Four more Palestinian students detained in nightly raids for social media posts – Mondoweiss

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A week ago, five female students from Haifa University were arrested. The university administration took disciplinary actions against its Palestinian students who expressed solidarity with Gaza and gave their names and images of their social media posts to the police, which duly arrested them. As I was told, the university actually passed some 20 names to the police, of which “only” five of them were arrested. This makes me think that the university has an even more anti-democratic concept of freedom of expression than the police. Four of those students are still detained in security prisons under harsh conditions. According to the revengeful way “justice” is currently being applied in Israel, they might stay there for a long time. 

Last night, it was “Nof Ha-Galil College” students’ turn to be detained. The technical college is located in the Zionist settlement “Nof Hagalil” (The Galilee View, in Hebrew), which was built in 1957 as part of the government’s plan for Judaization of the Galilee, on wide swathes of land confiscated from Nazareth and the nearby towns of Reineh, Mash’had, Kafr Kanna (where Jesus turned water into wine) and Ein Mahel. Nof Hagalil used to be called “Nazeret Illit” (Upper Nazareth, in Hebrew), but they recently changed the name, rebranding to distance themselves from their Arab surroundings. Even as a third of its population is now Arab, Nof Hagalil consistently refuses to allow Arab schools in its area. But they do good business by providing tertiary education to their Arab neighbors, where demand for education is high, but Israel prevents the establishment of local academic institutions.

Nof Hagalil College, like many Israeli colleges lately, started monitoring its Arab students’ political positions through their private social media and holding disciplinary actions against many of them. It is also giving their names to the police for possible detention.


A semi-military operation

The students in this college are mostly young women who prefer to stay at their family’s home after secondary school and learn in the nearest institute rather than going to the big alien cities. I was told that the four detained students were all ages 18 or 19.

The police in Nazareth detained the four students and another 18-year-old boy from Kafr Kanna, also accused of a Facebook post. They saw the arrests as their big opportunity to do their part in Israel’s global revenge war against Palestinians. In a press release following the detentions, they described their heroic action:

“In the activity of the police of the northern district and a reserve border guard battalion, 4 female students from a college in the north who are suspected of inciting and supporting the terrorist organization Hamas were arrested tonight.

Along with increased operational readiness, the forces acted tonight to deal decisively and uncompromisingly with the detection of incitement/support for terrorism.

Tonight, the police of the northern district and a border guard reserve battalion raided the homes of 4 female students… who were arrested and brought to the crime fighting unit in the valleys area for interrogation.”

The police PR department added to this press release a short video. It shows dozens of police and border guards gathering in the night in combat gear to prepare for the operation. They also proudly show the boy and one of the girls in pajamas being handcuffed in plastic cuffs.

In a second press release, a few hours later, the police announced that:

“A short time ago the arrest of the suspects was extended at the Magistrate’s Court in Nazareth in accordance with the request of the police until November 23.

The Israel Police operates while using all the means at its disposal against the enemies at home who call for violence and acts of terrorism on social networks while supporting and identifying with the murderous terrorist organization “Hamas-Daesh” and works to bring those instigators to justice.

*Guarding the house – fighting together at the front*”

Campaign against the Palestinian student movement

What are the social media posts that required the mobilization of a border guard battalion and the terrorizing of the students and their families by night raids?

While the police PR statements are loaded with high language about terrorism and Hamas, they provide very little information about what is the students are accused of. They only include minor mentions. They claim that one of the girls posted a picture showing an Israeli woman taken hostage in a jeep and wrote, “I wanted to be moved by the photo but it is nothing compared to what the occupation is doing in Gaza.” This is typical of the current mood in Israel. If you dare to claim that Palestinians suffer more than Israelis, you are blamed for supporting terrorism.

I talked with Yousef Taha, the head of the Joint Body of Arab Student Blocs in Universities and Colleges (in ’48 Palestine), who is himself from Kafr Kanna, to ask for more information about the latest detentions. He told me about the students and about the disciplinary procedures that were held against them before their names were passed to the police. It was important to him to put the latest detentions of students in a more general context.

The student movement is where national political consciousness develops and the source of political activists and leaders. The Palestinian student movement and their political and social activities are under constant pressure from the university authorities as well as from the police, Shabak, and fascist gangs. Thus, the current wave of raids on the homes of students’ families, the publicized detentions, the harsh conditions in security prisons, and the effort to hold students in detention for a long period are all parts of a coordinated campaign to crush the students’ movement.

They detained the lawyer who defended the detained lawyer

Wherever I go, people are talking dreadfully about what in happening in the Megiddo security prison, where dozens, or hundreds, of Palestinian “citizens of Israel” from ’48 Palestine are held, as well as hundreds of detainees from the West Bank. But we still do not know much about what has been happening there during the last month and a half, as all the usual (very minimal) “rights” and “procedures” concerning Palestinian prisoners have been suspended.

Two lawyers from Shefa’amer, a bustling Palestinian town 15 kilometers to the east of Haifa, were among the varied stream of Palestinian political prisoners, unexpectedly picked from all layers of society. The first was the secretary of the Hadash branch in his town and a member of the Haifa District Council of the Bar Association. The second was the lawyer who defended the first lawyer. They were both held in Megiddo and released after spending about a week there each. 

When I heard that the two were released, I thought it was an opportunity to interview them for Mondoweiss and receive first-hand testimonies. But, when we visited them last Friday, I was disappointed to learn that one of the conditions for their release was that they could not publish anything for 15 days. I hope to interview them later, but for now, I can only report about their detention from what I could find in the Israeli and Palestinian media.

Viciously publicized detentions

The Israeli police is trying to gain points with its political supervisors, the “state security” minister right-wing extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir and his accomplices, and with the lynch-mob Israeli media by showcasing its resolute repressive approach toward Palestinians. Police confront lawyers in the courts daily, and detaining and humiliating lawyers appears to be a big prize and personal joy.

For the lawyers, on the other side, the publication of their detention and the accusations against them, even if they are soon released without any indictment, is a harsh blow that could cause long-term professional damage. Even if many in the Palestinian public feel solidarity with the people who are persecuted by the regime, who would want their case to be represented before an Israeli judge by a lawyer who was publicly declared “a supporter of terrorism”?

It is exactly for this reason that the police invested extra effort in publicizing the detention of the Shefa’amer lawyers. They took photos of them while they were putting handcuffs on their hands and when they were led by police to detention. These photos were then distributed to the press. As usual, the police freely attributed to the detained lawyers accusations that were not supported by any evidence and were not part of the interrogation. 

Lawyer Sariy Khourie, the Hadash secretary, was detained on Sunday, November 5. In the first remand hearing, the Akka court agreed to his request for his name not to be published, as he denied the accusations against him and the publication might cause irreversible damage to his relations with his customers, many of the Jews. In another exceptional move, one of many “unprecedented steps” in the current “special period,” the police appealed, and on Tuesday, the district court in Haifa allowed full publication of the case.

A fast Google search about Mr. Khourie’s name in Hebrew brings a list of dreadful headlines:

  • Ynet: “This is the lawyer that supported Hamas actions” 
  • Mako: “The lawyer that supported the massacre that Hamas performed” 
  • Israel Hayom: “Hadash movement secretary in Shefa’amer published support for Hamas – and was detained.”

There are many such items, all with his name, and many with his full-face picture, handcuffed and escorted by the police is following. 

I could not find any stories mentioning his release a week later without any indictment being filed.

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