Israeli Arab photographer detained, strip-searched by PM’s security
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Israeli Arab photographer detained, strip-searched by PM’s security

Despite his government press card, Channel 2’s Ali Wa’anus is held for an hour, asked to remove clothing

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Ali Wa'anus, an Israeli Arab photographer for Channel 2 who has an official Israeli government press card, was detained for an hour and strip searched by the prime minister's security detail before being allowed to cover an event, June 19, 2017. (YouTube screenshot/Channel 2)
Ali Wa'anus, an Israeli Arab photographer for Channel 2 who has an official Israeli government press card, was detained for an hour and strip searched by the prime minister's security detail before being allowed to cover an event, June 19, 2017. (YouTube screenshot/Channel 2)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security guards detained and strip-searched an Israeli Arab photographer for Channel 2 News before allowing him to cover an event in northern Israel, the TV station said.

While his Jewish colleagues filed into the Ziv Medical Center in Safed on Monday, Ali Wa’anus — who holds a government-issued press card — was taken aside for around an hour and forced to strip down to his underpants while his camera equipment was X-rayed several times.

During the ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, he was also questioned and taken outside for several minutes, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

“I was so excited to go and photograph the prime minister and to meet him, but suddenly I was humiliated,” Wa’anus said.

The photographer lives in Ghajar, a village of Syrian Alawites on the border between Lebanon and the part of the Golan Heights annexed by Israel from Syria in 1981. Ghajar residents have Israeli citizenship.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman attend the opening of a radiotherapy department, the first of its kind in the north, at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Israel, on June 19, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman attend the opening of a radiotherapy department, the first of its kind in the north, at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Israel, on June 19, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Wa’anus received his Israeli press credentials three months ago after several security checks and a long wait, Channel 2 said. The Government Press Office which issues the cards is part of the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Journalists are not above the law, but there was no justification for detaining him in a humiliating manner, as happened this morning, because of his community affiliation,” Channel 2 said in a statement.

Noa Shpigel of the Haaretz daily newspaper, who also covered the event in Safed, tweeted, “Today, it took all of us ten minutes to get through the security check. For Ali, it took almost two hours. You should know.”

MK Shelly Yachimovich of the opposition Zionist Union party said the incident demonstrated the continuing vulnerability of Israel’s Arabs even after they obtain security clearance.

She demanded an inquiry as well as a public apology and compensation for mental anguish, Haaretz said.

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