Palestinians who have successfully used social media to share live updates with the world are being detained by Israeli forces.
Palestinian activists and writers Muna and Mohammed al-Kurd were arrested on Sunday by Israeli police, drawing international condemnation.
They were freed several hours after global outrage and calls for their release.
Many, including the 23-year-old twins, have utilized their personal social media platforms to speak out against Israel's forced expulsions of families in the occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and its 11-day assault on Gaza.
Palestinian activists inside the occupied territories and in the diaspora have shown unprecedented unity against the Israeli government’s illegal practices. In a matter of weeks, their voices resonated with many and gained support from across the world, resulting in a new challenge to Israel, analysts say.
“We are in a new phase of Palestinian activism, whether on the ground in Palestine or the increasing support by a growing solidarity movement on a global level,” Jehad Abusalim, the education and policy associate of the Palestine Activism Program at the American Friends Service Committee, told TRTWorld.
“Activists like Muna and Mohammed al-Kurd provide live updates of Israeli human rights violations, making it possible for thousands worldwide to see for themselves without having to rely on the mainstream media,” he said.
When Muna was arrested after her home was raided in Sheikh Jarrah, Mohammed turned himself in at the police station after receiving summons.
Social media makes Israeli forces anxious
Both were behind the widely used hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah, a three-month-old social media campaign against the threat of a court ruling that would see Palestinians displaced from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
“The weapons of the Palestinians are the camera, and the words – whereas the Israeli army is heavily armed,” Nabil al-Kurd, father of the twins, told reporters on Sunday.
Jewish settlers have been waging a decades-long campaign to expel Palestinians from neighbourhoods just outside the walls of the Old City, which is home to sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
An Israeli court ruled in favour of Israeli settlers in October 2020 who claim that about eight Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah were living on land belonging to Jews. The evictions however are currently on hold after Palestinians appealed the decision at Israel’s Supreme Court.
A Palestinian human rights activist and political analyst, Bassim Eid, said the twins were specifically chosen to be arrested because they were amplifying the voices of those who were facing “Israel’s violent repression”.
“These people were investigated because of their work and activism, not because they broke any law or committed any crime,” he said.
“It looks like that the Israelis do not want to see Palestinian activists or any Palestinian journalist going around in areas like Sheikh Jarrah.”
When the al-Kurd siblings were arrested, social media users rallied for their release with some saying without them live updates from Sheikh Jarrah were almost impossible.
Mohammed al-Kurd, who has hundreds and thousands of followers on Twitter, immediately started updating online users with the current situation on the ground upon his release.
“We are not afraid, we are not intimidated, we are going to continue to speak out against all of these injustices, and we’re going to continue to protect our homes,” he said after his release.
The arrests came a day after Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Givara Budeiri was arrested while covering a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah. She was released hours after her arrest sparked widespread criticism against Tel Aviv.
On May 15, Israeli airstrikes flattened Gaza’s high-rise that housed the local office of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press’ office alleging that Hamas military intelligence was operating from the building. The claim has not been proven so far.
Abusalim, the education and policy associate of the Palestine Activism Program, said that Israel systematically targets journalists and activists with a large following because the “Israeli government wants to silence their voices through intimidation and harassment”.
However, Palestinians on all sides continue to seize the means of communication available to them to present their side of the story, leaving “Israel's political and security levels anxious,” according to Abusalim.
“States that want to hide the truth are fearing accountability because they know the world is watching and that the world no longer buys the false narratives that, for long, justified the oppression of the Palestinian people,” he said.