The fact that Palestinian freedoms are under threat has become painfully clear this week. This also applies to the freedom on social media. Online censorship is being used as a weapon around the protests against the forced displacement of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. As said by PAX partner Nadim Nashif of the Palestinian digital rights organization 7amleh. Nashif: "As a result of the censorship of social media messages and intimidation of peaceful activists the freedom of expression of Palestinians is further under attack."
Reports about the events in Sheikh Jarrah and the Israeli occupation are regularly blocked on social media or taken offline because they are reported to the platforms on which they reside. This happens because organizations call on their followers to report messages about police brutality, evictions or human rights violations. What is reported a lot often goes offline. The Israeli government itself is campaigning for this and supports the organizations that do this. Nashif: “In many cases, social media companies say they adhere to local rules. That is problematic when those rules come from an oppressive regime. ”
"Posts on social media can save lives"
7amleh estimates that thousands of reports about the situation have been deleted in this way. PAX finds these developments very worrying - the freedom of expression of Palestinian citizens is severely restricted by these actions. “Sharing information and knowledge about the situation is not only a fundamental human right, but also extremely important for the safety of Palestinian citizens: uploading information to social media can save lives,” said Nashif.
In addition, this censorship also poses a legal threat: reports, photos and videos are now removed from the internet without the chance to object, while it is precisely this material that could serve as evidence in future court cases.
Intimidating text messages from Secret Service
'Hey. You have been identified as one of the people who took part in the violence surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque. You will be held accountable.’ Various activists have received intimidating text messages on their cell phones in recent days from the Israeli intelligence agency which are believed to be sent based on the geolocation of their phone in the neighbourhood.
What PAX does
PAX has partnered with 7amleh to protect, preserve and promote digital rights, freedom of speech and to counter hate speech online. PAX has a strong network of Israeli and Palestinian activists and organizations committed to the protection of human rights, ending the occupation of Palestinian territories, and a sustainable and just peace in the region.
Do you want to stay informed about the situation? Follow the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah on social media and keep an eye out for PAX and 7amleh's work.