#Palestine: Violations of Palestinian Digital Rights in 2021


The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media (7amleh), 2022-01-10

1,033 violations of Palestinian digital
rights on social media platforms

Development and use of surveillance and spyware technologies by Israeli authorities against Palestinians

Use of technologies to hack the mobile phones of Palestinian citizens by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas

7amleh – the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media released on Tuesday, 11 January 2022, its seventh annual report “Hashtag Palestine,” illuminating the digital rights violations of Palestinians and pro-Palestinian advocates online, at the hands of the three authorities as well as different social media companies in relation to the escalations and developments on the ground. 

The report, in its seventh edition, shows the continuation and escalation in Israeli violations of Palestinian digital rights. According to the report, use of surveillance technologies significantly increased, evident in the proposal of an Israeli law to allow the use of facial-recognition cameras in public spaces. Similarly, a former Israeli officer revealed organised efforts to spy on Palestinian phone calls, indicating the Israeli authorities’ ability to access all calls conducted between Palestinians. Furthermore, the Israeli manufactured “Pegasus” spyware, developed by the Israeli “NSO Group,” was identified on the phones of 6 Palestinian human rights defenders and workers in Palestinian rights organisations and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Additionally, in line with the Israeli authorities’ efforts to restrict Palestinian content online, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation recently approved the first draft of the “Facebook Law,” which would allow the Israeli Public Prosecution to refer to the Israeli courts to issue binding decisions to remove any content online, which would have serious repercussions on Palestinian digital rights.

As for Israeli incitement online, the “Hashtag Palestine 2021” report illustrates the continuation of Israeli incitement, both official and unofficial, against Palestinians in the media and on social media platforms. According to the “Index of Racism and Incitement” issued by 7amleh in June, incitement in Hebrew against Arabs and Palestinians increased by 15 times during the aggression on the Gaza Strip and the events of May 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.

Regarding the Palestinian Authority and De-Facto Authority of the Gaza Strip (Hamas), violations came as part of a larger assault on the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The report presents cases of arbitrary detention, summonses on the basis of political activity, and even smear and extortion campaigns on similar grounds. The situation also remains critical in the occupied territory regarding privacy and data protection, as the above authorities continue to infringe the privacy of users, especially in the absence of legislation enshrining the right to privacy and data protection, and in light of the Israeli authorities’ control over the information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in the occupied Palestinian Territory.

At the level of technology companies, the events of May 2021 perhaps best highlighted the extent of censorship of Palestinian human rights and political content, as well as critiques of Israeli violations against the Palestinians. Social media platforms increased censorship of Palestinian content, and in less than two weeks, deleted, suspended and restricted hundreds of posts related to Palestine. 7amleh documented more than 1,000 violations across different platforms, with Facebook and Instagram atop the list of the most violating platforms, the report said. 7amleh also reported that Twitter and Tik Tok were more responsive to reports of violations by the center than Meta.

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Human rights defenders targeted by Israel launch joint website

Online Hub Provides Information and Calls to Action Aimed at Reversing Ban on Six Palestinian NGOs

14 December 2021, RamallahThe Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs) targeted by the Israeli government alongside partners have today launched a new website www.PalCivilSociety.com as part of their #StandWithThe6 campaign. This follows Israel’s escalation of its systemic efforts to shrink civic space, defund, criminalize human rights defenders (HRDs) and civil society.

This culminated in Israeli Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz outlawing the six organizations on 19 October 2021 under Israel’s domestic Anti-Terrorism Law (2016), and as “unlawful organizations” on 3 November 2021, by the Israeli Military Commander in the West Bank. These baseless accusations aim to effectively outcast and discredit the work of leading Palestinian CSOs, placing them and their supporters at imminent risk of reprisals, including cutting off funding, office closure, and arrest of staff members. 

In response to the designation, the international community including world leaders, UN representatives, celebrities, funders and international NGOs have condemned the designation as a blatant threat to human rights. However, Israel continues to firmly maintain its unlawful designation, and by not calling for an immediate reversal of this policy, governments are allowing this dangerous attack to go unchallenged, putting all HRDs at risk, in Palestine and globally.

The website consolidates the efforts of the six Palestinian CSOs and partners, and provides resources for supporters outlining the full context of Israel’s ongoing harrasment campaigns to silence and diminish Palestinian civil society overall. The website will be a central space where supporters can mobilize in solidarity with civil society, starting by sending emails to US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, and Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy asking them to take decisive action to force Israel to reverse the unlawful designation.

As jointly stated by the six organizations, “this designation is only the latest of a series of attacks against us and certainly won’t be the last. This continued assault on Palestinian human rights defenders is also accompanied by systematic use of cybersurveillance technology to hack our phones and surveil us. It’s clear that Israel’s intention is to silence and harrass Palestinian human rights defenders who criticize Israel’s apartheid and settler-colonial regime and call for holding Israeli authorities accountable for their human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Through this common digital space we invite all supporters of human rights and freedom around the world, to take action and show solidarity with Palestinian civil society.”

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‘I thought I was a free man’: the engineer fighting Texas’s ban on boycotting Israel

Rasmy Hassouna, a Palestinian American, is suing the state over a provision that bans him or his company from protesting Israel or its products


Rasmy Hassouna: ‘If I don’t want to buy anything at WalMart, who are you to tell me not to shop at WalMart?’ Photograph: Courtesy Rasmy Hassouna

Erum Salam, The Guardian, 7 Dec 2021

For more than two decades, Texan civil engineer Rasmy Hassouna was a contractor for the city of Houston. Hassouna has consulted the city on soil volatility in the nearby Gulf of Mexico – a much needed service to evaluate the structural stability of houses and other buildings.

He was gearing up to renew his government contract when a particular legal clause caught his eye: a provision that effectively banned him or his company, A&R Engineering and Testing, Inc, from ever protesting the nation of Israel or its products so long as his company was a partner with the city of Houston.

For Hassouna – a 59-year-old proud Palestinian American – it was a huge shock.

“I came here and thought I was a free man. It’s not anybody’s business what I do or what I say, as long as I’m not harming anybody,” he told the Guardian. “Were you lying all this time? If I don’t want to buy anything at WalMart, who are you to tell me not to shop at WalMart? Why do I have to pledge allegiance to a foreign country?”

But Hassouna’s reaction did not stop at anger. He took action, launching a case that is challenging the Texas law and – by example – similar provisions that have spread all over the US that seek to stop government contractors from boycotting Israel and can be found in more than 25 US states. Along with the Arkansas Times newspaper, A&R Engineering and Testing Inc is now one of only two companies fighting this kind of law in the nation.

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New York Times Op-ed on BDS



November 22, 2021

I’m writing to share some news: a few hours ago, The New York Times published an important op-ed by Alan Leveritt, a news publisher in Arkansas who is suing the state over its anti-boycott legislation.

Alan is also one of the protagonists of our new film, Boycott, and his article — “We’re a Small Arkansas Paper. Why Is the State Making Us Sign a Pledge About Israel?” — paints a vivid picture of the impact of legislation designed to silence voices of dissent on Israel-Palestine.

Alan is writing at a crucial time. His case is right now being reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and he’s not optimistic that the ruling will go his way.

If it doesn’t, the case will likely end up at the Supreme Court, potentially impacting not just the right to boycott Israel for its human rights record — boycott being constitutionally protected under the First Amendment — but also our right to voice dissent on a whole range of issues.

We hope you’ll share Alan’s op-ed widely. Please forward this email or share the article on social media. We just had the world premiere of Boycott at DOC NYC last week. With Alan’s case awaiting a ruling, this is a crucial time to spread the word and raise awareness about the dangers of these laws, which, to date, have largely gone underreported.

With determination,

Suhad Babaa
Executive Director & President, Just Vision
Producer, Boycott

Vermonters for Justice in Palestine #StandWithThe6

Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, November 16, 2021

Our own Executive Director, Reverend Mark Davidson, sent this opinion editorial to the News and Observer last week to urge our community at large to stand for justice against Israel’s designation of six Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist organizations.” Please read below.

In “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” Yale historian Timothy Snyder emphasizes the importance of defending institutions. He warns that institutions don’t protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless they are defended. So, if we care about democracy and human rights, he writes, “choose an institution you care about – a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union – and take its side.”

In late October, the security establishment of the Israeli government designated six Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist organizations.” Al-Haq, Defense of Children International-Palestine, Addameer, and three others are well-respected civil society institutions I care about and I am taking their side. They have long, distinguished track records of documenting human rights violations, defending Palestinian children, supporting Palestinian prisoners and their families, helping Palestinian farmers, and supporting women’s associations. I know and trust some of the founders of these civil society institutions. They do great work, and deserve widespread support.

The Israelis allege that these human rights groups are linked by fraud and subterfuge to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has been designated by Israel as a terrorist organization. A serious charge, and devastating, if true. It would allow Israel to freeze their assets, dry up their funding, arrest and jail their employees, and shut down their offices. It could have cascading effects, chilling dissent, intimidating and isolating human rights work. It is a tactic straight out of the playbook of authoritarian regimes.

In May, Israel presented its “secret evidence” to European Union countries which provide important funding to these six Palestinian human rights institutions. Armed with these disturbing allegations, they strongly urged the EU countries to stop funding them. They rejected Israel’s request, because the dossier was filled with unsubstantiated claims, tortured “confessions,” innuendo, and propaganda. It provided no concrete evidence of links to terrorist activity.

Israeli governmental harrassment of Palestinian human rights organizations has been going on for years. Why now, and why this escalation? Turns out that “the red line” these Palestinian human rights organizations crossed was sharing their factual information about Israeli human rights abuses with the International Criminal Court. Frightened to face accountability for their violent policies and practices, illegal under international law, Israel has resorted to baseless attacks on human rights defenders.

The U.S. government is under enormous pressure to go along with this false, dangerous campaign to shield Israel from accountability. The price for succumbing will be a further delegitimizing of a rules-based international order. We have to hold the line and resist the continued disastrous drift toward authoritarianism both at home and abroad. I have alerted my congressional representatives not to fall for this anti-democratic smear campaign. I urge everyone who cares about human rights and democracy to support courageous local and global civil society institutions that stand up and tell the truth. I don’t want to live in a world without them.

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Israel can monitor every telephone call in West Bank and Gaza, says intelligence source

‘Harsh invasion of privacy’ provides Israeli Security Agency with a system of control over the Palestinians


A woman uses her phone in a courtroom in Nablus, occupied West Bank in February 2021 (AFP)

Lubna Masarwa, Middle East Eye, 15 November 2021

Israel can listen to every telephone conversation taking place in the West Bank and Gaza, a former member of the Israeli Army’s elite signals intelligence unit 8200 has told Middle East Eye.

Every mobile or phone imported into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing – in Gaza’s south – is implanted with an Israeli bug, and anyone using the only two mobile networks serving the occupied territories – Jawwal and Wataniya – is being monitored as well, the former signals intelligence member said.

‘Sometimes these are private conversations, maybe even intimate conversations… Soldiers save the conversations and send them to their friends’

Former member of the Israeli Army’s elite signals intelligence unit 8200

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Escalating surveillance calls for escalated action: #StandWiththe6

News broke today that NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware has been detected on phones of six Palestinian rights defenders, three of whom work for Al-Haq, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, and the Bisan Center for Research and Development, organizations that Israel recently criminalized.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has uncovered a massive Israeli military facial recognition program threatening the safety of the Palestinian people, with Israeli military units photographing thousands of Palestinians to track and criminalize everyone from the children to the elderly. Read more in this policy memo.

These developments are part of the Israeli regime’s calculated, systematic acts of repression and violence against the Palestinian people.

Pegasus is a tool of repression, weaponized by authoritarian governmentswhich can gain access to essentially everything on a phone, from activating the microphone to tracking the location. An investigative report released by Front Line Defenders, an international human rights organization, reveals the pattern of Israel’s repressive violence while calling for “an immediate global moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology until an adequate human rights regulatory framework is in place.” 

Surveillance tech is a threat against all our communitiesThe Israeli regime exports its weapons and surveillance tech, field-tested on Palestinian people, to oppressive regimes around the worldthreatening everyone’s safety while systematically targeting Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

In the words of USCPR’s Executive Director, Ahmad Abuznaid, “We know what repression looks like. The Israeli regime is a separate-and-unequal apartheid state employing every last authoritarian tactic at its disposal, but we know the truth: that liberation is coming and Palestine will be free.

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Digital Censorship Of Palestinians

Israel requests social media to remove content


Speaking at the panel with the 7amleh digital rights team on Monday, Mahmoud Franji, the coordinator for the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), said such a tool is needed now more than ever [Hisham Daraghmeh/Al Jazeera]

Wisconsin Muslim Journal, Nov 5, 2021

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – A new open-source online platform has been launched to centralize digital rights violations and censorship by social media companies against Palestinians and Palestine-related content.

In a news conference in Ramallah on Monday, the Arab Center for Social Media Development (7amleh), which built the website, said the tool will allow for more detailed and proficient documentation of violations, and rights groups to better follow-up with relevant social media companies over posts, pages, or accounts that have been singled out.

The group highlighted the relevance of such a tool in light of the recent mass censorship in May of Palestine-related content during digital mobilization over the Israeli war on Gaza and attempts at ethnic cleansing in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem.

Titled the Palestinian Observatory of Digital Rights Violations (7or, or “free” in Arabic), the website provides users with the ability to report the different actions taken against them over their posts, including account suspension and content takedown. It also includes a searchable database bringing together years of recorded violations by 7amleh and other local groups.

7amleh said the platform will “fill a gap” faced by local institutions consisting of access to “a practical, detailed and organized database of digital rights violations against Palestinians.”

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Human Rights Groups: ‘Israel targeted us for one reason’

‘We’re succeeding in changing the paradigm’

After being outlawed as ‘terrorist organizations’ overnight, Palestinian human rights groups talk to +972 about why Israel’s allegations are not just unfounded, but amount to an act of political persecution.

Sahar Francis, Director of Addameer, seen at the organization’s offices in Ramallah, the West Bank on February 19, 2019. (Photo: Mohannad Darabee for +972 Magazine)
Sahar Francis, Director of Addameer, seen at the organization’s offices in Ramallah, the West Bank on February 19, 2019. (Photo: Mohannad Darabee for +972 Magazine)

Yuval Abraham, +972 Magazine, October 25, 2021

When Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an executive order last week declaring six Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist organizations,” the government did not even bother with putting on a facade of due process. With the swift stroke of a pen, the NGOs — Al-Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union for Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees — were instantly outlawed with neither a trial nor the opportunity to respond to the accusations against them.

Yet rather than question the dubious nature of this move, the vast majority of Israeli media outlets simply cribbed the Defense Ministry’s official statement on the matter, which accused the six organizations of serving as “arms” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) — a secular, Marxist-Leninist party and movement deemed a terrorist group by Israel.

The government claimed that the NGOs whitewashed funds intended for humanitarian reasons and transferred them for military purposes instead, further accusing the organizations’ employees of belonging, either in the past or present, to the PFLP. Right-wing Israeli groups, too, have for years tried to draw connections between these organizations and the PFLP in an effort to cut off their funding abroad.

The Defense Ministry’s decision was based on intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet, which it has not revealed to the public. But according to sources with knowledge of the legal case, the agency’s evidence is reportedly based on the testimony of a sole employee who was terminated from one of the organizations for corruption.

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