Israel arrests Palestinian teenager over Facebook posts

Anas Khateeb is latest of at least 205 Palestinian citizens of Israel arrested since October as tensions continue.

Israeli-Arabs hold Palestinian flags during a pro-Palestin
Palestinian citizens of Israel have rallied across the country as Palestinians in the occupied territories continue to clash with Israeli forces [Reuters]

Israeli police have arrested a Palestinian teenager for Facebook posts as unrest continues in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

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Anas Khateeb, a 19-year-old activist, is one of at least 205 Palestinian citizens of Israel – among them several activists and minors – who have been arrested since the beginning of October, according to Adalah Legal Centre, a Haifa-based rights group. 

The wave of detentions is part of an ongoing crackdown on protests across Palestinian communities in Israel and throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip. 

“Israeli police targeted [Khateeb] in order to cause a ripple effect among activists,” Amjad Iraqi, Adalah’s media coordinator, told Al Jazeera. 

Police initially arrested Khateeb for ten days, but an Israeli judge has since extended his detention until November 26. 

The teenager has been charged with “incitement to violence and terrorism” for a series of Facebook posts.

RELATED: Israel jails Palestinians for Facebook comments

The Facebook posts cited by police have received little attention.

“I’m next in line,” one reads. “Jerusalem is Arab,” says a status. “Long live the Intifada,” another status reads. 

According to Iraqi, the Facebook posts “are extremely vague and there is nothing that can definitively be seen as violent in the eyes of the law”. 

An Israeli police spokesperson was not available to comment.

‘Not dangerous’

Hanan Darawsha, who used to work with Khateeb at a restaurant, said that “his arrest makes no sense”. 

“He’s a young kid and not a violent person,” she told Al Jazeera, “so we were surprised when we saw in the news that he was arrested and later that his arrest was extended.” 

“He’s not dangerous at all and doesn’t pose a threat to anyone,” Darawsha said. 

Although this is not the first time Israeli authorities have arrested Palestinian citizens of Israel, or their compatriots in the occupied territories, for social media posts, Khateeb’s arrest comes as tensions continue to soar. 

An estimated 1.7 million Palestinians carry Israeli citizenship and face dozens of discriminatory laws that stifle their political expression and limit their access to state resources, according to Adalah. 

Since October 1, Israeli forces have killed at least 73 Palestinians, including unarmed protesters, bystanders and suspected attackers. Throughout that period, ten Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attackers. 

Israel arrested at least 1,197 Palestinians in the West Bank during October, according to the rights group Al-Haq. 

Late last month, about 20,000 Israelis filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook for allegedly ignoring incitement to violence by Palestinian users. 

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Among the three lawyers who filed the suit is Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the director of the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center. 

Shurat HaDin has been recruiting Israelis to join the lawsuit, the group said in a press release

According to a leaked US embassy cable, Darshan-Leitner told a US embassy official that her organisation had in the past “took direction … on which cases to pursue” and still “receives evidence” from the Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel. 

‘Selective application’

Arresting Palestinians for social media posts, says Iraqi, constitutes “selective application of the law”. 

Last week, Israeli police briefly arrested Hagai Amir, brother of late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, for a Facebook post he wrote threatening Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

He was released and sentenced to five days house arrest. 

“There have been some cases of right-wing Jewish activists being arrested, but the incitement charge is primarily used against Palestinians,” Iraqi said, pointing out that Israeli politicians “incite against Palestinian citizens [of Israel]”. 

RELATED: Arrests of Palestinians in Israel soar amid crackdown 

Iraqi alluded to former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said Israel “must raise the axe and cut off [the] heads” of Palestinian citizens of Israel who are “disloyal”. 

In 2013, Israeli legislator Naftali Bennett, a member of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, said: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.” Bennett is now Israel’s minister of education. 

Elsewhere, in Jerusalem, Israeli right-wing protesters often chant “Death to Arabs” as they march through Palestinian neighbourhoods. 

“The police want to say that it’s about ensuring the rule of law, but obviously this is not the case,” Iraqi said.

Many Palestinian employees have also been fired by Israeli employers due to social media posts, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

This phenomenon is shocking, disappointing, racist and most importantly … illegal,” the group said. 

Follow Patrick Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_

Source: Al Jazeera