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A ruthless campaign: Silencing and persecuting Arab citizens in Israel

A ruthless campaign: Silencing and persecuting Arab citizens in Israel

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إقرأ باللغة العربية:

بحجة "دعم الإرهاب"...… حملة إسرائيلية غير مسبوقة لتكميم أفواه فلسطينيي الداخل وملاحقتهم

In this series, Raseef22, in collaboration with the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies - MADAR, will republish a number of reports from the center that shed light on the significant repercussions of the Gaza war on Israel's domestic affairs.

The ongoing Israeli war on Gaza has brought to the surface the deep-seated discrimination faced by Palestinians living in Israel.

Supposed to be safe spaces, the workplace, social media platforms, and academic and cultural institutions have become social and political guillotines targeting any Palestinian expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza. A growing number are facing unjust accusations of supporting terrorism, and are subsequently being forced to prove their innocence.

Supposed to be safe spaces, the workplace, social media platforms, and academic and cultural institutions have become social and political guillotines targeting any Palestinian expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza

A history of silent oppression

Throughout its history, Israel has consistently implemented discriminatory policies on Palestinians living within its borders, in various forms.

In recent years, far-right ideology has increased and permeated the government’s power structure. Previously fringe groups, such as the Hilltop Youth, have garnered popularity, and have found support within the government and from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Haaretz newspaper reported on the increasing violent backlash faced by many Palestinians due to their ethnicity. There are even government members and affiliates who had expressed their hopes for a second Nakba to befall the Palestinian people

On October 30, Haaretz reported on the increasing violent backlash faced by many Palestinians due to their ethnicity. According to the publication, a number of government members and affiliates supporting Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Minister of National Security, had expressed a desire for a second Nakba to befall the Palestinian people.

Racial discrimination against Arabs on college campuses

On October 28, 2023, a group of extremist Jews attacked Arab students at Netanya College, as reported by various media outlets. The assault, which took place in student housing on campus, was carried out to the chant "Death to Arabs". Upon the instruction of university administration, and in fear of an attack, the Arab students sought shelter on the upper floor of the dormitory as they awaited police. The "Walla" website disclosed that one of the organizers behind this attack is the head of three armed readiness teams belonging to the municipality, indicating that the attackers are not merely regular extremist settlers.

This assault follows a history of harassment perpetrated by Israeli academic institutions against Arab students. As of October 27, 2023, Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, documented 99 cases of persecution against Arab students, which lead to the suspension of 48 students.

On October 28, a group of extremists attacked Arab students in the Netanya College dormitory, while chanting the slogan "Death to Arabs". This comes amidst a ruthless campaign to silence and persecute Palestinians and Arab voices in Israeli society

The Joint Authority for Student Blocs has noted that over 100 Arab students have been referred to "obedience and compliance committees" across campuses and institutes of higher education in Israel as of October 29, 2023. Often, these students face harassment and/or harsh disciplinary action for content shared on social media. Arab or pro-Palestine professors and lecturers are also facing similar persecution.

Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian received a letter from Asher Cohen, President of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, accusing her of ‘incitement against the State of Israel’ based on a Facebook post stating that "Israel is committing acts of genocide in Gaza".

The letter suggested that the university could pursue legal action for these statements, and advised Shalhoub-Kevorkian to resign from her position at the university. Similarly, Dr. Warda Sada was dismissed from her position after 28 years as a lecturer by the College of Education in Be'er Sheva, after she distributed flyers criticizing the Israeli occupation and its ongoing war on Gaza.

The Joint Authority for Student Blocs, which operates under the Arab Emergency Committee and represents 26 Arab student groups across various Israeli universities, has reached out to international universities and donors with close ties to Israeli institutions, and urged them to exert their influence in support of Palestinian students on these campuses. The organization has also called on the European Union to review its academic agreements with the Israeli Ministry of Education.

Dismissals and accusations

This discrimination extends to the workplace. The Arab Emergency Committee and the Civil Society Coalition for Emergencies in the Arab community report 54 cases of job terminations due to posts on social media sites. Dr. Abed Samara, the Director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Hasharon Hospital in Petah Tikva, was suspended from his position after the hospital received a number of complaints about a Facebook post that was interpreted as endorsing terrorism.

The Hebrew University in Jerusalem accused Professor Nadera Shalhoub of inciting against Israel over a Facebook post saying "Israel is committing acts of genocide in Gaza", and dismissed Dr. Warda Sada after 28 years of service for criticizing the occupation

The aforementioned organizations report that such complaints have led to 161 arrests of Palestinians in Israel. Actress Maisa Abd Elhadi, for instance, faced three charges of "spreading incitement and supporting terrorism" for sharing a photo on social media on October 7th.

A similar incident happened with artist Dalal Abu Amneh, who posted the phrase "There is no victor but Allah" on her Facebook profile, and was met with an onslaught of backlash. Upon filing a complaint, Abu Amneh, the victim of harassment, was herself arrested for ‘promoting hate speech and incitement.’

In addition to arrest and legal pursuit, these individuals are subjected to humiliation tactics. When actress Maisa Abd Elhadi and left-wing activist Yoav Bar were arrested, they were photographed by police handcuffed in front of the Israeli flag. The police then published these images on social media. This act constitutes not only a breach of privacy, but more dangerously, a violation of the detainee's right to a fair trial and the right to dignity.

It is worth noting that the Israeli government recently amended the "Counterterrorism Law" and expanded its scope, after it had been originally approved by the Israeli government in 2006. The recent amendment gives the Minister of Defense the authority to declare individuals as terrorists.

Artist Dalal Abu Amneh was arrested for posting "There is no victor but Allah" on Facebook, while the police photographed actress Maisa Abd Elhadi and left-wing activist Yoav Bar handcuffed in front of the Israeli flag, and shared the pictures on social media

Interior Minister Moshe Arbel has demanded an examination into the possibility of revoking Abd Elhadi's citizenship after accusations were filed against her. Alongside Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Arbel is working on new legislation aiming to revoke citizenship from citizens found to ‘incite and support terrorism.’

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that the government has the authority to revoke citizenship from individuals who have committed terrorist acts in accordance with the laws in place since 2011.

At the beginning of 2023, a law was passed allowing for the revocation of citizenship and expulsion of individuals who received compensation from the Palestinian National Authority in exchange for carrying out "terrorist acts". The law, which was approved with a majority vote of 94 members in the Knesset, raises significant concerns as it is considered a major escalation and a blatant violation of international law.

Social media attacks

According to the Arab Emergency Committee, 163 cases of incitement were reported against Palestinians living in Israel on social networking sites. On the other hand, "7amleh - The Arab Center for Social Media Advancement" monitored over 103,000 cases of violent content in Hebrew against Palestinians, out of a total of 120,000 samples of content monitored from October 7 to October 18 this year, the majority of which are posted on platform X.

The popular digital outlet Israel Bidur, which has 1.4 million followers, attacked actress Abd Elhadi for one of her posts and called for a boycott of all Arab actors and influencers in Israel who have not condemned the events of October 7. Even silence "for these people", according to Haaretz, is solidarity with Hamas.

Israel Bidur also attacked Judge Arafat Taha for only sentencing Abd Elhadi to house arrest. Similarly, minister Ben-Gvir attacked Judge Ihsan Kanaan for releasing activist Yoav Bar.

TV host Lucy Ayoub was attacked by an Israeli influencer because of her silence, and actors Luna Mansour and Amir Khoury were attacked for not denouncing the events of October 7.

This attack on Arab academics, professionals and artists is indicative of an unparalleled, ruthless campaign to silence Arab voices in Israeli culture and society, and the entertainment sector.

According to the Arab Emergency Committee, 163 cases of incitement were reported against Palestinians on social networking sites, while 7amleh monitored more than 103,000 cases of violent content in Hebrew against Palestinians from Oct 7 to Oct 18 alone

As for the mass movement against the war, Israel suppressed demonstrations in cities such as Haifa and Umm al-Fahm, and activists from the demonstrations were arrested, some of whom are still detained. In addition, the Israeli government, led by National Defense Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, is considering an amendment to police regulations, with the aim of allowing the firing of live ammunition at demonstrators under the pretext of threatening public order. According to Ben Gvir, in the event of a multi-front war or event, the open-fire regulations could be amended to make an emergency order effective for the duration of the war. The decision raises fears that police could use it to kill under the pretext of war and a state of emergency.

Facing these challenges

The High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens is a community-based organization designed to meet the urgent needs of the Palestinian community in Israel during the war.

After surveying the current and most urgent needs of the Arab community, the Committee activated local networks, developed specialized committees, and is working with local authorities and councils to create a stronger infrastructure of support. Emergency rooms supplying basic needs and shelter were also opened in Hura in the Negev and in Kfar Qasim.

The Civil Society Coalition for Emergencies in the Arab Community was formed earlier this year and is composed of a number of Arab activists, as well as Arab and Arab-Jewish institutions. It seeks to provide assistance and advice to individuals and institutions during emergency situations such as this one. The coalition works in cooperation with representative bodies in Arab society, mainly the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens in Israel and the National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Authorities.

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