Big Tech, Social Media, Surveillance and Palestine: The business and human rights implications of cyber discrimination

Big Tech, Social Media, Surveillance and Palestine: The business and human rights implications of cyber discrimination

Guinea pigs

Now with the launch of the Amazon Go food stores across the US and UK, (47 in total thus far) in which shoppers can shop in the cashless, unstaffed stores, simply by scanning a QR code upon entry, and picking up the items they want from the shelf, putting them in a bag and walking out of the store, only to later get home, and see all of the correct charges for the items purchased listed on their Amazon account. Yes, this technology is remarkable. It is certainly hassle free. As dealing with fellow humans can often be, but also, knowing that your physical identity is now matched to your cyber identity, is slightly unnerving, it also potentially open us up (in the West) to an unprecedented level of surveillance, that honestly Palestinians now recognise as their everyday way of life.

So we as individuals should recognise, that although only trickles at the moment, a potential avalanche of surveillance and restrictions could soon be headed our way, the big corporations are first just using the Palestinians as unwilling guinea pigs (referring to those that are experimented upon). Not to mention the soulless society our world is slowly but surely evolving into with the advancement of technology. Actual stores with NO need for ANY human interaction. The ease in which human beings can so easily be eradicated from society, in which they aren’t deemed as important, perhaps we should look deeper at the big picture the big tech companies are so vividly painting. The test bed is Palestine and its people.

Free speech

Elon Musk, perceived to be the world’s richest man, somewhat leads the way, in pioneering future technologies that are changing the world, and even he sees and recognises; 1. The importance of free speech 2. That social Media platforms provide the stage for free opinions to be discussed – merely on the fact, that he wanted to purchase Twitter for a record $44, billion dollars. Musk himself said

“Well, I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech. Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it’s just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.”

“My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization,” he said. “I don’t care about the economics at all.”

Social media was the most used avenue to document human rights violations. And with all of the other Israeli restrictions placed on Palestine, online platforms were the only outlet Palestinians had; to use their voice, as they were clearly experiencing no democracy in their homeland.

With all of the other Israeli restrictions placed on Palestine, online platforms were the only outlet Palestinians had; to use their voice, as they were clearly experiencing no democracy in their homeland

The Meta social media platforms: Facebook and Instagram were the most utilised during the recent Palestine protests from Palestinians, with Tik Tok and Twitter responding faster to the avalanche of public criticism over the censorship, although both interestingly blaming a ‘computer glitch’ for the removal of posts.

So, it begs the question; why Meta and others are actively supressing. And what are we as a society ‘conforming’ too. Probably none of us would actively sign up for any service with a company that openly supresses human rights violations – so why is it ok, in this instance? Are we adding to the suppression, simply because these companies dominate the digital landscape that we use every day, so we just blindly, and somewhat selfishly go along with it. What will this mean going forward? Silence is compliance after all.

Recently, more than 200 Facebook employees signed an internal petition calling for an investigation into the content management policies, which led to the censorship of pro-Palestine content and the restriction of accounts that express opinions supportive of the Palestine cause. This petition was followed by other petitions within Apple, Google, and Amazon calling for support for Palestine and the termination of sales deals with the Israeli authorities because in the views of the petitioners they violate the rights of Palestinians.

These developments resulted in the leakage of the so-called Meta’s "dangerous individuals and organizations" lists, which included (48) names of Palestinian individuals and organizations, some of which are CSO’s that do not have any questionable activity. On the other hand, the list included only two Israeli names, one of which is an individual and an institution related to crime and not based on a political background.

There are a brave few, fighting the good fight, and voicing their concerns and raising the alarm on the disturbing inner workings of the media conglomerates that we have all so willingly handed our most personal information.

Access denied

In this context, the Chinese owned TikTok platform witnessed a significant increase in the volume of use among Palestinians, following the policies of managing and controlling content on other platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook—notably during the recent Israeli operations on the Gaza Strip. In addition, the application became more widely used among Palestinian users after it became an essential tool for disseminating content about the events of Sheikh Jarrah on 31st May 2021.

The Israeli authorities noticed the impact of this platform, and therefore calls came out from the top of the Israeli political hierarchy to close the platform in "Israel." And Defence Minister Benny Gantz held a meeting with the company to restrict Palestinian content.

As a result of the organized Israeli effort and a slew of pressures, TikTok began censoring and restricting Palestinian content, and leaks showed that the company tolerated content that calls and incites violence against Palestinians.

PayPal is another digital giant that is contributing to human rights violations and discriminatory practices against Palestinians in the, according to international law, occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) by denying Palestinians access to PayPal’s platform and simultaneously allowing access to Israeli settlers. The West Bank, is also known to some in Israel under the archaic names of Judea and Samaria.

Local entrepreneurs in Palestine are trying their best to sidestep and survive in the economic climate but are being thwarted at every opportunity. With the blocking of PayPal, they report a sharp decline in sales, because overseas companies are understandably nervous to use alternative payment methods for the services they may use. Which then results in the cancellation of contracts and the ceasing of services; thus the local companies are back where they started. The guinea pigs of Palestine are now thrust onto a hamster wheel….fyi, hamster wheels are deadly to guinea pigs…google it.

Businesses need to be aware

Although, all that said, there is some kickback which is gaining momentum. Pro-Palestinian activists are running coordinated campaigns to downgrade Facebook’s app review ratings to protest the company’s alleged censorship of Palestinian accounts and posts. The campaign, which is being shared across social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook, calls on people to give Facebook a one-star review in the Apple and Google app stores. The strategy appears to be working.

Inside Facebook, the campaign is being treated very seriously and has been categorized as an SEV1, which stands for “severity 1,” a descriptor used internally when there is a major issue with the website, according to screenshots of internal message boards reviewed by NBC News, An SEV1 is the second-highest priority site event after SEV0, which is used when the website is down. Just a week after its launch, the average star rating for the social network was down from over 4 out of 5 to 2.3 out of 5 on Apple’s App Store and 2.4 out of 5 on the Google Play. Users were encouraged to leave reviews, and the main hashtag featured on the reviews, was ‘free Palestine’.

The campaign gave enough momentum to prompt Facebook to contact the app stores, to ask if they would remove the negative reviews. Apple declined, according to a post by a Facebook employee who said she contacted Apple’s developer relations team about the issue. “Our users are upset with our handling of the situation. Users are feeling that they are being censored, getting limited distribution, and ultimately silenced.”

Business opportunities and costs

According to No Tech for Apartheid,

‘As Israeli military occupation forces were bombing Palestinian homes, clinics, and schools in besieged Gaza and threatening to push Palestinian families from their homes in occupied Jerusalem in May 2021, Google and Amazon Web Services signed a $1.2 billion contract to provide cloud technology to the Israeli government and military, known as Project Nimbus.’ By doing so, Amazon and Google are helping to Israeli improve its reputation.

Activists also state the following,

‘The campaign for Amazon on Google to end their contracts on Project Nimbus, namely by workers of the organisations, and those with a clear understanding of exactly what the details of the contract are, has so far garnered over 37,000 signatures, but for real significant change to take place, a much higher number will be needed to make an impact.’

One such worker, has paid a heavy price for calling out Project Nimbus, and her employers. Ariel Koren, simply spoke up. She was working for Google when she spoke out against her employer’s destructive cloud contract with the Israeli government and military. But right after she stood up publicly in support of Palestinian human rights, Google launched a campaign to force her from her position.

Although Ariel’s plight amassed a lot of media coverage, unfortunately her case is not in isolation. The occurrences of staff unjustly being retaliated against, after simply stating an opinion, is quite the pandemic in big tech. You cannot feely speak up against company contracts acquired that may enable violence against marginalised people. Google’s track record in recent years, has consistently made headlines, with those speaking up, kindly being offered mental health counselling and workplace support. Clearly putting up and ultimately shutting up, gives you a stronger chance of not being institutionalised and sent off somewhere like Brazil, a relocation Ariel was offered in direct response to her speaking out. An offer of a job and new life in Brazil, was possibly a fancy way of saying to Ariel, we will ship you off somewhere extremely remote, to go and live with the other criminally insane vocal people we have sent there.

Businesses and the BDS movement

In response, and with a spotlight specifically on Big Tech – namely Amazon and Google, in 2005, The BDS movement was launched, by 170 Palestinian unions, refugee networks, women’s organisations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other Palestinian civil society bodies. Indeed, one of the biggest ways in which businesses is affected by this dispute is the BDS movement.

Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the Palestinian BDS call urges nonviolent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by meeting three demands:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall

International law recognises the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights as occupied by Israel. As part of its military occupation, Israel takes land and forces Palestinians into ghettos, surrounded by checkpoints, settlements and watchtowers and an illegal apartheid Wall. Israel has imposed a security siege on Gaza. Israel also regularly carries out large-scale assaults on Gaza that are widely condemned as constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity. There are often in response to attacks emanating from Gaza, though there is a significant discrepancy in the magnitude of the response and the proportionality ha been questioned.

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality

One-fifth of Israel’s citizens are Palestinians who remained inside the armistice lines after 1948. They are subjected to a system of racial discrimination enshrined in more than 50 laws that impact every aspect of their lives. The Israeli government continues to forcibly displace Palestinian communities in Israel from their land. Some Israeli activists routinely and openly discrimination against them.

3. Respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

Since its establishment in 1948 half of the indigenous people of Palestine had to leave, Israel has set out to control as much land and uproot as many Palestinians as it can. As a result of this, there are now more than 7.25 million Palestinian refugees. They are denied their right to return to their homeland simply because they are of the wrong religion.

The BDS movement has been supported by many, including a man that knew a thing or two, about the damage that said apartheid can inflict.

“Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The actions of some big tech and social media companies to restrict debate and digital access are therefore, unwittingly or otherwise, endorsing a two-tier system. Are those pro-Palestinian views outlandish and beyond the realm of polite public discourse. Let’s explore the issues. Are their state sponsored human rights abuses in Palestine?

Suppression of speech

So, Palestinians can’t participate in arguably, the biggest trend of the 21st century, posting their opinions, or even pictures of their breakfast on social media… what next? Oh of course. Surveillance.

Over the past few years, Israeli surveillance has dramatically intensified to surveil Palestinians through several techniques; It is, perhaps, safe to say that Pegasus software stands to be the most remarkable. This software uses facial recognition cameras and allows comprehensive surveillance of all Palestinian phone calls in a severe breach of the right to security and privacy. Moreover, the government surveillance techniques used against Palestinians are integrated with the surveillance techniques developed by private Israeli companies. Being used internally aside, such software is also exported to different countries worldwide to monitor human rights defenders, journalists, and political opponents. Perhaps the NSO company and its Pegasus software have come under the microscope more than others during the past year due to the widespread use of this software to eavesdrop on tens of thousands of people around the world.

Against the dramatic surge in the use of surveillance technology, the right to privacy is one of the most violated rights in the digital era. Some local and international reports have documented the ways and surveillance tactics used by the Israeli authorities to harass and track Palestinian’s everywhere.

During the Sheikh Jarrah events recently, many worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque got text messages on their mobile phones threatening them with prosecution for the protests inside al-Haram ash-Sharif of Jerusalem. This measure violates the worshippers' privacy, as Israeli authorities identified their presence in al-Aqsa Mosque by tracking their phones and randomly sending texts to individuals present without establishing their actual involvement in any protesting activities.

The Israeli authorities proposed enacting a law to install facial recognition cameras in public places and streets. Just as Margaret Atwood predicted in The Handmaids Tale, written in 1985. Her writing met then, with criticism of ‘how ridiculous and absurd’ her ideas were. Oh how life imitates art… The proposal in real life Palestine, would enable several Israeli security agencies other than the police to obtain the information collected by the cameras. This bill has sparked controversy in Israeli circles because of its repercussions on the right to privacy in Israeli society. Notwithstanding, Israeli authorities deploy this type of camera in oPt without any hindrance or protest against the violation of Palestinians' right to safety and privacy.

In a similar vein, the Israeli police pushed a plan to increase the number of cameras in coastal cities and Jerusalem under the pretext of fighting crime. In fact, this tactic entails many risks, including collecting, storing, and using biometric data about Palestinians to perpetuate racist and oppressive practices against Palestinian’s.

The 97-page ordinance, called Procedure for Entry and Residence for Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Area, replaces the current four-page document. The policy has more expansive entry rules, which some legal experts say is an attempt to restrict and track the travel of foreign nationals to the occupied Palestinian territories, control Palestinian population growth and keep data on the land claims of Palestinians holding foreign nationality.

Digital rights experts say that personal information on travellers and their families and acquaintances is likely to be used in Israel’s mass surveillance and data collection efforts.

Academics wanting to study or work at any university in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, are subject to quotas and other restrictions on academic work, according to the new regulations.

A quota of 150 foreign students may study at Palestinian colleges and universities but only in approved disciplines. The same restrictions do not apply to those seeking to study at Israeli academic institutions, whether within Israel or inside the West Bank. 

These rules are very concerning as they represent an expression of some in Israel who have the intention to de facto annexe the entirety of the West Bank while at the same time maintaining military rule over the Palestinians living there. De facto Annexation.  Palestinian and Jewish holders of another nationality are treated differently based on their racial background. For example, a Palestinian American is treated differently than a Jewish American wishing to visit family or stay in the occupied West Bank.

The information Israel gathers from Palestinian relating to their property in the occupied West Bank has no reasonable relationship to their entry and is likely to be used to adversely affect their vested and nonvested property interests given Israel’s settlement enterprise. Personal information on the traveller and their family and friends is likely to be used in Israel’s mass surveillance and data collection project known as “Blue Wolf“ (a facial recognition software) which will be used at border crossings and during the pre-approval process to deny travellers entry.

Palestinian academic institutions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank will be denied students and faculty that enrich campuses and build bridges with universities abroad. The loss of foreign student tuition will also impact the financial health of the universities.

Businesspeople and investors, particularly those of Palestinian descent, will be discouraged from activities in the occupied West Bank because of the intrusive information.

Journalists will be denied free travel to do their work and may incur greater expenses and costs at having to only use one port of entry.

The new rules support the entrenchment of Israel's rule over disputed land and perhaps even institutionalised discrimination against Palestinians, including its two-tiered legal system in which one’s ethno-religious identity informs their relationship with the state. This is regarded by the United Nations as Apartheid, a legal term that does not make a direct legal comparison with the former situation under the racialist regime in the Republic of South Africa.

Palestinians who are out of the system must now report to the Israeli authorities the details of their first-degree relatives and people they plan to visit in the West Bank. So even if you live abroad, Israel still wants to know your network and social circles.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is one of the longest-running conflicts that has seen ongoing fighting since the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. 74 years on, the world is regularly witnessing updates of violence, war, human rights violations, and systematic occupation, which has left the topic highly contested amongst news agencies, scholars, social media, and the wider community. For this reason, a summary of the key international reports can serve as a starting point in encapsulating the complex nature of this ongoing conflict.

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), apartheid crimes fall under inhumane acts that are committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over an alternate racial group with the dedicated intention of maintaining regime stability and supremacy (ESCWA, 2017).

With the separation of the term ‘apartheid’ from the South African context, the term has legally been used to describe and condemn any global example of such crimes against humanity. Ultimately, the system of segregation implemented by the state of Israel does indeed favour one racial group over another, treating Palestinians as the inferior non-Jewish racial group, through systematic laws, policies, and well-established practices (Amnesty, 2022).

Separate development

Considering this definition, Palestinians, since 1967, can be classified to be living under four separate domains of control. These domains, as explained in a report by the ESCWA, are

  1. Permanent residency law applying to Palestinians living in Jerusalem

This domain has heavily affected those Palestinians that are permanent residents living in East Jerusalem yet have no legal legitimacy under Israeli law. Thus, this as a strategy of maintaining the regime has meant that Palestinians that fall under this bracket are unable to speak out against the injustices they are experiencing. They are not given the same political or social rights as Israelis that hold citizenship and residency. This has meant that if Palestinians politically mobilise they could risk the loss of residency and face immediate expulsion to the West Bank. Ironically, the permanence of the residency has left Palestinians living in constant fear of home demolition or expulsion, further emphasizing that in Israel there is no legal status that can assure that other races feel safe and secure. 

  1. Civil law, with further restrictions that apply to those Palestinians who have obtained Israeli citizenship.

1.6 million Palestinians with legal rights to Israeli citizenship struggle with daily discrimination for not being Jewish. These Palestinians are the descendants of those Palestinians who managed to remain in their villages and towns throughout the creation of the Israeli state in 1948. This separation of identities is solidified by Israeli policies that make a distinction between those in Israel who hold citizenship and those holding nationality. Through identifying them as non-nationals Palestinians face different treatment in services, segregated neighbourhoods, less allocation of monetary resources to Palestinian communities in Israel, subjecting them to limited opportunities in the job market, less professional and educational opportunities. Thus, through the maze of deliberately confusing policies, the struggle for Palestinian equality continues.

  1. Military law governing Palestinians who have been living under inhumane occupation in Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including those in refugee camps.

Military occupation can be identified with coercive regimes that have imposed their domination and occupation over a territory through military force. 2.1 million Palestinians in the Gaza strip alone have been living in what can be described as a repressive environment since 2007, subject to escalations of violence coupled with both sea and air blockades. The West Bank has been living under military occupation, by definition, as they are dominated by the presence of Israel and settler groups. This forced military rule, whether legally identified or not, emphasizes that this is a crime against humanity and a method of apartheid.

In simple terms, there exists a population, the Palestinians, who can be described as living under military occupation, whilst another population, the Israelis, who are occupying that land. As stated by Yesh Din Volunteers for Human Rights, the occupied population live with no civil, political rights or human rights meaning that their political voice is essentially unrecognizable, with the occupier enjoying full political and civil rights is protected by their supposedly perfectly democratic institutions.

On the other hand, with a total population of 2.7 million, The West Bank is split into three areas. The first area, which accounts for 18% of the land, is under Palestinian control, where the Palestinian authorities have status. The second area accounts for 22 per cent of the land which is under both Israeli and Palestinian control where Israel controls border security allowing them to enter at their liking, whilst the Palestinian Authority controls internal affairs such as health, economy, and educational institutions. The third area is under complete Israeli control and accounts for 60 per cent of the West Bank, where Israel dictates issues to do with security, health, infrastructure, and legislation.

Both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been given limited access to natural resources such as oil, gas, Dead Sea minerals and accessibility to fertile agricultural land and soil. This can be seen as a form of discrete apartheid in that ultimately Israeli authorities have prevented the growth of the Palestinian industrial and agricultural sector.

In addition to this, the regular act of unlawful demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank goes directly against international law which states that if the demolition of property, if not absolutely necessary for military reasons, should be considered illegal. Coupled with this, without any legal justification, the population in the Palestinian territories have been subjected to denial of building permits, land grabbing/confiscation preventing Palestinians from their basic rights to build in their own land.

  1. Policy preventing the return of exiled and refugee Palestinians living outside of Israeli territory.

With 1.5 million Palestinians living in 58 official refugee camps across Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Syrian Arab Republic, the struggle for Palestinian land has been one of the longest-running unsolved refugee problems across the world. Palestinian refugees have been widely scattered across the region. In the Palestinian territories, approximately 792,000 live in camps in the West Bank, and 3.1 million in the Gaza Strip alone.

In neighbouring countries, around 2.1 million live in Jordan, 560,000 in the Syrian Arab Republic and around 458,000 in Lebanon (ESCWA, 2017). Yet the right to return to their motherland remains a persistent motivation to continue their fight for liberation against the apartheid regime that had forcibly expelled and separated their families. The need to return undocumented Palestinian refugees’ home, lies at the heart of peace talks between the international community, Israel, and Palestinian authorities.

Ultimately, these carefully engineered separate domains have made it increasingly difficult for Palestinians to unite and hold on to a common identity. This system of institutional apartheid has been deliberately implemented by the Israeli state to make it difficult for Palestinian populations to have access to basic legal rights, which has effectively created a divide of Israeli nationals as first-class citizens whilst other nationalities naturally fall under the bracket of second-class citizens. Through this legal fragmentation of Palestinian communities, Palestinians are ultimately denied the right to claim equality in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories.

Security and surveillance

Government-backed NGOs, as well as official bodies such as the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, have waged a fierce campaign to discredit Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations supporting Palestinian rights for years, trying to silence their voices and restrict their work due to its impact on exposing the ‘crimes’ of the occupation."

The reality of privacy and data protection is still bleak in the Palestinian context, while major companies continue to violate users' privacy. The Israeli authorities are seeking to expand their surveillance, security surveillance, and tracking and espionage techniques against Palestinians. In a similar vein, the PA, and the authorities in the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian private IT companies, violate user privacy, especially in the absence of legislation regulating the law of the right to privacy and data protection.

So what should we do? What should any businesses’ that are not part of the big 7 do? To ensure they themselves and their customers and society as a whole retains some of our sovereignty, keeps our voice and do not ultimately succumb to the cyber atrocities inflicted on Palestinians. That is just part of the technological injustices and power imbalances that the Palestinians are subject now.

Some may have differing views, and interpretations of the nature of the dispute that exists between Israel and Palestine. However, it should be a matter of alarm that the technical solutions that helps maintain one side’s supremacy over the other is providing a toolkit for other nations to use to limit freedom of speech, it is already being restricted elsewhere, and monitor dissident voices.

In the last few years, Israel has emerged as one of the world’s largest exporters of security and surveillance equipment. This industry benefits from having a captive population it can test new devices on. The laboratory of the occupied territories is where things can be fine-tuned, tested, and retested. Israel tries out this technology in the West Bank and Gaza and then markets them as battle proven. Israel’s arms industry is a significant part of all exports. However, it’s not just arms; the surveillance industry is also booming.

Under military occupation and with few rights to protect themselves with, Palestinians in the occupied territories are the perfect guinea pigs (a colloquial term for those that are subjected to product tests) for the cyber industry as well. The occupation allows the perfection of its methodology and technology.

The notorious Unit 8200, an Israeli Intelligence Corps unit of the Israel Defence Forces, is a feeder school to the private surveillance industry in Israel, the self-proclaimed “start-up” nation. The products those intelligence veterans create, are sold to governments (and companies) around the world to spy on people - impacting their activity in the digital space and digital participation.

Through a variety of tactics and practices, the Israeli authorities continue to block the growth of the internet sector in the Palestinian territory. The security measures restricts the growth of Palestine society and puts the Palestinian economy and Palestinian companies at a disadvantage.

"Palestinians and those who support the cause of Palestine worldwide face many problems and difficulties in freely expressing their opinion about Palestine and criticizing Israeli authorities. Due to Israeli surveillance practices, residents in occupied Palestine are subject to restrictions, whether by arresting them, summoning them, or other restrictions. Outside occupied Palestine, activists who support Palestinians are subject to campaigns by Zionist organizations, penalties by their employers, and restrictions from their governments.”

This all coincides with the new motion to enact new legislation in the Israeli Knesset to restrict freedom of opinion and expression on social media platforms, following the approval of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on the first draft of the law, which was called the "Facebook Law." The law allows the Israeli Public Prosecution to request Israeli courts to remove any content from the digital space because it is "inciting" or threatening the "state security" or "personal security." The law has significant repercussions on Palestinians' freedom of expression in the digital space and is an addition to the effort of Israeli authorities to control the Palestinian digital content and space.

A survey of Palestinian Jerusalemite youth, carried out by 7amleh in 2020, showed that 87 percent of young people rarely express their opinions or participate in political discussions on the internet for fear of reprisal.

So where does this end exactly? Are we heading slowly but surely into the dystopian future that Margaret Atwood so candidly, and scarily accurately writes about? Her writings, along with the speedily evolvement of real-life event restrictions, seemingly are predicting in a near journalistic manner exactly how events are unfolding. The Israeli authorities exercised censorship, of the Palestinians that ‘dared’ to raise their voices to merely HIGHLIGHT the problem, followed by arrests on the grounds of ‘expression of opinion.’ Enough said. Expressing an opinion is now an indictable offence.

All that care about freedom should be concerned that all marginalised groups, be they discriminated against on the grounds of colour or creed, can be disadvantaged and isolated from society in a similar way to that experienced by Palestinians. Let this report be a warning. However, if the technological plight of the Palestinian can be resolved then the region can be a beacon of light and hope to protect and enhance liberty elsewhere.


Although in 2021, the ICC had opened a formal investigation into Palestine and Israel, the use of the word apartheid is yet to be regularly used in a legal sense. Instead, the term, as mentioned by the Human Rights Watch, is applied in a descriptive or comparative way, which in essence takes away from the grave seriousness of the situation.

Thus, the following suggestions are presented below.

Governments should:

  • Recognize that in allowing the Israeli regime to continue its systematic electronic apartheid policies against Palestinian people, they too are taking part in helping racial segregation and undermining the Palestinian population's right to self-determination.
  • Under universal jurisdiction, prosecute any individual or government that engages in crimes against humanity, ensuring that all international prosecutions meet international standards of equality.
  • Regulate, prosecute, and prohibit businesses that may be working with Israeli companies or the state that trade in surveillance goods and services used against peaceful activists.
  • Review the Apartheid Convention of 1973 and recognize their legal obligation in suppressing and punishing any crime of Apartheid by any state government. Through this, the private sector should assess their moral and ethical responsibility in operating or working with any project that may be involved in aiding the continuation of the level of surveillance demonstrated by Israel.
  • Thoroughly understand Articles IV and V of the Apartheid Convention and exercise their universal jurisdiction over the crimes against humanity over apartheid committed by any individual or state. Under the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity in the International Law Commission's 2019 draft, if acts of apartheid are not immediately addressed, states are subject to prosecution.
  • Take necessary actions, under international law, to punish and pressure governments that engage in acts of discrimination and apartheid.
  • Immediately halt and prevent the sales of any arms, intelligence technology, munition and security equipment sales or transfer to Israel, whether that be indirect or direct supply.

Businesses should:

  • Act in complete transparency whilst adopting ethical codes of conduct that will fulfil their obligations to the apartheid convention and international law to prevent directly or indirectly contributing to a regime of apartheid.
  • Ensure that business operations do not support or exacerbate the continued segregation of Palestinians, through extensive background research on suppliers prior to trade or service agreements.

To download the full report click HERE.


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