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Israel’s censorship regime goes global

Israeli forces attack Palestinians during a demonstration against the construction of Jewish settlements in Nablus, West Bank on 25 August 2017 [Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu Agency]
Israeli forces attack Palestinians during a demonstration against the construction of Jewish settlements in Nablus, West Bank on 25 August 2017 [Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu Agency]

For a government which brashly boasts of being “the only democracy in the Middle East” Israel in reality has a lot of anti-democratic tendencies.

The main one of these is the simple reality that Israel enforces a military dictatorship over millions of Palestinians.

These people – in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – cannot vote in Israeli elections. They do not have equal rights under Israeli law. They can have their property, homes and even lives taken away at a moment’s notice by Israeli soldiers or settlers.

The system of Israeli law that Palestinians in the sectors of Palestine designated under international law as the “occupied territories” is a military one. This is therefore an apartheid regime, since the Israeli settlers also living in the West Bank are subject to a different set of laws – civilian law.

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The conviction rate of the “military courts” regime is 99.7 per cent. This is a system of kangaroo courts and is profoundly anti-democratic and racist.

Another reason that Israel cannot be reasonably described as a democracy is that it enforces a system of military censorship.

Army officers, and other senior figures from Israel’s armed forces, can essentially tell Israel’s media what to do.

More often than not in practice, mainstream Israeli journalists are subservient, and don’t challenge official narratives, so there is often very little need for the media to be actively censored. They already know what not to publish.

But it is not unknown for the army to issue “gagging orders” so that key facts cannot be reported to the Israeli public. And such orders are often used for manipulative political reasons.

For example, two Israeli occupation soldiers were killed last week, allegedly by Palestinian attackers. At first the Israeli press – gagged by military censorship – reported only that “two Israelis were killed”.

While this was technically true, it was in fact quite misleading, as it implied that the two were civilians, not soldiers.

It was surely a salient, newsworthy fact that the two were in fact armed occupation soldiers, who were – like all Israeli soldiers – engaged in an act which international law terms belligerent military occupation. As such, Palestinians are permitted under the norms of international law to defend themselves by resisting this military occupation – including using armed force.

But it was only later – once “cleared for publication” by the Israeli military censor – that the “free, democratic” Israeli press was permitted to reveal the fact that the two had been soldiers.

Such censorship is not the actions of a democracy.

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To make matters worse, Israel is now in the first stages of extending its media censorship regime around the world.

It is helped in this by the Silicon Valley internet monopolies. Capitalism is the established system, and as such, capitalist entities uphold the established system. And in the US, the established government is a pro-Israel one.

So the Silicon Valley internet monopolies have in recent times been enforcing Israel’s military dictates. They are working to achieve this largely behind the scenes, and things are increasingly getting worse, with Palestinian news sources, and other pro-Palestinian sites increasingly being censored according to Israeli dictates.

Palestine is not the only issue at stake here, and alternative and left-leaning media over the last couple of years have increasingly had their online traffic squeezed out by Google, Facebook and increasingly Twitter, as I’ve reported in this column before.

The latest episode of this phenomenon is increasingly worrying, however.

In the latest frightening act of censorship, Israel is now actively attempting to have its military censorship regime apply around the whole world.

Earlier this month, Twitter forced the Electronic Intifada to delete tweets that reported on an Israeli death squad which had invaded the Gaza Strip.

Israeli soldiers infiltrated Gaza through PA crossings

Israeli soldiers infiltrated into Khan Yunis, Gaza through Palestinian Authority (PA) administrated crossings [Alqassam]

Other publications and individual Twitter users had been subjected to the same censorship. There was clearly an organised attempt by Israel to remove such information from the internet.

The EI tweets had reported on and shown images of the members of the Israeli death squad. As I reported here last month, the Israelis had infiltrated the Gaza Strip in an attempt to kidnap or kill Palestinian defence fighters.

They even used the cover of humanitarian aid groups to help infiltrate. Such deception is classified as perfidy, and is a potential war crime under international law, as it endangers the work of charity and aid workers.

Since Israel is now attempting to expand its censorship regime all around the world, it’s up to us to defy these attempts at preventing the truth from getting out. Let’s defy Twitter and Israel’s censorship – repost the photos of the suspects.

Such censorship is particularly insidious. If allowed to stand, it would mean make life harder for the Israeli public and honest journalists too.

The more canny of Israel’s journalists sometimes get around the military censors by reporting on what the foreign media says about a subject technically censored in Israel.

Israeli targeting of these tweets in particular seems an attempt to stop that happening.

We must not let this stand.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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