Israel, ‘The Only Democracy in the Middle East’ Set to Expel Derk Walters for ‘hostile and biased description’ of Hebron

Israel, ‘The Only Democracy in the Middle East’ Set to Expel Derk Walters for ‘hostile and biased description’ of Hebron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

 Derk Walters, a Dutch journalist working for NRC Handelsblad Facebook who is set to be expelled from Israel for critical coverage of the racist state

Derk
Walters is being expelled by Israel for his hostile and critical reportage of Israel.  The pretext is visa problems. It is a logical culmination of a series of repressive
laws such as those attacking human rights NGOs, refusing admission to Israel to
supporters of BDS coupled with the refusal by Netanyahu to see the German Foreign
Minister after he had agreed to see human rights organisations Btselem and
Breaking the Silence.

This
followed a tweet from Walters that Israeli Arabs can’t talk about boycotting Israel.  Ron Paz of the Government’s Press Office asked
if the tweet could be construed as supporting BDS, commenting ‘I hope not’
which can be taken as a threat of deportation, since support for BDS in Israel is
almost akin to a criminal offence.  Israel,
just like South Africa, doesn’t take kindly to being boycotted though they are
more than happy to impose a forcible boycott on Gaza.
Derk
Walters works for the Netherland’s fourth largest newspaper, but that is no
obstacle when it comes to Zionist attacks on freedom of the press.  This follows previous threats to the BBC if
they didn’t behave, however the BBC quickly backtracked and changed its
headlines.
Tony
Greenstein
The
Government Press Office says Derk Walters knowingly worked without an updated
visa, but internal correspondence tells a different story
Ha’aretz,
Ravit Hecht May 04, 2017  
Visa problems are Israel’s pretext for getting rid of a critical journalist – Israeli democracy doesn’t extend to hostile foreign press coverage as the BBC learnt 10 years ago
Israel is
refusing to renew the visa of a Dutch journalist who has lambasted Israeli
policy toward the Palestinians in the West Bank, though the Government Press
Office says he knowingly worked without a visa extension or permit.
Derk
Walters has criticized Israeli policy in the Netherlands’ fourth biggest
newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, though the GPO, which operates out of the Prime
Minister’s Office, denies that this the reason for his expulsion.
Last
year, Walters criticized Israeli actions in Hebron in the West Bank and tweeted
about boycotts as political action against Israel.
Walters
has been reporting from Israel since 2014. In January 2016 he ran an article
describing constant friction between the Palestinians and settlers in Hebron
early in the wave of stabbing and car-ramming attacks against Israelis.
He wrote
that because of collaboration between the Israeli army and settlers, the
Palestinians did not believe that the Israeli army was actually acting against
assailants. Instead, it was planting knives near the bodies of the dead.
On
January 13, 2016, a day after a Walters article on Hebron ran, he received an
email in English from Ron Paz, the GPO’s foreign press chief.
“I do not
challenge you about the hostile and biased description of the reality in
Hebron,”
Paz wrote to Walters in the email obtained by Haaretz. “I don’t
challenge you for not even mentioning that Hebron is the most radical religious
Islamist city in the West Bank and that dozens of suicide attackers came from
there in the past 3 months, triggering tighter security measures.”
Paz added that a Walters headline saying that 175,000 Palestinians in
Hebron were captives of 600 Jewish settlers was anti-Semitic.
Paz particularly
criticized what he called Walters’ “severe accusations” against the Israeli
army, “including seemingly-quoting the IDF/security forces policy and actions,
without asking for a comment from the IDF.”
As Paz put it, this was “just
unimaginable.”
NRC’s
editor-in-chief, Peter Vandermeersch, responded to Paz, criticizing the
Israeli’s email to Walters. Four days later, Walters came to the GPO in
Jerusalem to pick up a press card. He says he not only did not receive one, he
was assailed by complaints, especially about the Hebron article and his paper’s
coverage of Israel in general. He says he only received a press card after the
Dutch ambassador intervened.
Nitzan Chen, the head of the Government Press Office, 2016.Yitzhak Harari / Knesset
 On March
8, 2016, the GPO again contacted Walters, this time about a tweet. Walters
quoted a Palestinian blogger who tweeted that “Boycott is legitimate political
expression. It’s not less so just because used against Israel.”
Walters
then added his own interpretation: Israeli Arabs cannot talk about boycotting
Israel because they could be persecuted for it. Paz wrote to Walters asking if
the tweet could be construed as supporting BDS. ‘I hope not,’ Paz wrote in an
email.
Paz also
wrote that retweeting an article from the left-wing website +972 Magazine
raised “several questions, if I may point them out in the frame of our open and
frank dialogue.” Paz wrote to Walters that “we do not think it is legitimate
for journalists to take a stance in this highly controversial issue.
” He wrote
that such a tweet “gives the feeling of supporting the ideas in the articles.
Paz also
asked, “If you merely quoted an opinion (although highly controversial) which
is not your own, would you consider quoting/tweeting an intelligent well-put
article which explains why singling out Israel for political boycott is the new
form of anti-Semitism?”
He added: “Palestinian Israelis’ is a problematic
phrase in many people’s opinion.”
At the
end of 2016, when the GPO rejected Walters’ request to renew his visa and press
card, it cited as grounds that NRC is not a recognized media organization under
the GPO’s standards because its editor-in-chief is a board member and thus it
suffers conflicts of interest between its commercial and editorial sides. The
GPO later withdrew that argument after the Dutch Embassy intervened.
GPO head
Nitzan Chen suggested that Walters receive a visa and press card for three
months, during which the newspaper could get organized as the GPO required. The
paper took that to mean that the GPO wanted Walters to be expelled.
Walters
says that based on his previous experience with the GPO, he decided not to
answer that particular email; instead, he told his paper it should talk with
the GPO, or the Dutch government should use diplomatic means as in the past.
In
February this year, Walters received another email from Chen, saying that since
he had not answered the email from December 2016, he had been working illegally
without a permit since December 20. The GPO also demanded proof that he lived
in Tel Aviv, as written in his visa application.
Paz
accidentally attached to Chen’s letter internal correspondence in which Paz
wrote about his proposed answer to Walters. This included references to making
the other side sweat and leaving all options on the table including a U-turn,
and letting the Foreign Ministry get involved.
The internal correspondence accidentally sent to Walters.
“They’ll sweat here”. The internal correspondence accidentally sent to Walters (Hebrew)
Paz said
the need for Walters to prove his Tel Aviv residence was based on his knowledge
that Walters had actually moved to East Jerusalem – he posted it on Facebook.
NRC says
the correspondence between Paz and Chen increases suspicions that Walters and
the paper are being harassed. The temporary permits given to Walters expire in
July and, he says, the GPO told him that his permits would not be renewed.
In a
letter published this week in Dutch, Vandermeersch, the NRC editor, wrote that
there was no way to interpret this decision other than as an attempt to prevent
the publication of articles critical of Israel. Vandermeersch wrote that
strangely, the April 4 letter from the GPO did not mention the tenor of
Walters’ reporting. The nature of his articles was never a factor in the
Israelis’ decisions, which contradicts Israeli accusations that Walters was
engaging in improper activism.
Vandermeersch
also quoted from a GPO statement saying the office believed that Walters’
reports were professional and adhered to journalistic ethics. As a result, the
way Israel was expelling its writer was a stain on a country that depicts
itself as a nation of laws.
Meanwhile,
NRC has quoted Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders as saying he regrets that
Walters’ work permit has not been renewed. Journalists should write what they
want under the rules of freedom of expression that apply in Israel too,
Koenders said.
GPO:
Walters broke the law
Chen, for
his part, told Haaretz that Walters “wrote things connected with agitation and
incitement but I don’t even want to go into those alleys. Mr. Walters broke the
Israeli law in that, despite all our requests, he worked without a working
permit. The offenses were committed intentionally, not by mistake. For example,
he made a statement that I don’t want to say was perjury, but it was highly problematic
– that he lives in Tel Aviv, while actually he was in East Jerusalem.”
As Chen
put it, “We sent four or five reminders to renew his visa but he scorned the
GPO at every level. Ron Paz called him and said, let’s arrange this, take a
temporary visa. He wouldn’t hear of it. We don’t look into issues of content.
That isn’t our arena. We look into whether he’s a journalist, not an activist
or mercenary, for example, and whether the publication behind him meets the
rules.”
NRC
Handelsblad by Anonymous 2tNhW1B9 on Scribd 
Letter sent from Government Press Office to NRC Handelsblad
 On Paz’s
claim that he had contacted Walters at least twice over the reporter’s comments
in the paper and on Twitter, Chen said the office indeed considers the ethics
and credibility of journalists, universal journalistic ethics, but the GPO
never made a connection between Walters’ writing and work permits.
We are
an administrative authority that just inspects. We don’t care if he waxes
critical. There are examples of Al Jazeera writers in English and CBS being
much more radical or influential,”
Chen said.
“We never
bundled the content aspect with the permits. Let them check if we ever denied a
visa or press card to a journalist who wrote against Israel. Not only did we
not impose gags, we give five-star service compared with any other media
outfit, including to Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.”
In an
English-language statement, the GPO added: “Unfortunately, both articles
published by the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad are tendentious, distorted and
based on half-truths: the GPO has never conditioned its recommendation for work
visas and press cards [on] the content published by one journalist or another.
Nevertheless, when the GPO recognizes a substantial deviation from the facts
and from universal journalist ethics, we request a clarification accordingly.
This was the case of the article in question published by Mr. Derk Walters in
Hebron in the beginning of 2016.
“The
article’s headline, in which the reason for not extending the journalist’s visa
beyond 3 months due to ‘activism,’ is an absolute lie, and the GPO has
documents proving it. The article also claims that NRC requested the GPO’s
response and did not get it − that is another lie. The GPO sent its response to
the newspaper, and they did not bother publishing it.
“Mr. Derk
Walters has violated Israeli law by working without a permit for months.
According to NRC’s position, he did so with intent and not as negligence.
Following information the GPO received regarding the NRC failing to comply with
the rules, the GPO turned to the journalist and offered a 3 month renewal for
his permit pending clarification. However, Mr. Walters and the paper chose to
ignore the offer and immediately turned to diplomatic channels, during which
time the journalist continued to work in Israel without a permit.
“Nevertheless,
and beyond the letter of the law, after the GPO was satisfied with the NRC
complying with the rules, the journalist was issued a 3 month work permit, and
it was explained to the paper that it won’t be renewed due to the law violation
above – to allow the paper time to send a replacing journalist which will
receive permits by law.
“The GPO
strongly rejects any suggestion that the material published in NRC had anything
to do with the above. Hundreds of foreign journalists operate in Israel, some
of which are critical to the state of Israel and its policies, yet the only one
who decided to operate against the rules and regulations is NRC journalist Derk
Walter[s]. Our decision is a direct consequence.”
The GPO
concluded: “The State of Israel in general and the Government Press Office in
particular champion freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The GPO does
everything in its power to accommodate the media in Israel in all respects.”
In
December, the GPO told Australian journalist Antony Loewenstein that his GPO
card was “under review” after he challenged MK Yair Lapid at a press conference
and a media watchdog blog charged that he was not a journalist, but “a
prominent anti-Israel activist”
and “a public supporter of the Boycott,
Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement,”
quoting public statements he made.
Ultimately,
however, Loewenstein was permitted to keep his credentials and his visa until
it expired in March. Given his plans to leave the country and return to
Australia in May, the GPO agreed to allow him to remain in the country as a
tourist until his departure, following lobbying on his behalf by the Foreign
Press Association and others. 
Allison
Kaplan Sommer contributed to this report

 

 

 

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