‘Israel’ arrests 14-year-old over “soot on his hands”

An Israeli court extended Muhammad Haj Yahya’s house arrest considering soot, found on his hands, as a proof of throwing stones

Occupied Palestine (QNN)- An Israeli court extended the house arrest of Muhammad Haj Yahya (14 years old) for extra ten days, considering soot on his hands as proof that he took part in protests and threw stones at Israeli occupation forces.

the Israeli prosecution filed a lawsuit before the Israeli Central Court in ‘Petah Tikva’ on Monday, claiming that the boy was throwing stones and taking part in protests in the 1948-occupied territories.

Sanaa, Muhammad’s mother, said that the Israelis claimed that finding soot on her son’s hands is proof that he threw stones. However, she stressed that the reason why Muhammad’s hands were covered with soot was that he fell on the ground while he was running away from Israeli soldiers, who opened fire at Muhammad and his friends while they were playing.

Israeli cops arrested Muhammad wounding his leg with a rubber-coated metal bullet and took him to an unknown place before they started beating him up.

Sanaa sais that a doctor, who treated Muhammad’s leg, advised her to take him for a psychiatrist but the Israeli police prevented them.

(Source / 31.05.2021)

Israel continues to prevent the entry of goods and fuel into Gaza

Closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the economic lifeline in Gaza
Closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the economic lifeline in Gaza

Days of Palestine – The Israeli occupation authorities continue to close the only Kerem Shalom commercial crossing in the Gaza Strip, for the twentieth consecutive day and prevent the entry of goods, supplies, and fuel to the people of the Strip.

The Committee for the Coordination of the Entry of Goods into Gaza said today, Monday, in a press statement: “The occupation has closed the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing, since the start of the military aggression on Gaza on May 11, and despite reaching a ceasefire agreement, the occupation prevents the entry of goods.” The supplies and the needs of the people of the Gaza Strip are “under flimsy pretexts.”

Read More: BREAKING: Israeli forces prevent entry of meals for the fasting Muslims in Aqsa Mosque

The occupation authorities prevent the entry of fuel, including diesel, gasoline, and gas, in addition to preventing the pumping of industrial diesel to operate the only power plant in Gaza, which has caused severe electricity shortages in the vital sectors in Gaza, including the health sector, hospitals, and the sewage sector.

Because of the power cuts, some Gaza municipalities were forced to discharge untreated wastewater into the environment and into the sea; which poses a threat to the lives of citizens and the marine environment.

Read More: Israeli forces attack Christians in Jerusalem, prevent them from reaching Church

(Source / 31.05.2021)

Occupation police run over Palestinian child for raising Palestinian flag

OCCUPIED AL-QUDS, PALESTINOW.COM — The Israeli police attacked on Sunday evening the 15-year-old Palestinian child, Jawad Abbasi, in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood in Silwan town, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied Jerusalem, for raising the Palestinian flag on his bicycle.

Eyewitnesses reported that three Israeli police officers followed the child Abbasi with their vehicle as he was riding a bicycle and ran over him under the pretext that he had raised the Palestinian flag on his bike. He was wounded in his leg.

The eyewitnesses added that the occupation police detained the child Abbasi for some time before he was taken for treatment.

(Source / 31.05.2021)

A Day After Israel Decided To annex 560 Dunams, Israeli Colonists Occupy 3 Dunams, A Well

Illegal Israeli colonists occupied, Friday, three Dunams of Palestinian lands, and a well, in Kisan village, east of Bethlehem, south of occupied Jerusalem in the West Bank.

Ahmad Ghazal, the deputy-mayor of Kisan village, said dozens colonists invaded Palestinian lands and occupied three dunams to build a new illegal outpost.

He added that the lands are in al-Haj Meadow, close to the illegal Maale Amos and Ibei HaNahal colonies, built on private Palestinian lands.

The colonists started bulldozing the lands and preparing for an electricity network, in addition to brings chairs, seats, and umbrellas to prepare for a new illegal outpost.

They also illegally annexed a Palestinian well used by the Palestinians, including shepherds and farmers in the area.

Ghazal stated that the colonists are trying to establish an area for Israeli tourism and picnics on the private Palestinian lands.

On Thursday, the Israeli occupation authorities decided to build 560 colonialist units in Maale Amos illegal colony, and 90 in Ibei HaNahal.

Maale Amos is built on Palestinian lands in Kisan and Rashayda villages, and Ibei Hanahal was constructed on lands owned by Kisan village.

Two days ago, the colonists occupied an old Jordanian army base, and its surrounding lands to establish a new outpost, in the Rashayda village.

(Source / 29.05.2021)

Army Injures 22 Palestinians Near Nablus

Israeli soldiers injured, Friday, at least twenty-two Palestinians during a nonviolent procession against the illegal colonialist activities and takeover of Palestinian lands, in Abu Sbeih Mountain in Beita village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Local sources said dozens of Palestinians marched to their mountain and performed noon prayers on their lands.

Israeli soldiers then invaded the area and started firing live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs, and concussion grenades at the Palestinians to force them away.

Medical sources said two Palestinians were shot with live rounds, three with the rubber-coated steel bullets, 15 suffered the severe effects of tear gas inhalation, and two sustained cuts and bruises after falling while the soldiers were chasing them.

It is worth mentioning that the Israeli colonialist settlers have attempted to install an illegal outpost on the Palestinian lands on the top of the mountain, but the locals were able to stop them and removed their outposts,

However, enjoying the protection of the Israeli army, the colonists recently brought more than 20 mobile homes to create their outpost.

(Source / 29.05.2021)

Palestinian Forced To Demolish His Home And Farm Near Bethlehem

The Israeli army forced Saturday, a Palestinian to demolish his own home and farm in the al-Freidis area, east of Bethlehem city, south of occupied Jerusalem in the West Bank.

The Palestinian, Mahmoud al-Wahsh, said he was forced to demolish his 60 square/meter home, and the 40 square/meter farm, under the pretext of being built without a permit from the “Civil Administration Office,” the administrative branch of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

He added that the family had to demolish their own properties, otherwise the army would demolish them using its equipment and bill them for the demolition costs in addition to the excessively high fines and fees.

The area where the property is built in under full Israeli control, and lacks basic infrastructure, in addition to severe restrictions on constructions or expansion of the existing property.

According to data from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), the Israeli occupation authorities have demolished 865 structures in the occupied territory in the year 2020, displacing 1014 Palestinians, in addition to affecting 5615 Palestinians.

It added that, in April of this year 2021, 22 Palestinian structures were demolished, in addition to two in the Al-Arakib Bedouin village in the Negev, and that 13 Palestinians were displaced in addition to 95 others who were affected by the demolitions.

(Source / 29.05.2021)

Israeli Soldiers Abduct Two Palestinians In Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers abducted, Saturday, two Palestinians, including the father of a young man who was killed by the army in the year 2019.

Media sources said the soldiers invaded the al-‘Isawiya town in Jerusalem and searched homes before abducting the two Palestinians.

They added that the soldiers abducted Wasim Nayef Obeid and Samir Obeid, before moving them to an interrogation facility.

It is worth mentioning that Samir Obeid is the father of Mohammad, 21, who was killed by when an Israeli soldier shot him with several live rounds, including one in the heart, on June 27, 2019.

(Source / 29.05.2021)

Army Injures Several Palestinians In Ni’lin

Israeli soldiers shot, Saturday, a young Palestinian man with live fire, and caused many to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, in Ni’lin village, west of the central West Bank city of Ramallah.

Media sources said the soldiers attacked nonviolent protesters, who were marching against the illegal annexation of Palestinian lands in the Jabal Al-Alam area, where Israeli colonists recently installed an outpost.

They added that the soldiers fired many live rounds at the protesters, wounding a young man with three bullets in the leg.

The soldiers also fired many gas bombs and concussion grenades at the protesters, causing many to suffer the effects of tear gas inhalation.

In addition, the soldiers closed the iron gate at the main entrance of the village and prevented the Palestinians from entering or leaving it.

(Source / 29.05.2021)

Biden, Palestine, and the buttressing of Christian Zionism

Biden’s position on Israel-Palestine does not constitute any real shift from that of Trump and thus similarly gratifies the desires of Christian Zionists

 President Joe Biden speaks during a community event at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020

By Mimi Kirk

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer recently urged Israel to prioritise maintaining the support of American evangelical Christians over that of American Jews. “People have to understand that the backbone of Israel’s support in the United States is the evangelical Christians,” he said, pointing to the fact that evangelicals comprise about a quarter of Americans while Jews make up less than two percent of the population. He also noted that it’s “very rare” for evangelicals to criticise Israel, while American Jews are “disproportionately among [Israel’s] critics”.

Indeed, white evangelicals were a significant portion of Donald Trump’s base, with 81 percent voting for him in 2016, and he catered to them through such Israel-friendly moves as the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and support for settlements and Israeli annexation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Though President Biden may use less crude rhetoric and have reinstated humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, his position does not constitute any real shift from that of Trump and thus similarly gratifies the desires of evangelicals.

Evangelical devotion to Israel was on full display in a recent sermon by John Hagee, senior pastor at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee is also the founder and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, the main US Christian Zionist organisation that boasts 10 million members. About 80 percent of evangelicals espouse Christian Zionism, the belief that the modern state of Israel is the result of Biblical prophecy, namely the notion that 4,000 years ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and the rapture – at which time Jews must convert to Christianity or be sent to hell.

Though Hagee had originally planned to speak on marriage and commitment on Sunday, May 16, he shifted to a sermon titled “The Battle for Jerusalem” given recent events in Palestine: attempted expulsions of Palestinians from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Israeli settlers; raids by Israeli security forces of Al-Aqsa Mosque; and Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, which killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children. Israel has reported 12 dead, including two children, from Hamas rocket fire.

Numerous analysts including Noura Erakat, Mariam Barghouti, Yara Hawari, and Rashid Khalidi have pointed to recent events as the latest in Israel’s expansionist, Zionist settler-colonial project that aims to dispossess Palestinians and Judaise the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – a project in contravention of international law.

Of course, Christian Zionists see the situation very differently.

In his sermon, Hagee hit the main Christian Zionist talking points, hammering home the idea that God gave the land to the Jewish people, that Jews are the “apple of God’s eye”, and that when Jesus returns he will rule the earth from Jerusalem. “I long for that day,” intoned Hagee.

Hagee also shared his theory about the latest violence, placing sole blame on Hamas and arguing that Russia and Iran put Hamas up to it, ultimately stressing that Russia and China are working to push America’s presence out of the Middle East. “This is a direct challenge of America’s ability to defend Israel,” he said, warning that if the United States does not support Israel, God will not support the United States. This Israel-related prosperity gospel purports that good things – in terms of financial as well as physical wellbeing – are God’s will for those who “bless Israel”.

Hagee criticised Biden and his administration during the sermon, insinuating that Biden is always ineffectively dawdling “in the basement” – an insult of Biden favoured by Trump – and that the current leadership is “trying to get us to forget God”. In contrast, he praised former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a Christian Zionist, as a “dedicated Christian” and “a wonderful man of God”. “Pompeo is the kind of man we need in national leadership,” Hagee said in comments before the sermon, “not someone that hides in the basement all the time.”

Yet Hagee did not criticise Biden’s response to events in Palestine-Israel – and no wonder, as the Biden administration’s response does not fundamentally deviate from the support Trump or, indeed, past US administrations have shown Israel.

The Biden administration’s statements framed the violence in terms of Israel’s “right to defend itself” from Hamas, rather than acknowledge the reality of an Israeli colonial project and ethnic cleansing campaign against Palestinians. It also blocked a statement by the UN Security Council calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and criticising Israel’s expulsion of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. In addition, the Biden administration approved $735 million in arms sales to Israel.

Despite Biden’s stance, there are solid signs of a Democratic shift in the US in favour of Palestinian rights. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a House resolution to block those arms sales, and Senator Bernie Sanders did the same in the Senate. Representative Betty McCollum has also put forward legislation that prohibits US taxpayer dollars from funding Israeli human rights violations. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar sharply criticised Biden’s response to recent events.

Effective, sustained organising by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as intersectional work between Palestine advocates and movements like Black Lives Matter, have helped to push for this change and will ensure that it continues. But in the meantime, whether Hagee realises or acknowledges it, he and Christian Zionism have, while perhaps not a straightforward ally in the Biden administration, a leadership whose failure to stand up for what is just mimics their own support of Israel – just minus the rapture part.

(Source / 29.05.2021)

Facebook’s AI treats Palestinian activists like it treats American Black activists. It blocks them

Palestinian activists are fighting back against a history of takedowns with one-star reviews and ancient Arabic

Just days after violent conflict erupted in Israel and the Palestinian territories, both Facebook and Twitter copped to major faux pas: The companies had wrongly blocked or restricted millions of mostly pro-Palestinian posts and accounts related to the crisis.

Activists around the world charged the companies with failing a critical test: whether their services would enable the world to watch an important global event unfold unfettered through the eyes of those affected.

The companies blamed the errors on glitches in artificial intelligence software.

In Twitter’s case, the company said its service mistakenly identified the rapid-firing tweeting during the confrontations as spam, resulting in hundreds of accounts being temporarily locked and the tweets not showing up when searched for. Facebook-owned Instagram gave several explanations for its problems, including a software bug that temporarily blocked video-sharing and saying its hate speech detection software misidentified a key hashtag as associated with a terrorist group.

The companies said the problems were quickly resolved and the accounts restored. But some activists say many posts are still being censored. Experts in free speech and technology said that’s because the issues are connected to a broader problem: overzealous software algorithms that are designed to protect but end up wrongly penalizing marginalized groups that rely on social media to build support. Black Americans, for example, have complained for years that posts discussing race are incorrectly flagged as problematic by AI software on a routine basis, with little recourse for those affected.

Despite years of investment, many of the automated systems built by social media companies to stop spam, disinformation and terrorism are still not sophisticated enough to detect the difference between desirable forms of expression and harmful ones. They often overcorrect, as in the most recent errors during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or they under-enforce, allowing harmful misinformation and violent and hateful language to proliferate, including hoaxes about coronavirus vaccines and violent posts ahead of the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.

The Palestinian situation erupted into a full-blown public relations and internal crisis for Facebook. Last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg dispatched the company’s top policy executive, Nick Clegg, to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leadership, according to the company. Meanwhile, Palestinians launched a campaign to knock down Facebook’s ranking in app stores by leaving one-star reviews. The incident was designated “severity 1” — the company’s term for a sitewide emergency, according to internal documents reviewed by The Washington Post and first reported by NBC. The documents noted that Facebook executives reached out to Apple, Google, and Microsoft to request that the posts be deleted.

Meanwhile, a group of 30 Facebook employees, some of whom said they had friends and family affected by the conflict, have complained of “over-enforcement” on the Palestinian content in an open letter on the company’s workforce messaging boards, according to another set of internal documents reviewed by The Post. The group has filed at least 80 tickets to report “false positives” with the company’s automation systems in relation to the conflict, noting many of the problems were with the AI mistakenly labeling images of protests as “harassment or bullying.”

Jillian York, a director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group that opposes government surveillance, has researched tech company practices in the Middle East. She said she doesn’t believe that content moderation — human or algorithmic — can work at scale.

“Ultimately, what we’re seeing here is existing offline repression and inequality being replicated online, and Palestinians are left out of the policy conversation,” York said.

Facebook spokeswoman Dani Lever said the company’s “policies are designed to give everyone a voice while keeping them safe on our apps, and we apply these policies equally.” She added that Facebook has a dedicated team of Arabic and Hebrew speakers closely monitoring the situation on the ground, but declined to say whether any were Palestinian. In an Instagram post May 7, Facebook also gave an account of what it said led to the glitch.

Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said the enforcement actions were “more severe than intended under our policies” and that the company had reinstated the accounts where appropriate. “Defending and respecting the voices of the people who use our service is one of our core values at Twitter,” she said.

Palestinian activists took to the social media platforms as they began staging protests in late April ahead of an impending Israeli Supreme Court case over whether settlers had the right to evict families from their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Potential evictees live-streamed confrontations and documented footage of injuries after Israeli police stormed al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

The conflict descended into war after terrorist group Hamas, which governs Gaza, fired explosive rockets into Israel. Israel responded with an 11-day bombing campaign that killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children. Twelve people in Israel were killed, including two children.

During the barrage, Palestinians posted photos on Twitter showing homes covered in rubble and children’s coffins. A cease-fire took effect May 20.

Palestinian activists and experts who study social movements say it was another watershed historical moment in which social media helped alter the course of events. They compared it to a decade ago, when social media platforms were key to organizing the pro-Democracy uprising known as the Arab Spring. But at the time, tech companies didn’t rely on policing algorithms, rather humans making decisions. And while mistakes were made, nothing occurred on the scale of today, York said.

Even after the companies said the glitches were fixed, 170 Instagram posts and five Twitter posts that activists believe were wrongly removed were still offline, according to 7amleh, the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, a group that advocates for Palestinian digital rights. The group said in a report in late May that it was told by the companies that some of the remaining posts are under review.

Facebook declined to comment. Twitter’s Rosborough said she could not comment without seeing the tweets.

During the early protests in East Jerusalem, some posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were taken down for using the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah, the name of the neighborhood in dispute, said Iyad Alrefaie, director of Sada Social, a group that tracks digital rights in the Palestinian territories.

Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian-American journalist who covers the West Bank for Al Jazeera and other outlets, posted on Instagram that she had her account restricted by Twitter for purportedly violating the company’s social media policy while covering a protest. She said in media interviews that she did not know which tweets broke the rules. The company later restored her account and tweets, saying it made an error, according to spokeswoman Rosborough.

Digital rights groups Access Now, 7amleh and other organizations have spent the years since the Arab Spring documenting problems with how social media companies handle Palestinian content, as well as content from the region at large.

In 2016, Facebook blocked the accounts of several editors at two Palestinian news organizations without giving a reason, Al Jazeera reported at the time. After complaints, the social media company reversed the bans and said they had been accidental. In 2019, Twitter suspended accounts run by a Palestinian news organization, Quds News Network, in a sweep of terrorist accounts (which have since been reinstated, Twitter said). In May 2020, Facebook deactivated the accounts of more than 50 Palestinian journalists and activists without providing an explanation, activists said, including from journalists who posted footage of attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian farmers in occupied territories.

Facebook declined to comment on those examples.

Facebook took down a post from a father wishing his infant son, named Qassam, a happy birthday, according to Alrefaie, the director of Sada Social. The group assumed that it was because the company blocks many posts about al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing.

“These words are part of our discourse, it’s a part of our culture,” Alrefaie said. “Facebook didn’t differentiate between any context.” Facebook declined to comment on that incident.

Marwa Fatafta, digital rights policy manager for the Middle East and North Africa region for Access Now, said other keywords, such as the term Zionist, are often banned when Palestinians use them because it’s assumed to be antisemitic.

“Under our current policies, we allow the term ‘Zionist’ in political discourse, but remove attacks against Zionists in specific circumstances, when there’s context to show it’s being used as a proxy for Jews or Israelis, which are protected characteristics under our hate speech policy,” Facebook’s Lever said.

Some activists have developed workarounds to the algorithms, including using an ancient method of writing Arabic, according to an article by independent Egyptian news website Mada Masr. Some U.S. activists use similar tactics, purposely misspelling common words like “white” to avoid algorithmic censorship during discussions of race, The Post has reported.

Activists have also decried tech companies’ relationship with the Israeli government, and in particular the Ministry of Justice’s Cyber Unit — which has a direct channel to technology companies to report potential content violations. They have asked tech companies to be transparent about when the government secretly refers accounts to be blocked or content to be removed, including whether the unit was involved in takedowns during the war.

Facebook, Google and Twitter all said they comply with local laws and regularly respond to takedown requests from governments, which they publish in biannual transparency reports. Twitter said the spam filter issue had nothing to do with Israeli authorities. Facebook did not respond to several requests for comment about the nature of reports by Israeli authorities during the recent crisis. A Google spokesman declined to say whether it received bulk requests from the Cyber Unit.

Journalists and activists have also complained that Google hasn’t updated its maps of Gaza with higher-resolution images, despite a U.S. law limiting the degree of detail in public maps of the area being lifted in 2020. Detailed maps help document the damage from airstrikes.

Google declined to comment on why the Gaza maps have not been updated.

Payment app Venmo also mistakenly suspended transactions of humanitarian aid to Palestinians during the war. The company said it was trying to comply with U.S. sanctions and had resolved the issues.

Tech companies are caught between governments trying to stop unrest or violence and activists advocating for free democratic expression, said James Grimmelmann, a law professor at Cornell Tech.

“So the platforms really have to make deeply political choices,” he said.

The latest issues began May 5, when Instagram started receiving reports that people participating in protests in Colombia could not share video, the company later said in a post in which it apologized for its errors. The next day, similar reports came from people participating in demonstrations in Canada and in East Jerusalem. Executives discovered a glitch in a long-planned update to video-sharing products, called Stories. In its apology, the company noted that the bug had nothing to do with these particular events, and in fact had affected more users in the United States than elsewhere.

Several days later, citizens and activists began reporting their posts about al-Aqsa Mosque, using the hashtag #AlAqsa or its Arabic counterparts, were being restricted. The restrictions were often accompanied by a pop-up that said the term was associated with “violence or dangerous organizations.”

On May 11, a Facebook employee filed a grievance, according to a report by BuzzFeed. Facebook said in response that the name of the mosque was a designated terrorist organization. Facebook later told The Post that the hashtag had been restricted in several ways, including limiting people’s ability to search for it.

After publication, Facebook’s Lever added that human error led to the issue of restricting the al-Aqsa Mosque hashtag.

Palestinian activists and Facebook employees began to protest in the coming days that many posts about the conflict were being taken down automatically.

Around the same time, Twitter began fielding reports that influential accounts tweeting about the conflict were being unexpectedly suspended, the company said, due to AI mistaking posts for spam. The company says it restored the accounts a few hours later.

Twitter spokeswoman Rosborough noted that similar incidents of overly severe enforcement took place during the 2020 presidential debates and during protests against a coup this spring in Myanmar.

And sometimes, she pointed out, algorithms get things right: At one point during the conflict, an algorithm also automatically restricted the Israeli army’s official account. The account was trying to post the same tweet twice, of emergency sirens going off in the southern city of Beersheba, and Twitter blocked it.

“We know it’s repetitive — but that’s the reality for Israelis all over the country,” the tweet said.

(Source / 29.05.2021)