Dalal Abu Amneh insists she didn’t mean to take sides with her Facebook message on Oct. 7: “The only victor is God.”
The Palestinian citizen of northern Israel — a neuroscientist and a folk singer renowned in the Arab world — was starting a silent retreat at a Christian monastery in Jerusalem when word of the Hamas massacre began to spread.
She immediately checked in on Jewish friends in southern Israel, she said. At the request of her social media team in Cairo, she looked for words to convey what she was feeling — that nothing good would come from the Hamas attacks or the war in Gaza sure to follow.
“The only victor is God” seemed safe, she said. It reflected her beliefs as a pacifist and an adherent of Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam. Her team posted it in Arabic: “La gha-leb il-la lah.” Without telling her, she said, they also added a Palestinian flag to the message, as they usually did to posts about her music.
When she viewed the post the next day and saw the flag, her heart sank. “I feel sick to my stomach,” she wrote in an immediate text to the team that she later showed to police. “This makes the sentence seem biased.”
The death threats started soon after — on social media and in menacing phone calls and, finally, in furious protests on her doorstep. Fellow Israeli citizens threatened to rape her, to burn her house down and kill her two children, to get her husband fired from his job as deputy director of the local hospital. When the couple went to a police station to ask for protection, it was Abu Amneh who was cuffed and jailed for three days.
Police said the Facebook post, her only public comment on the horrific events, amounted to an illegal provocation. Abu Amneh took the post down after it went viral, but has not apologized. She stands by the message, she said, which she intended as an expression of her faith. Almost four months later, her life is still upside down as she finds herself dangling from the tightrope that Palestinian citizens of Israel say they have been forced to walk since Oct. 7.
Under emergency laws giving police unprecedented arrest powers, hundreds have been incarcerated, fired, or suspended from colleges for social media posts, protest slogans and even cooking videos that are deemed subversive. Ambiguous statements have been enough to launch criminal prosecutions; harassment campaigns continue even when charges are dropped. [Continue reading…]