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Hold Your Tongue in Palestine


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This is how Arab despots fight those who dare to criticize them or demand democracy or freedom of expression. One of those arrested by Palestinian policemen – trained and funded by Americans and Europeans – Ismat Abdel Khalek, university lecturer, single mother of two, and in deteriorating health, is awaiting trial in solitary confinement. International human rights have refused to endorse her case out of fear of alienating the Palestinians leadership in the West Bank.

Both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah have been clamping down on anyone suspected of daring to criticize His Excellency The President, or His Majesty The King — or any Arab dictator – by making it a crime to “extend the tongue.”

In Jordan, two young men were recently sentenced to prison for “extending their tongues” against King Abdullah; six other Jordanians are awaiting trial on the same charges.

The Jordanian authorities arrested all the men during demonstrations and rallies in support of reforms and democracy in the kingdom.

One of the suspects was arrested for burning a picture of the monarch; the rest were accused of chanting slogans against the regime and in favor of democracy and reform.

In a separate case, an Arab citizen of Israel was arrested by the Jordanians after he was suspected of speaking ill of the king. The man was released following the intervention of the Israeli authorities.

The Palestinian Authority, not much different from other Arab dictatorships, has also been cracking down on Palestinians who dare raise their voices in favor of freedom of speech and democracy.

In the past two weeks, Palestinian Authority policemen — who are trained and funded by Americans and Europeans — arrested three journalists for allegedly “extending their tongues” against Abbas and Palestinian government officials.

One of those arrested is the journalist and blogger Ismat Abdel Khalik, a single mother of two from the West Bank.

Her crime was that she posted a comment on Facebook that denounced Abbas as a “traitor” and “fascist” and called for dismantling the Palestinian Authority.

Abdel Khalik, who is also a university lecturer, is now facing trial for “extending her tongue” against the Palestinian president. She is being held in solitary confinement in a Palestinian prison.

Abdel Khalik’s relatives and friends said that she was hospitalized shortly after her arrest because of her deteriorating health.

Some of her colleagues complained that international human rights organizations have refused to endorse her case out of fear of alienating the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.

Abdel Khalik would have been more fortunate had she been arrested by Israel. Then she would have been depicted by the Western media as a hero and the UN Human Rights Council would have held an emergency session to condemn Israel and call for her immediate release.

Palestinian journalist Tareq Khamis, who protested against her arrest by posting a critical comment on Facebook, quickly found himself being led to interrogation by agents belonging to Abbas’s much-feared Preventive Security Service. He too was suspected of “extending his tongue” against the president.

In light of the clampdown, Jordanians and Palestinians have been advised to keep their tongues inside their mouths to avoid detention and prosecution. This is how Arab despots fight those who dare to criticize them or demand democracy and freedom of expression. Ironically, the crackdown on those who “extend their tongues” is being led by the two Arab leaders who are considered among the West’s best allies in the Middle East: Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah.

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This article first appeared in GatesStoneInstitute.org and in reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.


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