A new report has documented “Israeli control over the Palestinian ICT infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza and its impact on the digital rights of the Palestinian people” – a form of “digital occupation of the Palestinian telecommunications sector”.
The report – “Connection Interrupted” – has been published by 7amleh – the Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media.
According to 7amleh, since Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories began in 1967, the Israeli authorities “took complete control of the ICT infrastructure and sector in the West Bank and Gaza, impeding development and blocking the establishment of an independent network”.
This also made “Palestinians entirely dependent on the Israeli occupation authorities”, states the report.
7amleh noted that Israel’s measures are “in defiance of the Oslo Accords, which stipulate that Israel must gradually transfer control over the ICT sector to the Palestinians, Israel has tightened its control over the Palestinian ICT infrastructure, resulting in severe violations of Palestinian digital rights.”
According to the report, “this digital occupation has resulted in the creation of a severe ICT gap between Palestinians and the rest of the world, violating several human rights including their right to access economic markets.”
“Additionally, Israel’s continuous control over the ICT infrastructure has enabled Israel to monitor all Palestinian online activity, violating their right to privacy and in many cases cooperating with social media companies to censor Palestinians online, a violation of their right to freedom of expression.”
The report also stresses the obligations of third-party states “to ensure that their policies do not recognise or support the illegal Israeli occupation and its practices and instead ensure that Israel abides by their international obligations as an occupying power.”
7amleh urges “an independent Palestinian ICT sector, including access to infrastructure and frequency spectrums, an immediate stop to illegal surveillance and monitoring of the Palestinian population, and for Israel to adhere to its responsibilities and duties as an occupying power.”
Palestinian men carry food aid given by UNRWA in Gaza City, Gaza on 15 January 2018
By Ramona Wadi
Palestinians are in dire need of humanitarian aid. So dire, in fact, that the EU has no qualms about conditioning financial aid in terms of acquiescence to the two-state paradigm.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is not an exception to this type of political blackmail. During a meeting with the organisation’s Commission General Pierre Krahenbuhl, EU Representative Federica Mogherini declared: “Supporting the agency means supporting peace and security in the Middle East. And this is in our strategic interest. UNRWA is essential for the very perspective of a two-state solution.”
UNRWA strives to maintain a purely humanitarian approach, as evidenced in its rhetoric. Yet its donors are politicising funds into “strategic interests”. The two-state hypothesis is also incompatible with the Palestinian right of return – the most Palestinians can hope for in such a scenario is a symbolic gesture that will only affect a small percentage of all Palestinian refugees. UNRWA’s mission is to provide access to basic services such as education and healthcare to Palestinian refugees. What, exactly, does the EU mean when it manipulates its aid into a strategic interest? And is UNRWA in a position to refute the organisation becoming part of the political meddling decided by the political powers?
If UNRWA is forced into reducing its services further due to lack of funding, Palestinian refugees will face additional hardships. Yet its mandate to function in response to the ramifications of political violence by Israel to which the EU and the rest of the world turns a blind eye is restrictive and not without reason, as decided by the oppressive political complicity which required UNRWA’s existence in the first place.
If the rights of Palestinian refugees are now being diminished further in order to accommodate the EU’s strategic interests related to the two-state imposition, UNRWA’s role is becoming jeopardised, not only by US President Donald Trump’s decision to redefine who qualifies as a Palestinian refugee. The EU’s role in subverting Palestinian rights is carried out openly and raises less controversy due to the fact that Trump has attracted global derision while the EU is still ensconced within a respectable façade.
We are told that the EU’s financial assistance to Palestinians “has a crucial impact” as regards humanitarian assistance. The EU should also be held accountable as to how its agenda is curtailing access to the rights of Palestinian refugees. Humanitarian aid is becoming problematic as the donors’ agenda will not allow the recipients to politicise their situation. Instead, it requires Palestinian refugees to become recipients without a cause, and that goes contrary to Palestinian anti-colonial struggle.
However, the conditioning of thought that Trump is a solitary, powerful enemy of the Palestinian prevails. Trump is not acting in a vacuum – his politics are exposing flaws in the international community which should have fuelled a masses’ internationalist solidarity with the Palestinians. On the contrary, political exploitation is gaining in strength through the expectation that people across the world remain shackled to aligning with what is conveyed as a respectable alternative.
The end result is creating a perception of the Palestinians from a prevailing colonial perspective. The only makeover is that instead of empires, we now speak of the EU.
Israeli soldiers handed, on Monday evening, an order for the demolition of a Palestinian home in Silwan town, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied East Jerusalem, and abducted a woman while leaving the holy site.
The soldiers handed the order to the home owner, Issa Ja’afra, informing him that his property will be demolished on January 27th, for “being built without a permit.”
They informed him that he can avoid the high fines and fees, if he demolished his home at his own expense before that date.
There are eight family members, including five children, living in the 70 square/meter home.
In 2016, the army demolished the family’s former home under the same allegations.
Besides the excessively high costs of obtaining permits from Israel, the Palestinians are almost always denied construction permits, including permits for modifying their properties or adding rooms to them.
This is happening while Israel continues the construction and expansion of its illegal colonies, in direct violation of International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Also in Jerusalem, the soldiers abducted a Palestinian woman, identified as Montaha Emara, as she was leaving the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In related news, the soldiers handed Jawad Siyam, the director of Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan (Silwanic), an order to head to the City Council for questioning.
Furthermore, an Israeli court, sentenced Mohammad Nidal ar-Razem, 22, from Jerusalem, to 54 months in prison, and a fine of 10.000 Shekels. The young man was taken prisoner on July 2nd, 2018.
The Higher Committee for the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege, on Tuesday, announced the launching of the 22nd maritime protest, at Gaza port, near the northern Israeli maritime separation fence.
“We Will Not Accept the Maritime Blockade” the committee named the protest.
The Committee called upon Gazans to rally and participate in the peaceful protest against the siege, and to affirm their right to the sea.
“We call the International community to immediately intervene and do its part to break the 13-year-old siege, and to stop the occupation’s crimes,” the Committee spokesperson added, according to Days of Palestine.
Medical sources have reported that 14 Palestinians were shot and injured, especially after the soldiers fired live round at more than Palestinian boats in Gaza territorial waters.
The Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip has confirmed that a Palestinian man died, Tuesday, from serious wounds he suffered, last Friday, after Israeli soldiers shot him during the Great Return March Procession.
The Health Ministry stated that the man, Samir Ghazi Nabahin, 47, was shot with a high-velocity gas bomb in the face, east of the al-Boreij refugee camp, in central Gaza.
It added that Nabahin was rushed to the Shifa Medical Center in Gaza, and received the urgently needed medical treatment, but remained in a critical condition until he succumbed to his wounds.
Also on Tuesday, the soldiers shot at least fourteen Palestinians with live fire, and caused eleven others to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, during the nonviolent naval procession near the shore of Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza.
The Health Ministry stated that one of the wounded Palestinians suffered a serious injury prior to the procession, while driving a bulldozer at the shore area in Beit Lahia.
The army and the navy fired many live rounds, in addition to gas bombs and concussion grenades at the boats, and the shore.
Furthermore, the soldiers shot a farmer while working on his land, in Beit Lahia, causing a moderate injury, before he was rushed to the Indonesia Hospital.
Since Mahmoud Abbas’s accession to the Palestinian Authority (PA) presidency in 2005, he has dominated the Palestinian political scene by consolidating his grip over various institutions while constraining opposition parties and figures. In addition to the split between Hamas and Fatah, which has been a formidable stumbling block for internal Palestinian politics, this has left little room for democracy and popular political participation. Indeed, Abbas is now entering a decade past his elected mandated term as PA president.
In December 2018, in a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive meeting, Abbas announced a new Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruling that called for the dissolution of the PA’s Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and for elections to be held within six months. The following day, Hamas rejected this, stating that the decision was not constitutional and that neither Abbas nor the SCC were permitted to dissolve the PLC. Hamas instead called for general elections for the presidency as well as for the PLC and the Palestinian National Council – the legislative body of the PLO.
This month, Abbas stated that the legislative elections would only take place if they include East Jerusalem. Yet the current Israeli regime has been clear that it would never allow for such Palestinian political activity in Jerusalem, as this would challenge Israeli claims of sovereignty over the entire city. Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee and chief negotiator, said that the dissolution of the PLC is part of the transition phase for the PA into statehood; he even went so far as to call for general elections for a constituent assembly for the state of Palestine. Yet this too is unlikely in the context of political fragmentation.
Knowing this and likely knowing that Hamas would challenge the ruling, why did Abbas and his allies dissolve the PLC? It is important to note that Hamas has dominated the PLC since the 2006 elections; it holds 76 seats out of 132, while Fatah only holds 43 seats. However, since the split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the PLC has been a dormant body, leaving the PA legislative process stagnant. Abbas has increasingly ruled by presidential decree in the face of this lack of an effective legislature. The dissolution of the PLC would allow Abbas to consolidate his power further by moving much of the decision-making process to the PLO Central Council, in which Hamas does not exist. In this way, Abbas can increase political pressure on Hamas.Through the dissolution of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Abbas can place the blame for a lack of democracy on Hamas and Israel Click To Tweet
The Basic Law (essentially the constitution) also contains a clause stating that if the president is unable to fulfil their role (that is, if they die), the chair of the PLC takes up the position for 60 days before a general election. The current chair of the PLC is Aziz Duwaik, a Hamas member.
It is also likely that Abbas wanted to decrease pressure from the international community to democratize the PA’s institutions and political processes. Through this move Abbas can place the blame for a lack of democracy (and unity) on Hamas, which is refuting the legitimacy of the dissolution of the PLC, and Israel, who will not allow elections in East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Palestinian confidence in the political system continues to dwindle, particularly among youth. The PA is increasingly criticized for its corruption, repression of opposition, and inability to stand up to Israel, which continues to tighten its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and apply collective punitive measures on all Palestinians. This has created a situation in which a Palestinian political system cannot flourish. Israel frequently imprisons Palestinian political figures, some of whom, such as Marwan Barghouti and Khalida Jarrar, have suffered lengthy incarcerations. In addition, Israel’s policies are designed to weaken and divide the Palestinian liberation movement. Overall, Israel has created a situation in the West Bank and Gaza in which, for most Palestinians, basic survival now supersedes political organizing and participation.
Increasing Democratic Space
It is clear that the PA will not achieve Palestinian liberation, nor will it be able to establish any kind of Palestinian sovereignty. Reform and revival of PLO institutions must be prioritized by those within the leadership who seek to democratize Palestinian politics. Focus must be on the decentralization of power and governance within the PLO; this would reduce the PA’s grip on the PLO’s overall liberation project. Within this process credible mechanisms of vertical and horizontal accountability must be established.
Political elites in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are influential within the security apparatus; this conflation must be rectified as it has resulted in increasing authoritarian, securitized measures against political activity that challenges the status quo.
Palestinian civil society and activists across historic Palestine and the diaspora need to call for a democratically elected, accountable, and representative leadership. This must be a collective call with measures to protect those who are vulnerable to repression and harassment from the security forces.
The international community needs to step up its efforts to pressure the Israeli regime to respect Palestinian rights. This includes allowing Palestinian democratic processes to take place in East Jerusalem in accordance with international law.
Furthermore, the international community must cease to encourage the domination of one political party or faction through its no contact policy with Hamas and others and through its designation of the majority of Palestinian political parties as “terrorist organizations.” It needs to show readiness to embrace a unified Palestinian leadership with all parties and factions represented.