US ‘strongly condemns’ Palestinian journalist attack in Israel

The US has weighed in on disturbing footage of Israeli right-wing activists attacking a Palestinian journalist during Jerusalem Day marches in East Jerusalem.

Footage of the attack depicted freelance Palestinian journalist Saif Al Qawasmi being quickly surrounded and beaten by a mob of what appeared to be teens; Al Qawasami was knocked to the ground and kicked in the attack.

The footage began circulating late Tuesday, and on Wednesday the Biden administration expressed their shock and called for those responsible to be prosecuted.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters at the department’s daily press briefing that US officials have seen the video and photographic footage of the attacks and said the US “strongly condemns” what happened.

“Journalists and media workers are essential to democracy. They should not be attacked anywhere in the world, including in Israel, for doing their jobs, said Miller, who added that the US expects Israel to “uphold its stated commitment to human rights and press freedom” and to “protect journalists from these kinds of assaults.”

“If there are violations of criminal law, we expect people to be fully held accountable,” he added.

Al Qawasmi, in an interview with The National, identified his attackers as aligned with the Israeli settler movements.

“The settlers stole my phones, filming equipment and they beat me and insulted me,” he said. A journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) also said that she was “pushed and verbally abused” by other seemingly teenaged attackers caught on video in Jerusalem’s old quarter during a Jerusalem Day march.

This comes on the heels of other reports and images of attacks against aid truck drivers and even those merely suspected of transporting aid to the Gaza Strip, where more than 40,000 are believed dead, mostly civilians and including thousands of children. The region is under imminent danger of famine, according to every legitimate international monitor of humanitarian conditions.

The State Department has offered condemnation of similar incidents but outside of a handful of sanctions for right-wing figures involved in violent Israeli settler movements has largely abstained from putting any concrete pressure on what the White House still sees as a vital US ally in the Middle East. The same goes for shipments of US weapons and munitions to Israel, even as the administration faces questions about whether US bombs were used in strikes that resulted in significant civilian casualties. At least one of those strikes is alleged to have occurred or started a fire that killed at least 45 people in a designated refugee camp in Rafah, where more than a million people have fled to escape bombing in the north.

President Joe Biden has stated that his “red line” would be the launching of a major Israeli military operation in Rafah. For weeks now, Israeli operations in and around the Rafah area have drawn questions from reporters as to whether that red line has been crossed — the Biden administration has repeatedly said it has not.

The State Department as of yet has also not issued a broader public call for Israel to reign in mob violence against journalists, Palestinians in the West Bank, and elsewhere.

Violence in the West Bank continues even as it remains separate from the conflict between Israel’s government and Hamas. Over the months since the deadly Hamas terror attack on October 7 which ignited the latest hostilities, more than 500 Palestinians are believed to have been killed by Israeli forces in violent responses to demonstrations in the West Bank.

On Thursday, Miller warned the Israeli government that the collapse of Palestinian rule in the West Bank would be a “self-defeating” prospect for Israel.

“We continue to have, as I said, very direct conversations with the government of Israel about the dire consequences this would have for Israel or for the Palestinian people and for Israel's own security situation,” Miller said at his briefing.