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Human Rights Watch Accuses Israel, Facebook of Repressing Palestinians

Human Rights Watch Accuses Israel, Facebook of Repressing Palestinians

Wednesday, 18 December, 2019 - 08:00
Israeli soldiers in Hebron in the occupied West Bank June 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

Human Rights Watch has accused Israel and its military courts of violating the freedoms of Palestinian generations in the occupied West Bank.

“Israel’s efforts to justify depriving Palestinians of basic civil rights protections for more than half a century based on the exigencies of its forever military occupation just don’t fly anymore,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at HRW.

“Given Israel’s long-term control over Palestinians, it should at minimum allow them to exercise the same rights it grants its own citizens, regardless of the political arrangement in place.”

The law of occupation permits occupiers to restrict some civil rights in the early days of an occupation based on limited security justifications, but sweeping restrictions are unjustified and unlawful after five decades, the organization said in a report released on Tuesday.

The international law governing military occupation requires Israel as the occupier to restore “public life” for the occupied Palestinian population. That obligation increases in a prolonged occupation such as Israel’s, as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Israeli Supreme Court have said and the Israeli government itself has acknowledged, according to the report.

The Palestinian population’s needs have increased over the decades while Israel has done far too little to develop more narrowly tailored responses to countering security threats that minimize rights restrictions, it said.

HRW also highlights a new trend by Facebook aggressively confronting aspects of Palestinian activity on social media.

Prosecutors have cited the broad definition of incitement under Israeli military law to criminalize speech advocating resistance to the occupation, even when it does not call for violence. For example, they used the charge to justify detaining a 43-year-old activist, Nariman Tamimi, over a livestream she posted to Facebook of an encounter between her then-16-year-old daughter Ahed and Israeli soldiers in her front yard in December 2017.

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