Israel included Israeli Arab women who had been arrested for posting pro-Hamas messages online after the October 7 attack in the list of prisoners who were released as part of the hostage-release deal with Hamas.
Among the released detainees was Lena Salah, 26, old from the town of Marar in northern Israel, arrested on October 15 and charged with incitement to terrorism and identification with a terrorist organization. The prosecution claimed that Salah, who works as a Hebrew instructor at an elementary school, posted a video on Instagram that compared the State of Israel to a cancerous growth that must be defeated.
The only Israeli Arab woman on the list who had been arrested before October 7 was Asma Abu Takfa, 32, from the Bedouin city of Rahat in the Negev, detained last April on suspicion of planning to carry out a stabbing attack at the Shechem Gate in Jerusalem and was stopped before carrying out her plan.
None of them had been convicted of a crime, and, according to the NY Times, all but one opposed being released as part of the deal, according to their lawyers.
Having been released against their will before getting their day in court, these women are beginning to pay the price of being associated with Hamas in post-October 7 Israel. One of them, who studied Computer Science at the Technion, has already been expelled. As Technion spokesman Doron Shaham put it: “It’s very clear: Someone who was released as part of a hostage deal with Hamas cannot study here.”
One of the released Israeli Arab women was arrested and charged with identifying with a terror group for adding a beating heart emoji to a post that read “Gaza today” with a photo of Gazans riding on a captured Israeli military vehicle, and sharing a photo of Hamas terrorists breaking through the Gaza border fence with the caption: “While the army that can’t be beat was sleeping.”
Marwat Al-Azza, a journalist from eastern Jerusalem who worked for NBC, among others, was arrested for posting on Facebook: “I feel like I’m watching a movie where the director is Palestinian and the heroes are from Gaza.”
Aya Tamimi, 20, also from eastern Jerusalem, was charged with incitement to terrorism after she posted pictures of the funerals of Jews who were murdered on October 7 and praised the killers.
Ahmad Massalha, an attorney for the anti-Israel NGO Adala, told the NYT: “I wrote that my client does not want to be released from the deal with Hamas. Being labeled as affiliated with Hamas is worse than any punishment that the court would have given.”
One of the women, who spoke to the NYT on condition of anonymity for safety reasons, said that during her interrogation, she told police that she opposed Hamas and the killing of civilians. She was sent home pending prosecution, only to learn, at home, that she was being released in the Hamas hostage deal.
Needless to say, all these women will remain under the scrutiny of Israeli security agencies for years to come, without a chance of ever attaining a meaningful career in the only country in the region where Arab women are allowed to participate as equals in the job market.
This move, of punishing anti-Israeli Arab citizens by not punishing them was ingenious. For one thing, they took the place of other Arab women convicted of injuring and murdering Jews; and then there’s the part about conveying to Israeli Arabs a reminder about the behavioral boundaries they must now set when it comes to biting the hand that feeds them.