Late last year, Israeli police arrested and detained 15-year-old Tamara Abu Laban after storming her house. Tamara’s crime? Updating her Facebook status with the words “forgive me” in Arabic.
In most places in the world, a cryptic, if not slightly dramatic post written by a teenage girl seeking “likes” from her friends would hardly be cause for reaction. But if you are a Palestinian growing up in Occupied East Jerusalem like Tamara, even a vague and “angsty” personal Facebook status may become grounds for arrest.
Israeli authorities interpreted the post as expressing intent to carry out a violent act of resistance. The teenager was released under the condition that she would post bail of 1,500 Israeli shekels, remain under house arrest for 5 days, and pay another 10,000.
Tamara’s story is one of many, and those numbers are rising both for adults and minors. According to a new report, by Hamleh - The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, 2015 saw a surge in the number of Palestinians being arrested on the charge of “incitement through social media.” The Hamleh report analyzed Palestinian internet and social media usage in 2015, and found that since last October - the start of the latest Palestinian uprising - the number of arrests Israel has made based on social media activity has more than doubled.