Two Israeli reporters held by US troops

The Jerusalem Post

29 March 2003

In a report on Channel One News Friday evening, the channel's correspondent in Kuwait said he, as well as another Israeli reporter and a Portugese team, were abused by US troops in Iraq after being mistaken for terrorists although they were carrying press identification.

Dan Scemama, Channel One's political correspondent, said he was detained by US troops, alongside Boaz Bismuth, daily Yediot Ahronot's reporter and two other Portuguese reporters, for a "humiliating" 48 hours. He didn't state when during the last week this happened, and claimed he was barred from revealing his whereabouts.

Scemama and Bismuth had gone into Iraq without proper accreditation. In a previous interview, Scemama said he had not been been permitted to become embedded with US or British troops, apparently because he is an Israeli.

The two were detained Wednesday, when US troops woke them up, apparently where they were camped out at gunpoint and accused them of espionage. The two, as well as their Portuguese counterparts, were told to take their shirts and pants off to prove they were not carrying explosives.

"We were told not to talk to each other," Scemama said, adding that they were guarded by weapon-wielding soldiers for some 36 hours while being forced to sit in a car for the duration. He said the four were stripped of all means of communication, thus barring any possibility of reporting their whereabouts, and forced to strip, although all had documentation proving the belong to the press.

Scemama accused the Americans of "doing their best to make foreign reporters' lives hard," Scemama said on television, "they want only American reporters there, so they can supervise their work more closely."

He stressed that although the four were made to strip and it became evident they weren't carrying any explosives, soldiers told them: "You are terrorists, dangerous, you intend to tell the Iraqis where we (US troops) are." "We have been trained to kill, don't play with us," the soldiers told Scemama and his colleagues, he claimed.

Scemama said the fighting he saw in Iraq reminded him of Israel's 1982 war in Lebanon. He added that his personal experiences gave him a new perspective on the situation of Iraqi prisoners of war.

"At one point, after being flown by helicopter to Kuwait, I saw about 170 of them (Iraqi POWs) near an American truck," he said. "I couldn't help but identify with them. Several female American soldiers who were guarding them were taunting them. They were making fun of them when they had to piss in front of them, in the middle of the desert."

There was no immediate available from any US source.