Arrest of Palestinian feminist icon DJ Sama highlights repressive regime

It’s not often that Zionists and anti-Israel BDS activists agree, but when it comes to DJ Sama, many were on the same page.

The Nabi Musa shrine where the DJ’s show took place two weeks ago. (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Nabi Musa shrine where the DJ’s show took place two weeks ago.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If there’s one thing oppressive regimes have in common, it’s the silencing and arbitrary persecution of civilians who threaten the status quo. Over a week ago, the world – including BDS activists – got a glimpse of the true face of the Palestinian Authority when world-renowned DJ and icon for Palestinian feminism, DJ Sama Abdulhadi, was arrested and detained by the Palestinian Authority for filming a video with 30 people at a Palestinian cultural site between Jericho and Jerusalem, with permission from the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism.
Within hours of the filming, (incorrect) word spread around town that DJ Sama was holding a “party with alcohol” and “naked women at a mosque” at Nabi Musa, a popular venue for cultural events that is often used for concerts and weddings. Nearby is a religious site at which many believe Moses was buried. The Palestinian public was outraged, leading to local protests and ultimately, to DJ Sama’s arrest and detainment for eight days by the Palestinian police. An initial reason for her arrest wasn’t provided, but on December 29, a Palestinian judged extended her detention because “techno music is not part of Palestinian heritage.”
As DJ Sama spent the start of the new year in a prison cell, the Palestinian public continued to protest and riot, even holding a mass gathering at Nabi Musa, rampaging and destroying parts of the EU-funded holy site in anger over the event. Rioters also chanted antisemitic threats of violence including “Oh Jews, the army of Mohammed shall return” in reference to the Prophet Mohammed’s slaughter of the Jews (of course never mind the fact that putting an up-and-coming Palestinian DJ in prison has absolutely nothing to do with the Jews).
As facts began to come out in the days following DJ Sama’s arrest, it turned out DJ Sama was granted a permit for the filming by the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism, but once the public was outraged, the Palestinian government began a witch hunt targeting not only DJ Sama but also any and all involved in granting her the permit in the first place.
Shortly after her arrest, a Change.org petition popped up that garnered over 97,000 signatures calling for her release. The petition was heavily shared by dozens of pro-Israel groups as well as music industry professionals and even some Palestinian activists. On January 3, the courts ordered her release for a 2,000 Jordanian Dinar bail (US $2,820) which is more than the monthly average salary for Palestinians.
It’s not often that Zionists and anti-Israel BDS activists agree, but when it comes to DJ Sama, many were on the same page. Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo, known for his inflammatory and inaccurate anti-Israel sentiment, tweeted about the incident, calling for her release, and even the notorious Roger Waters, who has made outrageous antisemitic comments in the past, tweeted the Change.org petition for DJ Sama’s release. As the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Amazingly, the immediate responses to Ruffalo and Waters by other activists criticized them for drawing attention to DJ Sama’s arrest and repeated the false claims about her desecrating a “holy site.”
While it is certainly positive that folks like Ruffalo can see this egregious violation of civil rights by the Palestinian Authority, they refuse to see that the reason Palestinians suffer is because of precisely this type of “leadership” from their own government, not from Israel. Instead of focusing on the correct problem, they obsess over Israel’s policies (and in the case of Waters, Jews). DJ Sama’s arrest was far from the first example of repressive civil rights violations by the Palestinian Authority and it won’t be the last.
Plain and simple, DJ Sama was imprisoned not because of disrespecting a holy site, but because of mob mentality and misogynistic bullying of a female Palestinian who refuses to fit the mold in a very conservative society. The rumors of her “party” at a mosque were exaggerated and spread without regard for the truth, and the corrupt Palestinian government gave in to the mob instead of the rule of law. DJ Sama was used as a scapegoat to teach a lesson to artists and civil society figures who don’t fit into particular boxes of society and this is something all people of conscience must reject.
The writer is the founder and CEO of Social Lite Creative LLC and a research fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute.