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No free speech in Palestine: PA arrests journalist, internationally-renowned peace activist for Facebook posts

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Palestinian forces on Monday evening arrested Palestinian peace activist Issa Amro for a Facebook post he published condemning the Palestinian Authority (PA) for detaining journalist and radio director Ayman Quwasmeh the day previously.

Quwasmeh was detained by the PA days after Israeli forces raided and shut down al-Hurriyeh Radio (Freedom Radio) in Hebron on accusations of “incitement.” Immediately following the forced closure of the station, Quwasmeh took to social media, blasting the PA for being unable to protect its citizens, and calling for Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hebron Mayor Kamel Hmeid to resign.

“This is happening in front of you, my message to President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah, Hebron Governor Kamel Hmeid, and other officials, is to submit their resignations, and stay at home, because they are unable to protect the media in Palestine…,” his statement read, translated into English by the International Middle East Media Center. “This media network is in an area that is under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority, yet, they remain silent, and cannot protect us. We have nothing to do with incitement. We try to deliver the message of the simple people in need, to the officials. We try to be the voice of the voiceless, and that is why we keep getting attacked and harassed.”

Three days after the post was published, PA forces showed up to arrest Quwasmeh.

Hearing of the arrest, Amro took to social media himself to condemn the detention. He called for the media to put a special focus on Quwasmeh’s arrest and suggested an official complaint against the PA be taken to “the Europeans.”

“A journalist was threatened by members of security services on the back of the news of the arrest of Ayman al-Qawasmi,” part of Amro’s post read. “I’m asking all journalists to publish the news, it’s not a rumor, it’s true news. Secondly, if any journalist is facing the same situation, please talk or get in touch with me, we are going to document all violations of the law and tell the Europeans about it.”

According to a press release published by Amro’s organization Youth Against Settlements (YAS), he was initially called in for an interview with the PA over the post, but was subsequently arrested during the meeting.

Locals seem to think the threat of taking the case abroad was the red line Amro crossed in the eyes of the PA. Amro, a very well connected activist based in Hebron, has given speeches on behalf of Palestine the United Nations and other well-respected international institutions.

Immediately after Amro’s arrest, Amnesty International published a press release calling for the PA to “immediately and unconditionally” release Amro.

“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said.

“We have seen an alarming escalation in the Palestinian authorities’ clampdown on freedom of expression in recent months. Instead of continuing to step up their efforts to quash dissenting voices, the Palestinian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Issa Amro and stop harassing and intimidating activists and others for daring to speak their minds freely,” Mughrabi continued, referring to the escalating crackdown on freedom of speech and press under the PA.

In July via Presidential Decree, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas passed the “Electronic Crimes Law,” which law allows for heavy fines and detentions of anyone critical of the PA online — including journalists and whistleblowers.

Amnesty documented that the law is also open to be used against regular citizens posting on social media, or simply retweeting news or the posts of others.

Under the new law, anyone charged with breaking the legislation by posting something which could be deemed a disturbance to “public order,” “national unity” or “social peace” could be sentenced to imprisonment and up to 15 years hard labor, according to Amnesty.

According to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), the law is “a flagrant violation of the principle of the right to privacy” promised by Palestinian Basic Law Article No. 32, which guarantees that “any violation of any personal freedom, of the sanctity of the private life of human beings, or of any of the rights or liberties that have been guaranteed by law or by this Basic Law shall be considered a crime.”

In addition, Palestine has agreed to the terms of several international conventions which guarantee and protect freedom of opinion and expression, of which the “Electronic Crimes Law” is in violation, foremost of which is “the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” according to MADA.

Due to these facts, MADA, similar to Amro, called for Member States of the convention to “take all legislative or other measures in line with international standards,” against the new law as well as the PA’s actions.

In July at least ten journalists were summoned by the PA for interrogation, while in August they arrested at least six journalists. In addition, the PA has closed down or blocked access to at least 29 websites, most of which are the websites of news publications.

In addition to Quwasmeh’s criticism against the PA that sparked the arrests of himself and Amro, Quwasmeh also blasted Israel for closing the radio station, a common practice by Israeli forces who have closed down more than a dozen news agencies, publishers and radio stations since its crackdown on “incitement” starting in the fall of 2015.

“We are not surprised by his savage behavior of the Israeli army, and its collaborators; they want to silence us; they are all conspiring against us,” he wrote, prior to his arrest by the PA. “If helping the people and aiding them is considered incitement, then we are proud of it. Our main role is to deliver the message and appeals of the ordinary people to the officials. As for incitement, let them show us one instance of incitement; all our programming is archived, and we have nothing to hide.”

Sheren Khalel

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She focuses on human rights, women's issues and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Khalel formerly worked for Ma'an News Agency in Bethlehem, and is currently based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk.

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18 Responses

  1. eljay on September 5, 2017, 10:04 am

    The Palestinian Authority needs to stop emulating the practices of “Jewish State” and start upholding the ideals of justice, accountability and equality.

  2. lonely rico on September 5, 2017, 11:19 am

    It is sickening that the Palestinian Authority, which purports to defend the interests of the Palestinians, is in fact an enthusiastic participant in their cruel oppression & dispossession.

  3. Paranam Kid on September 5, 2017, 12:18 pm

    The PA has been Israel’s pocket from the beginning, which, in combination by the absence of democracy, has been playing heavily in Israel’s favour. The Palestinian people should kick out Abbas and his corrupt mob & replace them with decent, strong represntatives.

  4. m1945 on September 5, 2017, 1:43 pm

    The Palestinians of Gaza has no freedom of speech either.

    • amigo on September 5, 2017, 2:29 pm

      “The Palestinians of Gaza has no freedom of speech either.”jacko

      I agree , it is awful when Palestinian leaders apply the same rules as the zionists in OCCUPIED Palestine.

      Why , it,s criminal.

      • echinococcus on September 6, 2017, 5:32 am

        At least the local administration in Gaza is not an integral part of the Zionist entity.
        Before “agreeing” with the Green snake, think of it as if you had a Republican faction in Gaza and Orangemen in the rest.

      • m1945 on September 6, 2017, 1:22 pm


        Hamas murders gays.
        Israel doesn’t.

        Hamas doesn’t allow freedom of religion.
        Israel does.

      • Misterioso on September 6, 2017, 3:05 pm

        @Jack Green


        Canada’s National Post, 20 September 2012
        “JERUSALEM — After a series of attacks by vandals on Christian holy sites in Israel, normally tight-lipped Roman Catholic officials are beginning to speak out, publicly appealing to authorities to take a stronger stand against the violence.”

        “The monastery was targeted shortly after Israel evacuated an illegally built West Bank settler outpost. In recent months, two other monasteries and a Baptist church were vandalized. It is not clear why the vandals have targeted Christian sites. For years, Christian clergymen also have been spat at by ultra-Orthodox seminary students in Jerusalem’s Old City.”

        “The Teachers Union of Ireland calls for Academic Boycott of Israel in unanimous vote; first academic union in Europe to do so: At its Annual Congress on Thursday 4th April 2013, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) became the first academic union in Europe to endorse the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel. The motion, which refers to Israel as an ‘apartheid state’, calls for “all members to cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel,…”,7340,L-4391835,00.html?utm_source=Canadian+Friends+of+Sabeel+List&utm_campaign=98d2087a5c-CAF&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_35bf167a76-98d2087a5c-412347741

        Ynet, June 13, 2013
        “Christian cemetery in Jaffa desecrated”

        “Graffiti reading ‘revenge’ and ‘price tag’ found on tombstones in Christian Orthodox cemetery. Jaffa’s Arab residents outraged over government inaction”
        By Hassan Shaalan

        “Unknown vandals desecrated the Christian Orthodox cemetery in Jaffa and spray-painted the words ‘revenge’ and ‘price tag’ on several tombstones. ‘Price tag’ graffiti was also found on a residential building near the cemetery where Tel Aviv District Judge Khaled Kaboub resides.”

        “Jaffa’s Arab residents were outraged after learning of the vandalism and criticized the government and the police for failing to curb the phenomenon.”

        “Jaffa resident Mahmoud Aghabria said, ‘This is a criminal act that mustn’t be ignored. Racism in Jaffa is spreading and we fear that the government and the police are not doing anything to those who are behind the ‘price tag’ acts. If Arabs had desecrated a Jewish cemetery I’m sure arrests would have been made within hours.'”
        The Telegraph
        “Vatican official says Israel fostering intolerance of Christianity”
        “The Israeli government’s failure to respond adequately to Jewish extremist attacks against churches and monasteries is fostering a climate of intolerance towards Christianity in the country, a senior Vatican official in Jerusalem has warned.”

        “Police inaction and an educational culture that encourages Jewish children to treat Christians with ‘contempt’ has made life increasingly ‘intolerable’ for many, Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, said.”

        “The door of [Latroun’s Trappist] monastery was set fire to and its walls were covered with anti-Christian graffiti that denounced Christ as a ‘monkey.’ ”

        “…[There has been a] series of acts of arson and vandalism…targeting places of worship, including Jerusalem’s 11th century Monastery of the Cross, built on the site where the tree used to make Christ’s Cross is held to have been planted.”

        “Slogans reading “Death to Christians” and other offensive graffiti were daubed on its walls.”
        “…Michael Ben Ari, an Israeli legislator, publicly ripped up a copy of the New Testament in the country’s parliament, the Knesset, and threw it into a rubbish bin after denouncing it as an ‘abhorrent’ book.

        “A second legislator called for Bibles to be burnt.

        “Although Mr Ben Ari was criticised by the Knesset’s speaker, he faced no official sanction despite protests from the church.”

      • amigo on September 6, 2017, 3:19 pm

        jacko ,still waiting for your response the link I provided that places Israel at number 29 and in the “Flawed Democracy” column with 56 other flawed democracies.Well done , you were only two places below Botswana(27th).

        Don,t like the tough questions eh jacko.

        As for what Hamas does–they do not claim to be the light unto the nations and a beacon for all,as the “rogue entity “keeps claiming to be not mention having the so called “most moral Army”

      • Mooser on September 6, 2017, 3:53 pm

        “…Michael Ben Ari, an Israeli legislator, publicly ripped up a copy of the New Testament in the country’s parliament, the Knesset, and threw it into a rubbish bin after denouncing it as an ‘abhorrent’ book.”

        Gee, the Jewish birth-rate must be rising a whole lot faster than I thought.

      • Misterioso on September 6, 2017, 4:53 pm

        @Jack Green

        More reality:

        Newsweek, Sept. 6/17
        “Israel Condemned For Threatening Future of Christianity in the Holy Land”
        By Callum Paton


        “Church leaders in Jerusalem have accused Israel of undermining Christianity in the Holy Land and weakening the faith at a time of severe tensions in the Middle East. The heads of Jerusalem’s major churches—including its Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Lutheran denominations, among others—criticized Israel’s lawmakers and its courts following a ruling that mandates the sale of church buildings to a Jewish settler organization. The church leaders protested the transfer of the ownership of three church buildings belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem’s Old City to the Ateret Cohanim Association.”

      • Paranam Kid on September 7, 2017, 9:06 am

        @Jack Green
        Hamas murders gays.
        Israel doesn’t.

        Hamas doesn’t allow freedom of religion.
        Israel does.

        So what? That does not excuse in any way Israel’s crimes against humanity, war crimes & having stolen Palestinian territory. In its present form, the country has absolutely no legitimacy at all, so it needs to be dismantled & rebuilt from the ground up into a truly democratic state with EQUAL rights for ALL its citizens, incl. the Palestinians, AND it needs to comply with international law.

      • eljay on September 7, 2017, 9:29 am

        || Jack Green: … Hamas murders gays.
        Israel doesn’t. … ||

        The serial killer murders people.
        The rapist doesn’t.

        The child molester molests little children.
        The rapist doesn’t.

        The wife beater beats his wife.
        The rapist doesn’t.

        Zionists seem to think that being less evil than someone else is the same thing as being good.

      • eljay on September 7, 2017, 10:08 am

        || eljay: … Zionists seem to think that being less evil than someone else is the same thing as being good. ||

        Edit: … Zionists seem to think that being less (or differently) evil than someone else is the same thing as being good.

      • Paranam Kid on September 8, 2017, 8:24 am

        And that is how they always try to snuff out a discussion, and unfortunately often win because the other side is afraid of next being called an antisemite.

      • Mooser on September 8, 2017, 1:42 pm

        “because the other side is afraid of next being called an antisemite.”

        Well, all the Zionists tell us that anti-Semitism is rising at an alarming rate. So being called an anti-semite may not be frightening for very much longer. Might even become a badge of approbation.

      • Paranam Kid on September 9, 2017, 9:01 am


  5. JosephA on September 5, 2017, 9:45 pm

    This is a sad story, I hope external pressure will cause the PA to free the journalist/activist.

    Here I will rarely agree with Jack Green: the Palestinians in all of occupied Palestine (from Gaza, to Jerusalem, etc.) can be arrested for a mere post on social media, like that poor young woman the poet who was arrested, Dareen Tartour, in Israel, for writing a poem.

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