We Support Somaya: Take action for justice for Palestinian student and researcher Somaya Falah

Stand with Somaya! 

The following call to action is supported by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, the Palestinian Youth Movement and Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine. Please join us to take action and stand with Somaya! 

Palestinian Ph.D. student, researcher and activist Somaya Falah is currently being held under house arrest, banned from accessing electronics or the Internet, and subjected to repeated interrogations — all because she is accused by Israeli occupation forces of communicating with Palestinians in diaspora about the student movement. Somaya, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, is facing an all too common form of persecution targeting Palestinians in occupied Palestine ’48. 

On Tuesday, 25 January, the Haifa Magistrate’s Court extended her house arrest for seven more days. She was interrogated once more for 10 hours on Monday, 24 January. Her lawyer noted that there is no actual evidence or charges against her. Instead, this is part of the political repression directed against Palestinians in occupied Palestine ‘48, which has escalated intensively since the Palestinian upsurge of May 2021. 

We urge all supporters of Palestinian rights, and all Palestinians — wherever you are — to stand with Somaya and demand an immediate end to the persecution of Palestinian connection and communication! 

Who is Somaya Falah?

Somaya Falah is a Ph.D. student and researcher at the Technion from Arab al-Hib and an activist with Herak Haifa, a Palestinian youth-led movement working to defend Palestinian rights and identity. One day before a protest in solidarity with Palestinian hunger striker Hisham Abu Hawash, Israeli police invaded her home, seizing her mobile phone and computer and taking her to interrogation. On Thursday, 20 January, an Israeli court imposed house arrest on her and banned her from entering the city of Haifa for 1.5 months and from using electronics or digital media until March. 

A Ph.D. student whose research focuses on environmental science, Falah’s work has exposed the harms caused to the environment in Palestine by Israeli industries, such as the fertilizer industry. Meanwhile, her university, the Technion, has refused to say anything about the targeting of their student.

This attack on Somaya is happening at the same time that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is ramping up its ongoing colonization policies in occupied Palestine, particularly in al-Naqab. The JNF’s “forestation” campaigns have been a mechanism to force Palestinians from their land and to import unsuitable Western trees to replace and uproot indigenous agriculture and village life. 

According to Israeli media reports, Somaya is specifically being targeted for silencing because she attended the Masar Badil conference in Madrid in October-November 2021, and because she talked with Palestinians about the student movement inside occupied Palestine ’48. We can defeat these bogus charges and attempts to intimidate Palestinians by making it clear that, around the world, we stand with Somaya and we will not allow this case to go unnoticed! 

The Criminalization of Palestinian Communication

Somaya is not alone in facing these attempts to criminalize Palestinian life and communication at the hands of the Israeli regime. Palestinian citizens of Israel — those from occupied Palestine ’48 — have been particularly subjected to this campaign of criminalization and harassment. One year ago, Muhannad Abu Ghosh, an activist and artist, was arrested for “contacting foreign persons and agents” — the same allegation directed at Somaya. In December 2020, Majd and Ward Kayyal were arrested for the same reason. This term is used to label primarily Palestinians in diaspora – in other words, the indigenous people of Palestine being labeled “foreign agents” by the colonizer.

Global Palestinian outrage led to the launch of the Mutawassiloun — “we will continue to connect” — campaign, affirming that despite 100 years of colonialism and 73 years of ongoing Nakba, Palestinians in occupied Palestine ’48, in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, in Gaza, and in exile and diaspora around the world, will continue to communicate with one another about society, politics, culture and everything that makes a people, a nation and an identity that has not been crushed through decades of displacement. 

The purpose of these arrests, interrogations and charges is to terrorize Palestinians inside occupied Palestine ’48 and to attempt to impose the “Israeli Arab” identity that has been widely rejected. Instead, as was seen in April-June 2021, Palestinian unity is stronger than ever before, and Palestinians continue to talk with, share with and communicate with one another. Right now, Palestinians in the Naqab are defending their land from JNF colonization and facing mass arrests and violent repression. Israel wants Palestinian citizens to be blocked from connecting and organizing with their people everywhere and to face their colonization alone. We will not allow this to pass! 

The Attack on Palestinian Students

The arrest and forced silencing of Somaya Falah is part and parcel of the ongoing and systematic targeting of Palestinian students

Hundreds of Palestinian students in the West Bank are routinely detained by the Israeli occupation, especially those who are part of student organizations involved with campus political life. Palestinian students in occupied Palestine ‘48 — Palestinian students in Israel — are subjected to ongoing, systematic harassment and discrimination, including bans on student groups and prohibitions on demonstrations and protests. 

Further, Palestinian and Palestine solidarity student groups internationally are targeted for campaigns of defamation, organization bans and administrative repression, with these efforts officially and unofficially supported by the Israeli government and pro-apartheid lobby organizations around the world. All the while, Palestinian refugee students are denied their right to return to occupied Palestine.

Palestinian students have been seized by Israeli occupation forces and abducted for their participation in the student movement in their homes, at their workplaces and on their campuses. 

In Somaya’s case, the Israeli regime is specifically attempting to persecute her because she allegedly discussed the student movement in occupied Palestine ’48 with fellow Palestinians in diaspora. Indeed, it comes just as the Masar Badil announced a Palestinian student conference in Brussels in November 2022. The attack on Somaya is an attack on all Palestinian students.

Attempts to Silence Palestinian Academics 

Somaya’s research and academic work is imperiled by the bar on her access to electronics and digital media. This is also part of an ongoing and calculated attack on Palestinian achievement and scholarship in all areas of academic study. Fellow Palestinian scientist in the West Bank, Imad Barghouthi, has been repeatedly subject to political imprisonment — typically under administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, alongside fellow academics like Ahmad Qatamesh. 

Like the attack on Palestinian students, the war on Palestinian academia is not limited to occupied Palestine. Palestinian scholars are subjected to organized campaigns by Zionist organizations and Israel lobby groups in an attempt to block them from continuing their research and work. On 22 January, newly appointed Palestinian lecturer Shahd Abusalama was suspended from teaching at Sheffield Hallam University due to a harassment campaign by Zionist organizations. Steven Salaita was fired from his tenured position at the University of Illinois due to similar harassment campaigns, while Rabab Abdulhadi at San Francisco State University continues to confront academic silencing and attempts at criminalization. 

The digital ban imposed on Somaya is an attempt to suppress not only her communication, but her research and academic future. Palestinian academics must be defended! 

Palestinian Women Confronting Zionism

Palestinian women on the front lines of organizing, scholarship and activity are especially targeted by Israeli occupation forces. Khitam Saafin, president of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, is currently imprisoned by the Israeli occupation because of her work organizing Palestinian women. 

Inside occupied Palestine ’48, poet Dareen Tatour was subjected to imprisonment, house arrests and electronics bans for her poetry about Palestine. Khaled Mahajna, Somaya’s lawyer, said: “The allegations against Somaya Falah could have been practiced by any of us within the framework of Palestinian activity. The intelligence services have been trying … to prosecute Palestinian national frameworks and movements that exercise their political role and activism toward the issues of their people. In recent weeks, dozens of cadres of these movements have been arrested, interrogated and prosecuted, especially among the women activists…By leaking information and details against the case, they are searching for any way to fabricate charges against her,” noting that even though there is no meaningful evidence, they are trying to undermine her academic and professional future.

Now, Somaya is facing the same kind of silencing and targeting, backed by the full force of the Israeli state, armed, funded, provided with preferential trade deals and economic agreements by the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia, the UK and other imperialist powers. 

Somaya is being singled out because of everything she represents — a Palestinian woman organizing, researching and connecting with her people, inside and outside Palestine. However, her case reflects systematic regimes of repression and a collective struggle for return, justice and liberation from the river to the sea.

Support Somaya! 

We urge all organizations and activists in support of Palestine to take action to support Somaya. 

  1. Post on social media! Post with the hashtag #ISupportSomaya and #WeSupportSomaya. Take a video of yourself or a photo of yourself holding an “I support Somaya” sign and post it on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Tag us at @samidounnetwork (Instagram), @SamidounPP (Twitter), @SamidounPrisonerSolidarity (Facebook) to ensure we see it! 
  2. Protest at the Israeli embassy or consulate in your area, or at a public square or other central location! Bring this information about Somaya and a sign demanding her release. Organize with other groups to raise Somaya’s case at public events and actions.
  3. Issue a solidarity statement! Use this information to issue a statement from your solidarity group, trade union or student organization in support of Somaya and Palestinian students facing repression. If you have any questions, email us at samidoun@samidoun.net
  4. Protest the JNF! The Jewish National Fund’s colonization of Palestine and its attacks on the Naqab come hand in hand with the persecution of Somaya. Protest at your local JNF office or headquarters.
  5. Pressure your government to stop aiding, supporting and defending Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid. Call your member of Congress or Parliament, organize a call-in day or send letters to call for freedom and justice for Somaya and the Palestinian people. 
  6. Boycott Israel! This includes study abroad programs and Israeli universities, which, like Somaya’s university, are complicit in the ongoing repression of Palestinian students — and the colonization of the entire land of Palestine. From consumer boycotts to academic and cultural boycotts, you can take action to affirm that it is the occupier that will be isolated and not Palestinians! 

Download the Support Somaya Flyer: (PDF, half-page)