Israeli authorities released Palestinian journalist Samah Dweik on Monday, shortly before she completed her six-month prison sentence handed down to her after she was found guilty of alleged incitement on Facebook.
Dweik, 25, was arrested on 10 April from her home in occupied East Jerusalem and charged with “incitement.” She was detained after she wrote a status and shared an image in support of Palestinians who had recently been slain by Israeli forces, according to Amjad Abu Asab, the head of the Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners.
At the time of her arrest, Dweik had been covering the arrest of a young girl, who was accused of attempting to stab a soldier.
In July, an Israeli court in Jerusalem found Dweik guilty for her activity on social media.
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies estimates that Dweik is one of at least 28 Palestinian women who have been arrested since October under this charge.
Both Israeli civil and military law proscribe “incitement to violence,” according to Addameer, but Israeli military courts can also prosecute people who express sympathy with “terrorist activities.”
As a resident of East Jerusalem, Dweik is prosecuted in Israeli civil courts.
Addameer attorney Muhammad Mahmoud says Israel began relying on incitement charges as early as December 2014, when it began detaining Palestinians for social media posts. But following a surge in violent confrontations between Palestinian and Israeli forces in October 2015, Israel’s arrest rate for incitement on social media soared.
But even before October, Israel had assigned a military intelligence unit, Hatzav, with the task of closely monitoring social media websites. Hatzav is part of Unit 8200, which is an elite division in the Israeli military responsible for spying on and hacking telephone and electronic communications.
Israel and Facebook’s special relationship
Simultaneously, the Israeli government began publicly pressuring Facebook and other social media platforms to remove Palestinian posts.
The announcement of Dweik’s release comes a week after Israel and Facebook entered a long-anticipated agreement to work together to monitor Palestinian posts.
The agreement took place against the backdrop of Israel’s interior and justice ministries proposing legislation that would force social media platforms to censor content Israel determines as “inciting” violence.
Though the Israeli government has accused Facebook of not doing enough to edit content, justice minister Ayelet Shaked admitted to The Guardian last week that Facebook has complied with 95 percent of Israel’s requests to remove content over the last four months.
YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, complied with 80 percent of requests in the same period.
Details of how the agreement will change Facebook’s current policy regarding posts by Palestinians have not been disclosed. According to the report by The Guardian, Facebook and the Israeli government will form teams to devise a strategy to monitor Palestinian pages and remove “inflammatory content.”
Journalism student awakes from coma
Malik al-Qadi, a 25-year-old Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for 66 days, emerged from a week-long coma on Sunday.
The 25-year-old journalism student was detained on 23 May and launched his hunger strike on 16 July in protest of his adminstrative detention.
The head of the Palestinian Authority prisoner affairs reported that al-Qadi was treated without consent while he was in a coma.
While in a coma, he reportedly suffered from a severe lung infection, low heart rate, urinary system complications and hearing loss.
“Don’t leave us alone,” Ma’an News Agency reported him saying. “I ask President Mahmoud Abbas to intervene as quickly as possible, and I ask every holder of a Palestinian identity document who has conscience to support us in this battle,” referring to imprisoned brothers Mahmoud and Muhammad Balboul, who have been on hunger strike since 5 and 7 July respectively.
Al-Qadi continues: “The three of us are dying and we have reached a very difficult stage. Save us!”
The Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs says al-Qadi and the Balboul brothers “could die at any moment.”
Al-Qadi’s lawyer had appealed to the high court to cancel his administrative detention order after a lower court had just temporarily suspended it until his health improved. But al-Qadi said he would not resume eating until the administrative detention order was completely lifted.
On the same day the high court ruled against al-Qadi, it upheld Israel’s law that allows the force-feeding of Palestinian hunger strikers.
In finding the law constitutional and rejecting the international consensus that force-feeding is never ethically acceptable, the Israeli judges said a hunger striker is not an “ordinary patient,” but someone who “places himself in a dangerous situation as a protest or a means of attaining a personal or public goal.”