The Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media -7amleh has found that two-thirds of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel are afraid of sharing their political opinions online.
A poll carried out by 7amleh found that “76 per cent of Palestinian youth access the internet via smartphone for periods of 5.5 hours per day.”
It also found that “two-thirds of Palestinian youth afraid to express their political opinions online” and one-third of Palestinian youth are punished by their families for sharing their political views.
Entitled “Silenced Net: The Chilling Effect among Palestinian Youth in Social Media”, the report found that the current legal, political and social environment is having a significant impact on the political activity of Palestinian youth on the internet.
“Palestinians are subject to repression as a result of the policies and practices of several authorities including Israel who routinely uses Palestinians private information from social media in their surveillance, interrogations, arrests, and prosecutions,” the poll found.
Therefore, Palestinian youth self-censor after seeing family, friends, and journalists arrested.
7amleh’s poll also found that Palestinian citizens of Israel do not share their political views online because they are afraid of losing their jobs or education opportunities.
In March this year, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre (PPC) revealed that Israel had arrested more than 500 Palestinians, including women and children, as a result of their social media posts by May last year.
The occupation state uses its “Cyber Unit” to monitor Palestinian social media posts, the centre added.
In December last year, Adalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel accused media giants of collaborating with Israeli authorities to censor user content.
According to official data, the group continued, in 2016 the unit submitted 2,241 content removal requests, of which 69 per cent of posts were duly removed. In 2017, the unit submitted a massive number of 12,351 content removal requests, 85 per cent of which were removed.
Months earlier, in July, the Israeli Knesset passed the first reading of what is called the Facebook Bill which would authorise the court to issue orders to delete internet content “if it harmed the human safety, public, economic, state or vital infrastructure safety”.
This was halted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of fears that under the bill’s format, police could ask a court to remove anything from the Internet without the person who put it online even being able to respond in court.
Britain is yet to acknowledge its historic responsibility for the calamitous situation facing the Palestinians
Britain’s major role in the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 is no secret and has been well-documented by historians. The mainstream media, meanwhile, has for decades addressed the Palestinian issue as something that dates back to the 1967 Six Day War, ignoring the fact that the conflict was by then already at least 50 years old. It was in 1917 that the British government voiced its support for a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. The letter in which this was set out became known as the Balfour Declaration.
The centenary of Balfour was marked by Britain’s then Prime Minister, Theresa May, inviting her Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, to commemorate the anniversary “with pride”. This was despite the fact that over 13,500 people had signed a parliamentary petition launched by the Palestinian Return Centre calling for the government to apologise to the Palestinians. The PRC pointed out that Britain’s pro-Israel colonial policy had caused “mass displacement” and a massive, ongoing injustice.
The government remained steadfast in its denial. “The Balfour Declaration is a historic statement for which Her Majesty’s Government does not intend to apologise,” a spokesperson declared. “We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel.”
Britain is yet to acknowledge its historic responsibility for the calamitous situation facing the Palestinians. Successive governments have avoided the injustice by simply making statements of goodwill, instead of progressive actions to end the Israeli occupation and support the Palestinian right to self-determination.
This year, though, the Palestinian ambassador in London, Dr Husam Zomlot, hopes that things will be different. He arrived in Britain in September last year, after being expelled from the US. The Trump administration shut down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington, and he relocated to the UK to head the mission in London, where he had lived as a student. His PhD is from the University of London.
The British government has never recognised the state of Palestine. According to the ambassador, this omission is “neither legal nor strategic” as it is the one step that will be the most progressive towards achieving the two-state solution, which is Britain’s professed preference.
“It’s what they owe with Britain‘s historic responsibility with the Balfour Declaration contributing to where we are now,” he explained. “And if you keep arguing that the recognition of the Palestinian state will only be an outcome of negotiations, then why did you recognise the state of Israel when we haven’t reached the final resolution yet?”
British fears about the political cost of recognition and Israel’s reaction to it helps neither the Palestinians nor, indeed, the Israelis, argued Zomlot. He narrowed the solutions down to two options: either “unrecognise” Israel and “level the playing field” so both states are equal in status; or recognise the state of Palestine based on its own policy. He believes that the latter would be the most “helpful and constructive”.
The Palestinian ambassador thinks that we need to see a clear signal from Britain and the international community that positive action is under way. He cited the fact that the Gaza Strip, home to nearly two million people, has been under an Israeli-led siege for more than a decade. Given the ongoing human rights violations and crimes against the Palestinians by Israel, why is such a signal not forthcoming? Recognition might do the job.
He finds it amusing that diplomats still talk about “working towards” two states, while simultaneously displaying a carefully measured amount of sympathy for the people of Palestine. Meanwhile, the number of Jewish colonists living on occupied Palestinian land – illegally, under international law – keeps increasing. Nobody, least of all the British government, does or says anything about this fact, apart from a few meaningless platitudes.
According to the official Palestinian Authority Wafa news agency, Israel has used the recent Jewish holidays of Sukkot and Yom Kippur as cover for its ongoing settlement expansion. A statement issued by the PA Foreign Ministry said that the Israeli activities during the Jewish holidays included incitement and aggression against Palestinians and their property, as well as the occupation of more Palestinian land. Moreover, Anadolu Agency reports that the Israeli government has advanced plans to build 251 more settlement units in the occupied West Bank.
Precisely 137 countries have officially recognised the state of Palestine, but Britain and the US have not. Indeed, successive US administrations have been consistently pro-Israel. President Donald Trump broke with protocol and international law last year when he recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transferred the US Embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.
Despite this lack of recognition, Dr Zomlot commends Britain for its financial support for the Palestinian Authority as well as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which strives to meet the basic needs of Palestinian refugees. The agency is facing serious financial difficulties and an existential threat from Israel and its allies at the UN.
The ambassador insists that Britain is uniquely placed to give a lead by recognising Palestine now and championing internationalism for urgent peace-making, which will require the implementation of international resolutions. “The UK is very clear that this is a situation of military occupation, that’s why in the official terminology of the Foreign Office and the government, it’s the ‘Palestinian occupied territories’ or the ‘occupied Palestinian territory’,” he noted. “It has also been a main supporter of the Palestinian Authority for many decades, and we appreciate its strong position over the past few years in the face of Trump’s actions by publicly opposing his position on Jerusalem.”
Dr Zomlot added that Britain has also been very clear in its stance on Netanyahu’s threat to annex illegal settlements in the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, which alone is home to 65,000 Palestinians. Nevertheless, Israel is one of Britain’s top 50 trading partners, according to The Spectator; £2.3 billion worth of vehicles and machinery is sold to Israel annually and £1.6 billion worth of plastics and minerals is bought by Britain in return, even as the Zionist state continues to abuse Palestinian rights systematically.
Banning settlement produce from being imported into Britain is just one of the strategies that Britain could adopt to prevent any further destruction in Palestine, stressed the Palestinian ambassador. “By law, it is clear that products of settlements are illegal and it is important for the UK to prevent British companies who are there for economic reasons from operating in illegal settlements using stolen water and resources. Nothing would help the cause of peace more than banning illegal activity and upholding the law, across the board.”
Although the majority of global conflicts have been resolved by international mechanisms, Palestine has been the only exception. For Ambassador Zomlot, this is a mistake. The Israeli government led by Netanyahu has fighting openly against the two-state solution by its illegal actions, which have intensified over the years. “There is a clear attempt by Netanyahu to dismantle the peace process. If you follow what Netanyahu is doing, he’s trying to focus on attacking three main entities, the first of which is the Palestinian Authority itself. The second is UNWRA, one of the most important organisations that provides services to refugees in Palestine and more than two thirds of the people in Gaza. The third is his attack on Palestinian civil society and its call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli regime.
“In such a situation, Britain and the rest of the world must pause and decide what to do. If this continues, it’s just a matter of time until Netanyahu can finally smile on camera and declare the death of the ‘two state’ solution.”
The Palestinian ambassador is keen on direct engagement with the public, including young people. Last month, he attended a meeting in Sheffield City Hall, where councillors passed a motion unanimously to recognise the sovereign state of Palestine, making it the first city in the UK to do so. Like most councils in northern England, Sheffield is controlled by the Labour Party. It hopes that its bold move will increase pressure on the Conservative government in Westminster to follow suit.
Dr Zomlot has visited All Saints Catholic School in Dagenham to see its work looking at the connections between the UK and Palestine after studying about rivers in Jericho, thought to be one of the oldest cities in the world. Furthermore, students from Bewdley Secondary School near Kidderminster have visited the Palestine Mission to ask the ambassador about Palestine and the Palestinian people.
“These are the leaders of the future. Regrettably, previous generations of young Britons have been subjected to a barrage of disinformation and misinformation. Youngsters as young as six or seven should learn the correct message, so when they are exposed to propaganda and deliberate disinformation, they can challenge them.”
The most important thing, concluded Dr Husam Zomlot, is that he and his small staff are being proactive and taking a bottom-up approach. “This is long-term because we want change in the UK and its relations with Palestine to be sustainable and everlasting.”
British recognition of the state of Palestine would help to reduce the risk of the two-state solution becoming irrelevant, and would be powerfully symbolic. However, it will not be enough to restore the damage that years of occupation has inflicted on the Palestinians. It can never be the only solution, but it could be the first, significant step on the road to a genuine and lasting peace based on international resolutions and justice.
A Palestinian worker spends more than 70 per cent of his earnings on illegal trade of Israeli work permits
Some 20,000 Palestinian workers paid $140 million to brokers and Israeli employers in order to get permits allowing them to work in Israel, Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed on Tuesday.
The workers make up 33 per cent of all Palestinian labourers in Israel, the paper added.
According to the report, workers paid $400 and $700 a month to get a permit, but field activists in the Israeli rights groups Kav La’Oved and Machsom Watch said they “heard of higher amounts being charged for each permit.”
In December 2016, the Israel government decided to implement reforms that would gradually eliminate the link between Palestinian workers and specific employer in order to make it easy for the workers to get work permits without brokers.
However, Haaretz said: “Implementation has been slower than promised.”
According to the website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Haaretz said, “before the autumn Jewish holidays this year, 81,000 Palestinians were working in Israel.”
“Some 27,000 of them bought their work permits, and the profits accruing to the permit trading network in the first nine months of the year reached 122 million shekels [$34.5 million].”
Each worker, Haaretz said, paid between $425 and $700 a month, stating that this amount was estimated about “one-third and one-half of their potential earning power in Israel.”
In some cases, the cost of work permits and the lack of regular employment meant Palestinians were taking “home only a few hundred shekels each month,” which amounts to under $200.
Palestinian workers who buy permits also do not enjoy social benefits, including medical care of insurance which leaves them vulnerable to loss of earnings if they suffer an injury at work.
One worker who, “for four months now, he has been stuck at home after suffering an accident at an Israeli construction site.
“His employer and the broker have turned their backs on him. He says his employer even threatened to fire the workers who witnessed the accident to prevent them from testifying in court.”
A list of blocked websites includes Arab48, Wattan TV, Shehab News Agency, Quds News Network, Gaza Now, Metras and others.
No Israeli websites have been blocked.
Groups condemn PA decision
Palestinian political parties and journalist syndicates condemned the PA’s decision.
“The Palestinian Authority is burying its head in the sand by trying to prevent freedom of expression and returning national media to the darkness that the Israeli occupation sought to return it to and couldn’t,” Husam Badran, member of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, stated on Monday.
“The new ban can only mean that the Palestinian Authority and the occupation are fighting on the same side against Palestinian national expression and its exposure of the occupation’s violations, and of corruption and crime.”
The Committee to Support Journalists in Palestine also condemned the PA’s “unjust” decision and demanded it be reversed.
The Palestinian Youth Media Group called the ban a “massacre of freedom” that only serves “the Israeli narrative.”
Prisoners solidarity group Samidoun said the ban revealed the PA’s “fear of a popular explosion against it similar to the Arab revolutions, the latest of which is Lebanon.”
Meanwhile, Facebook took down the page of the news website Palestinian Information Center on its platform earlier this month.
The publication said Facebook gave it no prior notice or justification.
The Arabic-language page had some five million followers, according to its website.
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) reported an increase in violations against media freedoms in September, mostly done by Facebook.
Facebook closed 34 Palestinian news pages and accounts of journalists based in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip that month claiming that they “violate the rules of the Facebook community,” MADA reported.
Destroyed homes are seen after Israel carried out air strikes in Gaza on 5 May 2019
Palestinian MP Jamal Al-Khodari revealed yesterday that there is a $200 million deficit in the budget for the reconstruction of homes destroyed during the Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2014, Quds Press reported.
In a press release, Al-Khodari said that many regional donors have not fulfilled pledges they gave five years ago, following the devastating Israeli offensive.
Al-Khodari called for the donors to meet their commitments regarding the rebuilding of destroyed homes, considering this an “ethical, humanitarian and legal” commitment.
Meanwhile, he stressed on the importance of lifting the 13-year-old Israeli siege, which paralysed all aspects of life in Gaza, which suffers from a severe lack of residential units to meet the needs of its population.
He stressed that the Israeli siege on Gaza is illegal and breaches all international laws and conventions, including the Geneva Conventions and the International Declaration of Human Rights.
The Gaza Strip has suffered as a result of the siege which has been imposed by Israel, with support from Egypt and the international community. Goods, food, aid, construction materials and other essentials have not been allowed into the Strip and people have been left unable to leave even to access medical care.
The General Federation of Palestinian Labour Unions reported last year that as a result of the siege, unemployment in the enclave almost doubled to 50 per cent, rising from 27.2 per cent before 2007.
Due to the ban on the entry of fuel, Gaza’s sole electricity plant has been forced to shut down leaving civilians with only 4 hours of electricity a day; further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.
A report released by the UN last month raised concerns that the Strip is “de-developing” faster than anticipated, such that the 2020 deadline by which it was said that Gaza would be “unliveable” may have already arrived.
The Palestinian Authority has blocked 59 Palestinian and Arabic websites including Quds News Network
The Palestinian Authority has blocked 59 Palestinian and Arabic websites, including Quds News Network sites, following a decision by a local Magistrates’ Court. Palestinians are angered at the decision which was revealed yesterday, as not a site single on the blocked list is Israeli.
Quds News challenged the PA’s decision to block its website for “harming civil peace”. According to the news network this move “reflects the [PA’s] repression of the press.”
It added that decision is “an obvious violation of the international standards on the freedom of speech, which comes while Palestinian [online] content fights to survive against efforts by Israeli and social media platforms, which intend to eliminate it.” Quds News urged the PA to stop such action as it will lead to the weakening or blocking of the Palestinian narrative.
Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian American writer based in Ramallah, expressed her frustration at the consistent suppression of Palestinian’s voices. “The Palestinian Authority and all of its institutions,” she wrote on Twitter, “insist on attacking Palestinian free speech, suppressing dissent, repressing critique, with no accountability for its corruption, while continuing to arrest youth.”
Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip held protests against the PA’s decision today. “We followed with concern the decision of the Magistrate’s Court in Ramallah regarding 60 Palestinian sites. We condemn this decision and consider it a violation of public freedoms,” Alaa Salama, coordinator of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, said.
“What is needed is to honor the Palestinian journalist and the media, who have long been fighting the Israeli narrative.”
“The correct measure is to block Israeli media and news sites which spread poison daily to the Palestinian people,” he added.
Headed by judge Mohammed Hussein, the court’s decision issued last week claimed that such sites which publish pictures and articles threaten Palestinian national security and civil peace, as well as disrupt public order and morals, and arouse Palestinian public opinion.
Hossam Badran, a member of the Hamas Political Bureau, accused the court of “burying its head in the sand in its attempts to prevent freedom of expression, returning the [Palestinian] national press to the darkness sought by the Israeli occupation.” He called on the PA to respect international law and conventions that guarantee freedom of opinion and expression, and the right of every citizen to have access to information and expression.
“Of course, Abbas will block Arabi21 website and he would die to provide a platform for Zionist journalists, who adopt anti-Palestinian opinions and who do not hesitate to criticise even Abbas himself and the corruption of his authority,” tweeted Saleh Na’ami, a Palestinian writer specialising in Israeli affairs. “If you feel no shame, then do as you wish.”
The head of the Palestinian Commission for Human Rights, Ammar Dweik, says that his organisation will appeal against the ruling, which “restricts free reporting and free speech.”
The largest Palestinian refugee camp, Yarmouk in Syria on 21 June 2017
After eight years of war in Syria, 4,002 Palestinian refugees have been killed, including 487 women, according to the monitoring and documentation team of the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS).
In a report, the organisation pointed out that 1,987 Palestinians were killed in Palestinian refugee camps and communities up to 21 October, up from 1,953 victims until the same date last year.
According to statistics, Yarmouk camp in Damascus topped the list of areas where Palestinians were most at risk, with 1,457 deaths recorded there as a result of the siege, destruction and attempts to regain control of the camp.
Some 266 victims were reported in Daraa camp in southern Syria, 203 in Khan Al-Sheikh camp in Damascus’ countryside, 181 in Al-Neirab camp, Aleppo, and 124 in Al-Husseinieh camp. A further 188 victims were documented but could not be identified, according to AGPS’ report.
Palestinian women protest at the Erez crossing in Gaza calling for an end to the siege
Scores of Palestinian women protested at the Israeli controlled Erez crossing in the besieged Gaza Strip this morning calling for an end to the siege.
Organised by the Higher Committee of the Great Return March and Breaking Gaza Siege, the demonstration highlighted the suffering of women in the Strip as a result of the ongoing 12-year long Israeli siege on Gaza.
Huda Hassan, a university graduate and activist said: “Some 17,000 to 18,000 university students graduating each year who have not been able to find work. “Even the industrial and production sectors, which used to offer more than 120,000 job opportunities, now do not offer more than 7,000 opportunities,” she added.
The construction sector is practically stagnant as a result of the inability to import the necessary equipment. Construction used to offer some 70,000 job opportunities in the enclave.
Representative of the committee, Iktimal Hamad, said: “Palestinian women are the main victims of the siege of Gaza; She is the mother, wife, daughter, teacher, student, doctor and patient. She suffers from all aspects of the illegal blockade.”
“She is a wife to a murdered husband and a mother to a murdered son. And yet she, herself, is a legitimate target for Israeli soldiers, yet we continue to protest and speak out for our rights.”
Mother of nine-month-old Mohammad Mohaysin, who Israel banned from accompanying her sick baby on his trip to the occupied West Bank to access treatment, explained her bitterness at being prevented from being by his side. “I am not the only women to be prevented from accompanying my baby, there are scores more. I am lucky though as my toddler has the chance to travel and get treatment, there are thousands of children prevented from traveling and dozens died while waiting for the Israeli permission to travel through this crossing.”
Mohammad is currently receiving treatment in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron where Palestinian Envar Irfaiyye has been caring for him since 8 October.
“His mother calls me with video talk then we talk. They became very happy when they saw him, all of his relatives became present during the conversation to see him,” Envar said. Protesters called on the international community and human rights institutions to stand up for Palestinian rights and bring an end to the unjust siege of Gaza.