Israeli Court Rules That Facebook Posts Can Kill, Sends Fatah Leader to Jail
In a precedential ruling on Tuesday, Israeli Justice of the Peace Eitan Kornhauser sentenced Omar Shalabi, 44, an East Jerusalem resident, to a nine-month prison term. Shalabi was found guilty before a civil court in Jerusalem on one count of incitement to terrorism and violence, and two counts of supporting a terrorist organization.
Shalabi was charged by the Jerusalem District Attorney (JDA) with using social media to laud the death of Jewish civilians at the hands of Arab and Palestinian terrorists and calling for more violent deeds.
“We are pleased that the court accepted the position of the State, whereby those convicted of violent incitement through Facebook must face active prison sentences,” said Attorney Oshrat Shoham, of the JDA prosecution team. He added, “This decision is a precedent, clarifying that those who abuse free speech via Facebook – whose exposure and influence is great – to call for violence and terrorism, belong behind bars.”
Shalabi posted his calls to violence and support of terrorists after last summer’s abduction of three Israeli teenagers, during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, and large-scale rioting and murders in Jerusalem.
“[Arab] Children of Jerusalem! Anger and carry on the path of desperation and discord which will rage and purify Jerusalem and Al Aqsa from the filth of Jewish bastards,” Shalabi wrote on his Facebook page.
In his ruling, Kornhauser said that “we are not talking about a new type of crime, never before seen in court. But only a new means of carrying out the crime, utilizing technological advancement.”
Shalabi, who headed an office of Palestinian political faction Fatah in East Jerusalem, reached 5,000 followers on Facebook, according to the prosecution.
This is the first time in Israel that a person has been charged and sentenced for incitement and support of terrorism carried out over social media.
In a statement to the press, Shalabi’s attorney said “The punishment is exaggerated. Jews who incited violence were not even interrogated.”
Sara Haetzni-Cohen, chairperson of the My Israel Organization and social media activist, related her satisfaction with the verdict to Tazpit News Agency.
She said “I congratulate the court for this important decision. In the recent past there have been events of physical harm against Jews following radical statements on social media. If stopped at an early stage it could have prevented the harm. Today’s precedent is important and can save lives in the future.”