"Israel" Arrests Palestinian PhD Student Over Contact With Palestinians In The Diaspora
Israeli occupation authorities arrested the Palestinian PhD Student and activist Somaya Falah, over what they called “communication with a foreign agent” although in reality, she was targeted for political reasons.
On January 11, the Israeli occupation authorities arrested the Palestinian PhD Student and activist Somaya Falah, over what they called “communication with a foreign agent”. Yet, according to her Lawyer and Palestinian rights groups, Somaya was targeted for political reasons.
Palestinian groups are demanding the release of Somaya Falah, launching campaigns online calling for her immediate release from house arrest, which was extended for a further 7 days than originally announced. Somaya is a PhD student and researcher at Technion, an Institute of Technology, and an activist with Herak Haifa which is a youth movement working for the Palestinian cause. She comes from the village of Arab al-Hib and according to her lawyer; she is being persecuted on erroneous charges.
According to Israeli owned Arabic media, the allegation came out that accused Somaya of attending a conference in Madrid, about the Right of Return for Palestinians in the diaspora; “she may represent a security threat to "Israel" and this is justified on the basis of her communication on social media with the Palestinian activist Khaled Barakat” stressed the Israeli media. The conference which the Israeli media failed to correctly identify was actually one of three which took place at the same time; in Madrid, Beirut and Sao Paulo, which marked the beginning of the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path (PARP) movement.
Somaya’s attorney, Raslan Mahajna, has argued that there has been an attempt to damage his client’s academic career over communication with Khaled Barakat about the Palestinian student’s movement. Rights groups argue that the specific circumstances for which Somaya Falah was persecuted by the occupation authorities are directly related to her environmental research, whilst the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is striving for uprooting Palestinian Bedouin communities. She has so far been banned from the city of Haifa for 6 weeks, had her computer and phone seized, and Israeli authorities have restricted her access to social media until March.
I spoke with Charlotte Kates, an international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, who says that “this type of repression violates "Israel's" obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international instruments. Of course, violating international law is quite normal for the Israeli regime. But it is important to note that this is a fundamental violation of the right to freedom of expression and association”.
Kates also added the following on the accusation that Somaya Falah was communicating with a “foreign agent”:
“If "Israel" is labeling the discussions held by the Palestinians in occupied Palestine '48 -- Palestinian citizens of "Israel" about politics, culture and society with their fellow Palestinians in exile and diaspora, or even elsewhere in Palestine, as contacts with a "foreign agent," is particularly a nefarious behavior. It aims to separate Palestinians from their own culture and society, while labeling the indigenous Palestinians outside their country as "foreigners". This is the bitter irony ever. However, this application of law is, as noted, not a matter of neutral application of justice. When Jewish Israelis go to visit their families abroad or attend Zionist conferences, they do not worry that they will be accused of such contacts. It is yet another example of institutionalized and systematic racism. Further, this is fundamentally not a legal question”.
Charlotte Kates also added that this arrest fits into a larger trend of intimidating Palestinians inside the 1948 territory:
“It is a systematic attack against Palestinians in occupied Palestine '48 who contact other Palestinians abroad, especially those in the diaspora. There are other recent cases – we mention the arrest of Muhannad Abu Ghosh in 2021 and before that, of the arrest of Ward and Majd Kayyal on similar allegations led to the Mutawassiloun campaign, the "we will keep communicating" campaign. This was a campaign in which Palestinians affirmed that they will not be deterred by these kinds of arrests, interrogations and house detention. This outrageous behavior, these actions and movements, alongside solid legal defense, have previously stopped those attacks in the past, and we need to escalate that activity to put an end to the Israeli attempts to terrorize and intimidate the entire Palestinian population. This also comes after May 2021, during which thousands of Palestinians in occupied Palestine '48 were detained, interrogated or subjected to house arrest, so there is a new attempt to try to strip Palestinians of their identity…It also builds on a long legacy of Palestinians being accused, repressed and prosecuted for alleged connections and links with the PLO in the 1960s and 1970s. The Zionist project has always tried to remove Palestinians and separate them from one another, and Somaya's case is the latest iteration of the same project”.
This arrest and attempt to smear the reputation of Somaya Falah also comes as the PARP Movement (otherwise known as Masar Badil) was announcing a conference in Brussels exclusively intended for students, and scheduled to take place in November 2022. It seems, from Israeli media reporting, that the occupation authorities are also seeking to prevent Somaya from giving a speech in front of Palestinian students in the diaspora at this conference. This is why Palestinian Rights groups are stressing that there has been an attempt to persecute Somaya for her efforts to communicate with Palestinians in the diaspora and prevent solidarity bonds between the diaspora community and those inside occupied Palestine.