College junior Tara Tarawneh was arrested on Nov. 4 after allegedly stealing an Israeli flag from the front of a Campus Apartments house near Penn’s campus.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged Tarawneh with theft and receiving stolen property, Penn’s Division of Public Safety told The Daily Pennsylvanian. The incident took place at approximately 5:15 p.m. on Oct. 28, and Penn Police were notified of the theft and responded at 7:28 p.m., DPS said.
Vice President for Public Safety Kathleen Shields Anderson said that Penn Police responded to a call about the theft at the property, initiated an investigation, and were able to identify Tarawneh as the suspect. Tarawneh turned herself in, Shields Anderson added.
“Upon submitting the results of the investigation to the District Attorney’s Office, charges of Theft and Receiving Stolen Property were approved against the suspect, who was arraigned on November 5th,” DPS wrote in a statement.
Neither Tarawneh nor her lawyer responded to a request for comment by publication.
Recently, online reports citing a clip of a speech from a pro-Palestinian rally in Center City on Oct. 28 suggested that Tarawneh called the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 “glorious” and said she felt “empowered and happy” when Hamas invaded Israel. The theft of the Israeli flag was reported the same day.
“How about the photos of the bulldozer breaking through the deadly border? Do you remember that picture? And the several other joyful and powerful images which came from the glorious Oct. 7?” she reportedly said in the video circulating online.
The case proceeded to the Municipal Court of Philadelphia County, where the court heard the two charges brought against Tarawneh and set bail of $0, according to the court docket. The case is currently active and awaiting a status hearing, according to the docket.
A University spokesperson confirmed the charges and that Tarawneh is currently a Penn student. She is not currently listed on the Penn Directory, a public resource that provides contact information for faculty, staff, students and Penn organizations.
"As this is a criminal matter, we will have no further comment," the spokesperson wrote.
According to Pennsylvania law, theft is not classified as a hate crime and cannot be prosecuted as such. The Pennsylvania criminal code states that hate crimes are classified as any instance of “ethnic intimidation” which relates to “arson, criminal mischief, and other property destruction,” “institutional vandalism,” or “criminal trespass.”
However, theft can be classified as a hate crime under The Clery Act, the federal law which requires colleges and universities to publish reports on campus crime data.
DPS has reported the incident to Penn and partner organizations as a “bias incident.”
Tarawneh previously wrote a guest column for the DP prior to the Palestine Writes Literature Festival in September.
DPS told the DP that "support services were provided to the complainant and all other affected individuals."
“Public Safety, University Life, and other resources are coordinating support for students who may be impacted,” DPS said in a statement. “Should you or others you know need support, please reach out to the resources below.”
PennComm Emergency Call Center: 215-573-3333 (available 24/7)
Penn’s HELP Line: 215-898-HELP (available 24/7)
Special Services (within Division of Public Safety): 215-898-6600
Employee Assistance Program: 866-799-2329
Student Health and Counseling: 215-746-9355
Student Intervention Services: 215-898-6081
Office of the Chaplain: 215-898-8456