Mahmoud Abbas - Israel's top stooge - won't have any criticism against him and his party. Israel imprisons and tortures those who speak out and resist against military occupation, and the Palestinian Authority is fast learning a thing or two more on cracking down on dissenters, particularly online. Just recently, a Palestinian woman, Ismat Abdul-Khaleq, was accused of defaming president Abbas on her Facebook profile. She's been detained for two weeks. Activists have said that there's a growing crackdown on writers who criticise the West Bank government. Her crime? Abdul-Khaleq allegedly called him a traitor and demanded he resign.
Years ago, when I was 14 years old, my history teacher taught us about anti-regime dissidents one lesson. She described how, in some places, people who spoke out against the government were often kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, and killed, and that their dissent also placed their neighbours, friends and family in harm's way.
I was both horrified and baffled. Horrified that people were being silenced, but baffled for another reason.
Later that day, I had maths class, and I was seated next to a classmate who shared history with me. Before diving into algebra (fun!), we spoke about the previous history lesson and, more specifically, the fate of critics and activists, artists and intellectuals, who lived under an iron fist and were surrounded by oppression. Looking back now, I said one of the most naive things I've ever said in my life so far. "It's stupid," I said to my classmate. "If you know that speaking out against the government is going get you into trouble, possibly killed, why would you say anything? Just keep quiet. Isn't it just better to carry on with your life, family and routine? Instead of getting hurt?"
It was only later - years later - I realised that people who live under oppressive regimes, people who are controlled, harassed and attacked by the state and authorities, have no way of simply 'carrying on' with their lives and the sort of daily routine we're used to. The oppression becomes normalised. It becomes an accepted reality. People need to speak out. For some, they have no choice but to speak out. Fear drives many people to remain silent, but for those who want to say something, who can't help but say something - more power to them.