A Palestinian Authority employee was arrested on Saturday by the General Intelligence agency over Facebook comments in which he claimed that deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat “was not a martyr,” local media has reported.
The arrest of Khalil Afaneh, a civil servant working for the Ministry of Endowments in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, was first reported by official news agency WAFA on Saturday, which explained in a laconic report that the cause for his arrest was “attacking and harming the martyr, eternal leader and symbol of the Palestinian people Abu Ammar (Arafat).” It did not explain where or when the crime had taken place.
The full story was later revealed by independent Palestinian news agency Donia al-Watan. Namir Moghrabi, a student at Birzeit University near Ramallah, had commented on Facebook on the results of the student union elections last week, in which Hamas achieved a decisive victory. The reason Fatah lost, she wrote, was that they named their bloc “Martyr Yasser Arafat,” when in fact the deceased leader was no martyr at all.
“When a student lifts the ballot to elect the student bloc and sees the words ‘Yasser Arafat’ preceded by the word ‘martyr,’ he is shocked; he refuses to affirm a phrase that equates between our real martyrs and Yasser Arafat,” Moghrabi wrote. Her uncle, Afaneh, supported her comments and was subsequently summoned by Palestinian intelligence.
According to the article in Donia al-Watan, Moghrabi was also sanctioned for her comments. Sources close to the university’s administration told the news site that she would be expelled, and a letter issued by the ministry of education would ban her acceptance to any other Palestinian university.
This would not be the first time in recent months that West Bank Palestinians are silenced for crossing the line of political correctness. In February, a cartoon supposedly depicting the Prophet Mohammed was removed from the website of official Palestinian daily al-Hayat al-Jadidah, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas ordering an inquiry into the incident.
Palestinian Media Watch, which reported on the recent case, recalled an incident in 2012 when callers to a live broadcast on Palestinian TV were silenced when criticizing PA leaders. A report by Human Rights Watch from April 2012 accused the PA of escalating its assault on journalists who dare criticize West Bank politicians and citizens who critique the leadership on Facebook.