Israel’s Shabak, continuing its war against social media, has arrested 19-year-old Asmaa Hamdan for sending a text message that she wished to become a martyr for her people and her religion which was under attack by Israel. This was her message:
To my beloved friends and family: I’ve seen boys and girls turned into shahids for Jerusalem and our land. I was amazed by their love and the reasons they were motivated to do this. Today, when I became convinced and knew I wanted to do become a shahid for Al Aqsa and Palestine, I realized I wanted to fight as a shahid for Jerusalem. I want to die with God under the wings of Shahada [martyrdom]. I want [you] to raise the banner of freedom for my people above my grave…I am not fleeing from life. I want to defend Jerusalem. I prefer to stand beside my people. I don’t know when I am leaving, I don’t know what’s expected of me, but if I become a memory [die] don’t forget me and pray for me.
She is the first Palestinian woman in fifteen years placed in administrative detention, which restricts her rights to a lawyer and places her in a legal limbo that permits virtual permanent detention without trial. Another severe violation of the rule of law as defined in democratic societies is that the secret police had no specific proof that she intended to commit a crime–only a vague intention (“I don’t know what’s expected of me”) expressed in this text message.
Contrast Asmaa’s text message with this:
I never wanted to die young
I loved the warm sun
Light, song, and the spark in your eyes.
I never wanted the devastation of war
But if I am fated to live today
Amidst spilled blood and terrible destruction,
I will thank God for the right to live.
But if the hour of death comes
Upon your earth, my country, my homeland
The bodies of those who love you will be laid.
No, this is not a poem written by a shahid before blowing up an Israeli bus. It was written by Hannah Senesh, a Hungarian immigrant to Israel. The poem, To Die Young, is sung by every Israeli child in elementary school with rapt devotion. It is the devout wish of many girls to be Hannah Senesh. This was written before she parachuted into Hungary and was captured and executed by the Nazis. But tell me what difference there is between the sentiment of young Hannah and young Asmaa? Hannah writes in precisely the same romantic, passionate, devoted terms about her homeland as Asmaa. Yet one is a beloved national Israeli martyr and another a terrorist.
You say Hannah was fighting against genocide and Asmaa is a criminal? What did the Nazis call Hannah when they murdered her? You say there’s no comparison between the Holocaust and this Intifada? Perhaps in a historical sense this is true. Israel is not planning to annihilate an entire people. But in a modern context, Palestinians have already suffered the Nakba when 1-million were expelled from their homeland. They fear Israel wants to eventually destroy the Noble Sanctuary in order to rebuild the ancient Jewish Temple. From their point of view they are facing a national catastrophe.
The problem is that outsiders see Intifada as mere protest, when it is much more than that. To those enmeshed in it, it is a desperate struggle to defend a trampled people, its right and its holy sites. A perfect example of this is the typically Palestine-challenged Jodi Rudoren, whose latest dispatch in the NY Times on this catastrophe uses the astonishingly biased phrase, “so-called martyrs.” Excuse me, you’re a journalist. You don’t get to telegraph your disdain for Palestinian unrest by disrespecting the sacrifices made by this people. You can report this objectively without taking sides. She further disparages the revolt claiming it essentially exists on, and is propelled solely by social media. In this sense, the Arab Spring was a good revolution inspired by social media. But the Palestine Intifada is a “leaderless” (another disparaging term she employs) rabble-inspired social media chaos. She almost entirely neglects the very real circumstances on the ground which have motivated the violence. But why should we expect otherwise from the hasbara house organ of liberal Zionism?
Returning to Asmaa, what specific crime did she commit? She expressed a wish and did so in exceedingly vague terms. It’s only a matter of time before a Unit 8200 veteran will invent a tech device which will plumb the brains of Palestinians to detect the intent to commit a crime. That will be enough in the Israeli apartheid police state to send suspects to prison indefinitely–or until they are rehabilitated and learn to sing HaTikvah in perfect Ashkenazi Hebrew.
There was a protest in Acre by Israeli youth activists which was violently dispersed by the police. They arrested a 14-year-old Palestinian girl and beat up her mother, sending her to the hospital. Other Jewish activists were imprisoned for 20 hours and then released without charge (police would have to confront a judge if they held them for more than 24 hours). In prison, one of the protesters saw Asmaa. But she couldn’t speak with her because she was in isolation. Afterward, I was able to identify her.
Asmaa may not be identified in Israeli media due to a Shabak gag order. But I can and will proudly give her a name here. I will denounce the brutal violations of democracy perpetrated by the Shabak and championed by a populace which has lost all semblance of decency and humanity.
To add insult to injury, the Shabak also arrested a 14-year-old girl for texting her parents saying she planned to kill herself. This girl did not mention she wished to be a martyr. She did not mention any political motivation for her message. Clearly, she was crying out for attention from her parents. She too has been arrested. What sort of insane place has Israel become when a teenager gets arrested for begging her parents for help and attention? If we arrested every teenager in the world who did this we’d have to build millions of new prisons to house them.
Israel, in a lame effort to gain some sort of hasbara advantage, has published the picture and name of Ahmad Manasra (the press conference slideshow is here), the 13-year-old Palestinian boy who, with his murdered cousin Hassan, stabbed an Israeli settler youth in Pisgat Zeev last week. Bibi apparently wanted to embarrass Mahmoud Abbas who mistakenly confused Ahmad for Hassan, and said the former had been killed by Israeli police. In truth, Ahmad was struck and nearly killed by an Israeli settler’s vehicle. Hassan was immediately gunned down by police.
Besides, this stupid game of Zio-Gotcha, the Israeli government has violated Israeli juvenile law by taking a photo of Ahmad and releasing it to the press. In the photo, the boy is clearly handcuffed to his bed, a violation of the law as it applies to minors. Further, Haaretz makes clear that Hadassah Hospital has permitted this travesty of justice. A shameful violation of medical ethics.
Under law, no one may publish a photo or name of a juvenile under detention without the approval of a judge of juvenile court. There are only two such judges for Jerusalem who would hear Ahmad’s case. For sure, Bibi never consulted any of them to get permission to do this stunt. Therefore, he is liable to one year in prison for this offense. Of course, it would require the State to pursue a prosecution against him, which will never happen. Yet another way in which the political élite get away with murder in Israeli society.
Another matter which will drive the Israeli far-right crazy is that under Israeli law, Ahmad is a juvenile and cannot be sentenced as an adult. He will not go to adult prison. He will go to a juvenile prison, where the other Israeli Jewish youth will kill him to prove their patriotic fervor. You can expect in six months or a year to hear about his murder. Privately, Bibi and his ilk will be smiling with pleasure, slapping themselves with high-fives and smirking: Magia lo (“He had it coming!”). Or alternatively, if he survives, he will be trained properly in the criminal and terror arts by those far more skilled than he. Mazel tov Israel–you’ve either wreaked vengeance on a 13 year old boy or created a Palestinian terrorist for real and for life.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.