Police arrested five people Monday for threatening to harm an Arab Israeli youth for supporting the Israeli campaign to find and rescue three kidnapped Israeli teens.
The suspects were from Umm al-Fahm and the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor and the investigation into the threats is ongoing, police said.
Yihye Zakaria Mahameed, a 17-year-old resident of Umm al-Fahm, was subjected to a fierce backlash including death threats from his peers after uploading a photo to Facebook of himself holding an Israeli flag and a “Bring Back Our Boys” sign two weeks ago.
The picture was meant as a show of solidarity with Naftali Frankel, 16, Gil-ad Shaar, 16 and Eyal Yifrach, 19, who were kidnapped from the West Bank June 12.
“I am opposed to the kidnapping and there are many Arab Israeli residents who support the State of Israel and the peace process,” he told the Ynet website shortly after he posted the picture.
Mahameed went to the police after receiving comments on his thread such as “traitor,” “we want to murder you,” and “you cannot stay alive.”
He told the news site that he was afraid to walk to school. “I’m even afraid to leave my house,” he said. “I call for the return of the kidnapped teens. This [the kidnapping] won’t bring peace, but only destroys the process. The Arab society must understand us and respect our opinion.”
The teenager’s sister also received intimidating messages on her phone and said she, too, was fearful of going to school.
The story closely mirrored that of Mohammad Zoabi, an Arab Israeli teenager who was forced into police protection after posting a video calling on Israel to go after Hamas for the kidnapping.
In his first statement since the incident, Zoabi reaffirmed his condemnation of the kidnapping in a post to his Facebook account Monday.
“I reviewed the way I expressed my mind; its not the best way but at least I’m not encouraging hate the way [Balad MK Hanin Zoabi, a relative of Mohammed who spoke out against him] does. What I have done was speaking my mind, defending my country and my people,” he wrote. “I mean if I wouldn’t be able to express my love to my country inside my country where else could I express it?”
Mahameed also criticized MK Zoabi, who he said only “damaged relations between Arabs and Jews.”
“We want representatives in the Knesset who will speak professionally and not destructively,” he said. “I call on Zoabi to state that she only represents herself, and does not reflect Arab society in Israel.”