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19-year-old Palestinian detained for 'inciting violence' on social media

June 6, 2017 6:34 P.M. (Updated: June 7, 2017 11:27 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli police detained a 19-year-old Palestinian from the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya on Monday based on posts he made to his Facebook and Instagram accounts, amid a severe crackdown by Israeli authorities on Palestinian freedom expression.

Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri wrote in a statement that the young man was detained after he was suspected of “inciting violence and terrorism on his Facebook and Instagram accounts and expressing support and sympathy with terrorist organizations.”

The suspect, who was not further identified, also allegedly revealed during interrogation that there were others “related to him involved in the same activities,” al-Samri said.

Al-Samri added that the detainee’s remand was extended until June 11 for further interrogation, and highlighted that the arrest came after obtaining approval from the Israeli general prosecution -- notable because an Israeli crackdown on Palestinian Jerusalemites has seen the escalation of violent night raids by Israeli police, carried out in breach of protocol and without proper search warrants.

Al-Samri justified arresting the young man based only on social media activity, saying that “incitement on social networks could be of imminent danger as it might encourage others to carry out terror attacks. Police will continue to use all possible legal means to try and reach those who incite and rigorously put them to justice.”

Her argument reiterated Israeli authorities’ narrative that a wave of unrest that began in October 2015 was stoked by online “incitement,” though Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel's nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon as reasons for acts of violence.

Israeli leadership has boasting numerous times in recent months that severe security measures and "Facebook arrests" have succeeded in reducing the trend of small-scale attacks against Israelis, despite a poll conducted last year by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research that found support for attacks declined "due, it seems, to a rising perception in its inefficacy."

Israeli news daily Haaretz reported in April that Israeli forces detained at least 400 Palestinians in less than a year over social media activity, and that 400 others were detained for the same reason by the Palestinian Authority through its widely condemned policy of security coordination with Israel.

As of January, only 200 Palestinians were allowed to face trial for such charges, according the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement 7amleh.

A more recent report by Haaretz revealed how Israel has been monitoring social media profiles and subsequently making arrests when “the kid doesn’t know that he is a terrorist yet,” as one Israeli army officer put it.

The report also quoted a former Israeli military prosecutor as saying that since September 2015, dozens of social media posts resulted in administrative detentions -- Israel’s widely condemned policy of internment without trial or charge used almost exclusively against Palestinians --while others were formally convicted if they were “identified as liable to carry out a terror attack.”

Suppression of Palestinian freedom of expression in recent months has seen bookstores shuttered, while activists, journalists, novelists, and poets have been detained.

By contrast, a report recently released by 7amleh documented that slanderous, provocative, and threatening posts made by Israelis against Arabs and Palestinians more than doubled in 2016, reaching 675,000 posts made by 60,000 Hebrew-speaking Facebook users -- without a single case being opened against an Israeli.
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