Satirical Facebook Post Criticizing Celebration of Israel Fires Lands Arab in Jail

The post criticized Arabs who celebrate the Israeli fire crisis, but judge and police say he should have taken into account that his comments could be misunderstood as a call to arson.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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An Israel Police car is seen in front of a fire in Haifa, Israel, November 23, 2016.
An Israel Police car is seen in front of a fire in Haifa, Israel, November 23, 2016.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

A satirical Facebook posts about the fire crisis has landed an Israeli Bedouin in jail.

Anas Abudaabes, 29, an activist from the southern Israeli town of Rahat, was arrested on Thursday after posting two messages critical of Arabs who see the fires plaguing Israel as punishment for a bill that seeks to silence mosque loudspeakers. Abudaabes says the police mistranslated one of his posts, reaching the mistaken conclusion that he encouraged on Arabs to set fires.

In one post, Abudaabes wrote:

"What level of ignorance and lack of awareness have we reached?! Our country is burning, and it turns out there are Arabs in countries in the region who are busy praising God for this ... These 'celebrations' testify to our helplessness and indicate how far we are from where we aspire to be."

After receiving criticism for the post, Abudaabes published another one, which the police say amounts to incitement:

"As part of our celebration, including the #Israelisburning [social media backlash], I propose the following urgent steps:

"First, a boycott of Turkey and Erdogan, who was first to send planes to put out the fires in Palestine. Such betrayal!

"Second, there are still wooded areas where the fire has yet to reach, so let's invite our young hooligans to do the job: Iqrit, Imwas, Tel Hawifa, Ashkelon, Beit Shean, Al-Faluja, Tantura, Hubeiza and more of the woods in our country and uprooted villages. The dry weed burns quickly and is more joyful than you can imagine.

"Third, on Friday, instead of praying for the late rain to come, let's pray for thunder, lightning and winds.

"Fourth, Arab towns and [Muslims] worshippers living in Haifa and Jerusalem who were encircled by fire – since what has happened is from God, you're safe. All you have to do is add flammable substances in a direction that faces away from your home. After all, the police have already prepared the 'arson intifada' charge.

"With regard to instructions given by Muslim leaders to soldiers in the past, [including] 'don’t uproot a palm tree and don't burn it, don't kill a beast, don't uproot a fruit-giving tree, don't destroy a market, don't kill children, the elderly or women' all that is unnecessary because democracy cancels out princely monarchies. And even though in times of war saving trees precedes saving lives, we invite the mosques to make a joyful call in response to the clear victory."

The post was concluded with the following hashtags: "satire, not seriously, Arab nonsense, smoke blinds the eyes and the heart."

Abudaabes was brought before the court in Be'er Sheva on Friday, where the police argued that even if the second post was written in jest, it nevertheless included "inciting content."

The police claimed that youths could misunderstand it due to its "high language" and see it as encouragement to set fires.

Judge Alon Gabizon extended Abudaabes' remand until Saturday night, saying that the writer should have taken into account how his words could be interpreted as "a call and encouragement to hurt the state."

Arab lawmakers have urged the police chief and the public security minister to intervene on Abudaabes' behalf.

Abudaabes' wife, Roqaya, told Haaretz that accusing her husband of incitement is unwarranted.

"He was trying to explain and warn people against hateful statements, and he is punished for it," she said. "Clearly there is an attempt to turn him into a scapegoat."

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