Israeli Arab Charged With Incitement to Terror Over Facebook Posts

Nongovernmental organization Adalah calls 66-year-old's arrest 'political persecution'

Jack Khoury
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Raja Agbariyeh, September 2018.
Raja Agbariyeh, September 2018.
Jack Khoury

The Haifa District Prosecutor's Office filed an indictment Thursday against Raja Agbariyeh, a 66-year-old resident of Umm al-Fahm, for incitement to terrorism and expressing solidarity with a terrorist organization. According to the indictment, which was filed through attorney Moshe Eyal, between July 2017 and July 2018, Agbaria published posts in which he expressed solidarity with a terrorist organization, incited and supported terrorism. The court extended his detention until October 2.

Agbariyeh previously served as general secretary of the Sons of the Village movement, which calls for boycotting Knesset elections, and as a member of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee of the Israeli Arab community. In a Facebook post, he marked the one-year anniversary of the July 2017 attack in which three Umm al-Fahm residents killed two policemen on the Temple Mount before being killed themselves.

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"Does the al-Aqsa operation bring news of a new phase inside 1948?" Agbariyeh wrote in the post in Arabic, referring to a possible new phase in the resistance of Arab citizens of Israel, according to the indictment. "Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque is the first and sensitive scene of friction and confrontation. The shahids, who are drowning in the blood that imperialists and Israel have made flow, chose to defend the holiness of Arabs and Islam. The compass of those who resist has and always will be Jerusalem. Umm al-Fahm will escort the shahids in their last path with the greatest glory to a new future!!"

The Facebook post about the Temple Mount attack
The Facebook post about the Temple Mount attack

According to the indictment, which was approved by the attorney general, Agbariyeh published videos that document the attack. In one, the voice of the person documenting can be heard saying: "Broadcasting love from the al-Aqsa mosque, where a cop was shot at close range. Seems like there is more than one attacker because the shooting is continuing."

The indictment also mentions that in the background, a voice can be heard saying: "Close all the mosques, we have shahids."

In another post mentioned in the indictment, Agbariyeh posted photos of George Habash, founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He wrote: "Peace to your soul and to your glory, the leader of the revolution, on the anniversary of your death. In the last meeting with him he explained to me why he founded a research center. He said he wanted to respond to one question: Why have we thus far been defeated as a people and as a nation?" The indictment mentions that the comments to the post praise Habash, whose organization was responsible for terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis.

The indictment also describes comments posted in response to his posts. In one, it was written that attacks such as these will eventually lead to the demise of al-Aqsa mosque and to its increased monitoring, to which Agbariyeh responds: "Don't worry, al-Aqsa will remain strong and a thorn in Zionist throats and those of their sources. The intifadas, meaning the youth of Bayt al-Maqdis, will refuse the desecration of the mosque by the settlers." In another comment he wrote: "Abu Mazen's and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee's condemnations do not represent that Palestinian people, who are like orphans sitting in the tables designated for the evil."

Another person who responded to the post Agbariyeh published wrote: "Murder and preaching? Are you serious?" To which Agbariyeh responded: "I wonder. It's murder on both sides. Murder isn't one-directional. This is our homeland and it's our duty to defend it."

Agbariyeh argued that his posts don’t justify the police’s suspicions, and that they are protected by freedom of expression. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, an umbrella organization representing the Arab community, called his arrest “political persecution.” 

Attorney Hassan Jabareen, director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, that represents Agbariyeh, told Haaretz that there is a policy that clearly discriminates between Arab political activists and Jewish ones on the right or extreme right. According to Jabareen, there wasn't even one case in the past year in which the state filed an indictment and a request for arrest until the end of proceedings for social media posts.

"There is a clear change in policy in the prosecution and attorney general's office with regards to freedom of expression of political leaders and activists in the Arab community," he said. Jabareen added that in the posts that are included in the indictment there is no express call for the use of violence.

In the July 2017 attack, the three Umm al-Fahm residents opened fire at a group of policemen at the entrance to the Temple Mount, killing two Druze policemen – Hael Sathawi, 30, of Maghar and Kamil Shnaan, 22, of Hurfeish, the son of former Labor MK Shachiv Shnaan. Two days later, police stationed metal detectors at the entrance to the Mount, sparking a wave of Palestinian protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank that led the government to remove the detectors a week later.