NGOs raided by Israeli forces, news websites blocked

Association

Palestinian human rights organisations which monitor Israeli occupation force violations and undertake international advocacy continue to face systematic attacks.

On 19th September 2019, the Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association (Addameer) offices were raided by Israeli occupation forces, seizing computers, hard drives, files and equipment. The raid was part of a wider crackdown on Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations and their staff. Both international and local organisations issued statements in solidarity with Addameer, noting that these attempts by Israeli occupation forces are primarily aimed at defaming and inciting violence against human rights defenders.

"The chilling raid by Israeli forces against Addameer demonstrates the Israeli authorities’ clear determination to crush peaceful activism and silence NGOs. This was a sinister and calculated attack designed to curtail Addameer’s vital human rights work,”- Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

"This raid a new step in Israel’s policy of restricting Palestinian human rights institutions. This Israeli military incursion is a direct attack on human rights work in Palestine, and lays bare Israel’s continuing crackdown on civil society institutions and their sources of funding, and reveals its ongoing efforts to defame and incite against human rights defenders,"- Adalah, Legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel.

Another raid was carried out on 24th September 2019 at the headquarters of the Union of Women's Committees in Hebron. Computers and a camera were stolen, and files were tampered with.

A similar attack was reported on 11th October 2019 by the Palestinian NGO Network. Dozens of Israeli soldiers stormed the headquarters of the General Directorate of Health Work Committees in Al-Bireh. PNGO issued a statement calling upon the international community, especially the UN General Assembly, to hold the occupying state of Israel to account.

"Israeli occupying power has a long history in hindering the work of CSOs including medical care to Palestinians by blocking ambulances at checkpoints, harassing medics, violating patient privacy, and restricting medical patients from receiving necessary medical treatment.” -PNGO

Peaceful assembly

As reported regularly by the CIVICUS Monitor, the use of excessive force against Palestinian protesters participating in the Great March of Return continues, despite being unlawful under international human rights and humanitarian laws.

Al Haq noted on 30th August 2019, during the 72nd Great Return March protests, that Israeli occupying forces killed Bader El-Din Nabil Abu Mousa (25). The following week, on 6th September 2019, during the 73rd Great Return March protests, Ali Sami Al-Ashqar (17) and Khaled Abu Bakr Rabie (14) were also killed. In addition, 181 Palestinians were reported as injured, including 98 by live ammunition, 49 by rubber coated metal bullets and 34 by tear gas canisters. Of the 181 Palestinians, 74 were children, one a journalist and three medics.

Expression

On 17th October 2019 the Ramallah Magistrate’s Court ordered internet service providers to block 59 websites. The verdict states:

These websites published texts, photos and essays that threaten national security and civil peace, disturb the public order and stir up Palestinian public opinion. Therefore, in accordance with paragraph (2) of Article (39) of the Law by Decree No. (10) of the 2018 Cybercrimes Law which allowed blocking websites; the court decided to approve the Attorney General’s request and block the abovementioned websites. The decision is issued on behalf of the Palestinian Arab people on 17 October 2019.”

The list of blocked websites included Facebook pages and news websites, such as Arab48, Wattan TV, Shehab News Agency, Quds News Network, Gaza Now, Metras and others.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement calling on The Palestinian National Authority to lift the ban. 

“By censoring websites, the Palestinian authorities are not only muzzling critical voices, but also denying Palestinians their right to receive information from a variety of sources,”- CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado.

The CPJ reports that on 22nd October 2019, the Independent Commission for Human Rights and Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate filed an appeal with the Ramallah Magistrates Court. The court referred the appeal to the Constitutional Court, which is yet to make a ruling.

Palestinian NGO Network also issued a statement condemning the court’s decision.

“The network confirms that the decision constitutes a clear violation of Article (27) of the amended Palestinian Basic Law, which prohibits censorship of the media and does not allow them to be warned, stopped, cancelled or have imposed on them any restrictions except by a “judicial ruling” in addition to the legal text, in addition to its violation of the article (19)”

Article 19 refers to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the State of Palestine acceded without reservation and is thus obligated to protect, promote and fulfill freedom of expression.

Several other organisations issued statements in response to this blockage. The Journalists Syndicate considered the court’s decision “a black day for the Palestinian press,” and confirmed they would pursue legal action to cancel this decision. Palestinian Center for Human Rights called for a retraction of the decision.

Meanwhile, regular monitoring of media freedom in Palestine by The Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedom (Mada), shows that during September 2019 there was a noticeable increase in the number of violations against media freedoms. MADA has documented a total of 53 attacks in September in comparison to 36 during August. In most cases the attacks were related to closures and blocking of personal journalist accounts by Facebook.

In addition, the centre also released a report titled: Freedom of Posting & Violations against Journalists on Social Media Sites in Palestine: The Range of Violations Is Growing. The report analysed social media sites from 2017 to the end of October 2019. It highlights issues around freedom of posting and violations against Palestinian journalists via social media sites. It also looks at violations and restrictions on freedom of expression that have taken place on social media platforms. A total of 294 violations were recorded over this period, with Facebook committing 57 violations against media freedoms in Palestine.