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Israel’s systematic arrest of mothers shows its contempt for Palestinian women

Israeli forces arrest Palestinian woman protesting land appropriation and the expansion of the Halamish settlement
Israeli forces arrest Palestinian woman protesting land appropriation and the expansion of the Halamish settlement

On 16 December 2018, an Israeli court in the occupied city of Jerusalem sentenced Suzan Abu Ghannaam – the mother of 20-year-old Palestinian martyr Muhammad Abu Ghannaam – to eleven months in prison on account of “incitement” in a Facebook post. Her son had been killed while protesting against the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities on Muslim worshippers wishing to entering Al-Aqsa Mosque – the third holiest site in Islam – in Jerusalem on 23 July 2017. She was arrested from her home less than a month later and charged this December.

On the same day Yair Netanyahu, the son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed that Facebook had banned him from posting for 24 hours. In a series of tweets, Yair had called for the expulsion of Palestinians and Muslims from the region, before subsequently labelling Facebook’s decision to restrict his activity “thought policing”. He claimed his suspension had occurred because he criticised Facebook for removing one of his posts, while the social media giant pointed out that he had re-posted hate speech in contravention of the community’s rules.

Unlike mother-of-four Suzan Abu Ghannam, Yair Netanyahu was not jailed for two months, summoned to court and sentenced to 11 months in prison. Instead, he brags about his actions, making a hero of himself. In this lone incident in which Facebook decided to take action against a non-Palestinian account, a meagre 24 hour ban seemed sufficient punishment.

READ: Israel politician incited settler violence, NGO says

Israel turned a blind eye to Yair’s shower of hate speech, instead focusing its attention firmly on a Palestinian wedding celebration. Waiting for more than an hour and half in a nearby alley, Israeli occupation forces arrested Palestinian groom Rami Fakhori – along with 23 of his friends – from the Wadi Al-Joz neighbourhood of Jerusalem. The men were taken to an Israeli court and tried for singing patriotic Palestinian songs that “glorified terrorists” and for waving Hamas flags.

Was it coincidence that the late father of the bride was Misbah Abu Sbeih, a Palestinian martyr and hero who launched a lethal attack on Israeli soldiers and was shot dead in 2016? Misbah’s body has still not been returned to his family for a proper burial. Was this an act of revenge against his daughter? Prior to his death, Misbah had been jailed for a year by the Israeli occupation because of a Facebook post.

In another act of revenge, on 20 December Israeli occupation forces stormed the village of Hizma – north of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank – and arrested the mother of Palestinian prisoner Muhammad Salahuddin. In a similar case, an Israeli military court refused to release the mother of Palestinian martyr Ashraf Nalwa who, along with her daughter, was arrested from Shweikeh, near Tulkarm, about two months ago; even after the Israeli army had demolished her home and shot dead her son.

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This targeting of Palestinian mothers is not arbitrary – it is a systemic, pre-planned policy which reflects Israel’s deep contempt for Palestinian women. Israel sees these women as nothing more than vessels for giving birth to potential terrorists since, at least according to Yair Netanyahu, every Palestinian is a potential terrorist. Even if these women are not mothers of martyrs or wives of prisoners, as Palestinians they are not seen as entitled to live on their own land.

This policy is not new. On 13 October, 47-year-old Aisha Al-Rabi from Biddya, southwest of Nablus, was killed by illegal Israeli settlers who hurled stones at her and her husband’s car. With no hint of irony, Israeli news site Ynet dedicated only four lines to the incident, while the remainder of the report instead discussed Palestinian “terrorists’ attempts to stab Jews”. Though the Israeli police have launched an investigation into the incident, no Israeli settler was shot on the spot on account of committing an act of terrorism, nor has his or her house been demolished.

While Israel talks vigorously about bettering living conditions for mothers and children, hundreds spend months and even years in prison for Facebook posts or throwing stones at well-protected Israeli soldiers. It is clear then that Israel’s definitions of motherhood and childhood are restricted to a certain ethnicity and religion. Palestinians certainly do not fit this definition.

As Israeli historian Shlomo Sand wrote in his book, ‘The Invention of the Jewish People’:

Israel cannot be described as a democratic state while it sees itself as the state of the ‘Jewish people’, rather than as a body representing all the citizens within its recognized boundaries (not including the occupied territories). The spirit of Israel’s laws indicates that […] the state’s objective is to serve Jews rather than Israelis, and to provide the best conditions for supposed descendants of this ethnos rather than for all the citizens who live in it and speak its language.

Of course, Sand does not include the West Bank – which is an occupied land and not part of Israel – in his discussion. The laws applied to those Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, who do not speak Hebrew and do not consider themselves to be Israeli, are even more discriminatory than those applied in Israel. The Knesset is working hard to change this, busying itself with passing additional discriminatory laws against Palestinians in the wake of its infamous “Nation State Law” instated earlier this year. Let’s hope justice will be more forthcoming this new year.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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