Webinar Highlights Threats and Opportunities for Palestinian Digital Rights


7amleh, Somo, Pax for Peace and Oxfam Novib hold webinar “Palestinian Digital Rights” to discuss Palestinian digital rights, threats to them and opportunities for the exercise of Palestinians’ digital rights.

On 15th October 2020, 7amleh, Somo, Pax for Peace and Oxfam Novib held a webinar titled “Palestinian Digital Rights” discussing violations to Palestinian Digital Rights by Israeli and Palestinian actors, international tech companies and the shrinking civic space. Nadim Nashif, 7amleh Executive Director, Alison Carmel, International Relations Manager at 7amleh, and Barbara Oosters, Oxfam Novib discussed the state of Palestinian Digital Rights. 


Nadim Nashif, gave a brief overview of digital rights as they are an “extension of human rights in the virtual world, the online world” and highlighted the importance of the right to access to the internet, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of expression and the right to assembly and association. He reminded the audience that the Palestinian situation is part of the global digital rights context, and that Covid-19 is giving legitimiacy for digital rights violations. Israeli authorities have been doing “very aggressive efforts to control Palestinian online space” since 2015, extending their control over Palestinian ICT infrastructure, and expanding the ‘legal’ basis for their violations. Furthermore, they have been using Covid-19 as an excuse to expand their surveillance of Palestinian Citizens of Israel to all citizens. 


Alison Carmel highlighted the role international tech companies play in Palestinian digital rights violations. This includes mapping companies such as Google Maps catering their maps to settlers from illegal settlements in the West Bank, social networks and digital economy platforms like PayPal discriminating against Palestinians, and tourism platforms profiting from unlawful settlements. She furthermore highlighted how youth, women and queer are more vulnerable to digital rights violations and the shrinking space online, before highlighting the real world consequences these digital rights violations cause, with “the entire [Palestinian] ICT system [...] being channeled through Israel”, there is “no safe way to be accessing the Internet in Palestine.” 


Barbara Oosters discussed how the shrinking of the online space is a global phenomena. Despite the increasing importance of the online space for civil action and mobilization, 3 main problems threaten this space: internet control, which is exacerbated by the private sector, and disinformation and fake news. She added how Covid-19 has created a “dangerous narrative shift” on surveillance from scepticism to an attitude of “surveillance is necessary, it is good for our health”, “making it the new normal”. 


During the question and answer session at the end of the webinar, all speakers highlighted the role of awareness on digital rights. Barbara Oosters stressed the importance of the recognition that “there will be surveillance” and from there to take steps of “simple things” to protect yourself, such as using encrypted email and apps. Nadim Nashif added to that that 7amleh has been having a leading role in publishing materials on digital security, particularly in Arabic, including the first ever gender-sensitive digital security manual in Arabic.


Watch the webinar recording:


Access the presentations here.


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