by Khaled Abu Toameh
Facebook has become a dangerous playground for Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
The US-backed Palestinian Authority security forces belonging to Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad have been monitoring the activities of Palestinians on Facebook to make sure that no one criticizes them.
The Palestinian Authority wants Palestinians to write only nice things about their leaders. Criticism should be directed only against Israel. Those who fail to toe the line will find themselves either behind bars or without work.
The Palestinian leaders are aware of the power of social networking, especially in light of what happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria.
The Palestinian leadership's clampdown on Facebook users is seen as a pre-emptive measure to prevent the "Arab Spring" from infiltrating into the West Bank.
Rami Samara, a Palestinian journalist from Ramallah, last week found himself under interrogation by two different security agencies in the West Bank: Military Intelligence and General Intelligence.
Samara was detained while at work in the offices of the PLO's official news agency, Wafa. His crime: a comment he posted on his Facebook page.
The comment was about a statement issued by the PLO executive committee holding Israel responsible for the failure of the recent Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan.
Samara wrote in his sarcastic comment: "Ok, no joking now, do the members of the 'sole legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people' believe that this announcement is worth their sitting in their seats, turning on the heaters and drinking coffee and tea in their offices in Ramallah?"
The journalist said he was interrogated separately by the two intelligence forces in Ramallah about the comment and his activities on the social networking site. He was released a few hours later following strong protests by other journalists and human rights organizations.
Samara is the second Palestinian journalist to be targeted by security forces loyal to Abbas and Fayyad because of Facebook.
About a year ago, Mamdouh Hamarneh, a TV producer from Bethlehem, was detained for 50 days after comparing Abbas on Facebook to a Syrian actor who portrayed a "traitor" in a popular Syrian soap opera.
This week, a Palestinian woman complained that she too had been summoned for interrogation because of a comment she had posted on her Facebook page. She said she was interrogated by another security agency - Preventive Security - which also belongs to Abbas and Fayyad.
Because of the crackdown on Facebook users, many Palestinians in the West Bank today think twice before they post a comment that could anger the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.Khaled Abu Toameh
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