Digital Solidarity with Gaza: A Risky Endeavor in East Jerusalem?

In the predawn quiet of East Jerusalem, the unexpected clamor of police boots on October 23 shattered the peace.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Digital Solidarity with Gaza: A Risky Endeavor in East Jerusalem?
© Getty Images News/Dan Kitwood

In the predawn quiet of East Jerusalem, the unexpected clamor of police boots on October 23 shattered the peace. Dua Abu Sneineh, a 22-year-old resident, found herself in the midst of a bewildering police operation that would cast a stark light on the tensions simmering beneath the surface of a city at the heart of a conflict.

A Startling Encounter

The incident began with a startling intrusion. "I was not even considering for a moment that they would be coming for me," Abu Sneineh recounted to CNN, her voice tinged with the residual shock of that morning.

The officers, whose numbers she estimates between 10 to 15, demanded her phone with scant explanation. When Abu Sneineh inquired about the reason for this demand, her question was met not with answers but with force. "When I asked why, (the police officer) started pushing me and snatched my phone out of my hand," she said.

The ensuing check revealed no TikTok or Facebook—common platforms scrutinized by authorities—but her Snapchat and WhatsApp accounts came under inspection. It was a verse from the Quran shared on WhatsApp that caught the officers' attention, a verse Abu Sneineh said the officers claimed was inciting terrorism.

The Cost of Solidarity

Abu Sneineh's arrest is not an isolated incident but a part of a larger pattern of detentions. Dozens of Palestinian residents and citizens of Israel have been detained for actions perceived by Israeli authorities as expressions of solidarity with Gaza or its civilian population, particularly in the wake of the latest conflict with Hamas.

CNN's attempts to gain insights from the Israel Police regarding Abu Sneineh's arrest have thus far been met with silence. The backdrop to these detentions is a grim tableau. Following Hamas-led attacks on October 7, described by Israeli officials as "gruesome terror attacks" with a devastating toll, the IDF launched a series of strikes on Gaza.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, these have resulted in over 9,000 deaths, including children, and have precipitated a humanitarian crisis that has drawn global condemnation and calls for a ceasefire. The immense loss of life in Gaza has resonated across the globe, but within Israel, those who voice their empathy for Gaza's plight are increasingly finding themselves in the crosshairs of the state's security apparatus.

The verse Abu Sneineh shared, "God is not unaware of what the oppressors do," echoes a sentiment felt by many and yet, for her, it led to accusations of incitement.

Between Solidarity and Security

As the dust settles on each incident of conflict in the region, the aftermath is a litmus test for the state of freedom of expression and the balance between national security and individual rights.

The narrative of Dua Abu Sneineh's arrest is a microcosm of a broader discourse—a discourse that questions where the line is drawn between an act of solidarity and an act of defiance in the eyes of the law.

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