is more nuanced in defining legitimate military targets. According to Human Rights Watch: “Under IHL, anyone who is not a combatant is considered a civilian. Reserve or off-duty soldiers are considered civilians unless they take part directly in hostilities, or become subject to military command.”

Police said Tuesday that state prosecutors last month okayed an investigation into Frey on charges of incitement after three complaints were filed against him by citizens.

Frey worked for the left-wing Democrat TV until he was fired last month, a move he claims was due to the tweets in question.

On Monday, Frey asked on Twitter why “Yair Netanyahu, who calls those prosecuting his father traitors and hints at the death penalty, is roaming freely, and I am being called to a police investigation over a legitimate tweet that differentiates between innocents and soldiers?”

On Tuesday, Frey’s lawyer Gaby Lasky claimed his release without restrictive conditions “shows this is a baseless political arrest aimed at intimidating, silencing and deterring. Those arrested under terror laws aren’t usually released within a few hours. It’s hard not to wonder who in the State Prosecutor’s Office approved this lunacy.”

Lasky and Frey himself argued that the arrest was tied to the incoming government, which is aiming to subordinate police to the National Security Ministry, set to be helmed by far-right politician Itamar Ben Gvir.

“The new leadership is here already, it is fascist and it wants us weak and afraid,” he said in a statement. “When faced with a fascist leadership, there is only one path: raising our heads.”

Frey said police had lured him to a Tel Aviv parking garage by leading him to believe he was going to meet a journalistic source, with cops arresting him there.

The Union of Journalists in Israel condemned the “violent practice of arrest” against a journalist, and said the police’s initial summons to Frey over “tweets that lie under freedom of speech” had in itself been “a grave mistake.”

Labor MK Naama Lazimi said Frey’s arrest was “a disgrace.”

“Persecution eventually reaches everyone — LGBT people, minorities, lawyers, leftists, journalists, and whoever doesn’t fall in line will be arrested too,” tweeted Lazimi. “This cannot happen.”

Labor MK Naama Lazimi at the Knesset, June 21, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Joint List MK Ofer Cassif called the move “a disgraceful political arrest.”

What Frey wrote “is correct: according to all accepted definitions, harming military forces is not considered terrorism,” said Cassif.

The right-wing group B’Tsalmo, which filed one of the complaints against Frey, said in a statement that it welcomed the arrest of “the inciter.”

“His place is behind bars, and not in any public position,” the group added.

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