Demonstrators are seen in Tel Aviv protesting against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to annex parts of the West Bank on June 6, 2020. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

Israeli police assault, detain Israeli photographer Tomer Appelbaum during protests in Tel Aviv against West Bank annexation

Israeli police kneed, punched, shoved, and briefly detained Tomer Appelbaum, a photographer for the Israeli daily Haaretz, as he was covering a Tel Aviv demonstration against Israel’s West Bank annexation on June 6, 2020, Appelbaum told CPJ via messaging app. Haaretz also reported on the incident, which was captured in videos shared to social media.

Thousands of Israelis took to the street in Tel Aviv on June 6 to protest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the Jordan Valley and settlements in the West Bank, according to reports in Al-Jazeera, Agence France-Presse, and other outlets.

“I was trying to take a picture of a protester being detained, when a policeman pushed me away to prevent me from taking the picture,” Appelbaum told CPJ. “I said I was a journalist and tried to take the picture a second time, but a police officer suddenly told me that I was under arrest. All of the sudden I was pushed to the ground. [A police officer] shoved my head to the asphalt and I felt [another officer] punching me and another kneeing me. There were too many people above me, but I couldn’t see them, because I was trying to protect my cameras. [Police] also tried to snatch them from me, but didn’t succeed.”

Appelbaum said police officers told him to stand up and escorted him to the police van. As he went inside, he said an officer told him he couldn’t bring his cameras with him, so Appelbaum set them outside the door. Appelbaum said another police officer saw him inside the van and asked why he had been detained. The officer asked for Appelbaum’s press card and identification, which he produced. Appelbaum said he was released 30 seconds later.

“My cameras weren’t damaged, but I still have to check the lenses. A drone that I was carrying in a pouch was damaged,” Appelbaum told CPJ. “Later that day, I went to the hospital for tests, because my throat, my ears, and head hurt, but apart from bruises I have no major injuries and after three or four hours I went home.” Appelbaum said he went to work the next day.

According to Appelbaum and Haaretz, police released a statement saying that officers had mistaken Appelbaum for a protester, but released him as soon as it became clear that he was a photojournalist.

An Israeli police spokesperson did not immediately reply to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app.