Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

NSO’s Pegasus spyware now really in the firing line

July 21, 2021

Frank Andrews in the Middle East Eye of 20 July 2021 tracks the history of the unhealthy story to which also thsi blog has regularly paid attention: see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/nso-group/

Claims made this week that the Israeli company’s Pegasus spyware technology has been used to surveil 50,000 phones – belonging to heads of state, journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents and more – may be the highest-profile accusations against the firm, but they are not the first.

Pegasus, which infects phones with spyware through various means, has proven to be a boon to digital authoritarians wanting to track anyone perceived as critical of their rule. It has also been the subject of numerous lawsuits and legal complaints.

It begun in August 2016, when the United Arab Emirates was found to be tracking the iPhone of Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor using Pegasus spyware, according to a report by Citizen Lab and Lookout Security. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/08/29/apple-tackles-iphone-one-tap-spyware-flaws-after-mea-laureate-discovers-hacking-attempt/]

Geneva experts on cybersecurity and digital governance tell Geneva Solutions what citizens must do to stem the erosion of our right to privacy.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, in a statement, said that the revelations “are extremely alarming, and seem to confirm some of the worst fears about the potential misuse of surveillance technology to illegally undermine people’s human rights.” See statement by @UNHumanRights Chief @mbachelet: https://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-pegasus-spyware-nso-group-history-accusations-denials

https://www.rawstory.com/as-un-human-rights-chief-urges-stricter-rules-snowden-calls-for-end-to-spyware-trade/https://www.rawstory.com/as-un-human-rights-chief-urges-stricter-rules-snowden-calls-for-end-to-spyware-trade/

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/the-making-of-pegasus-from-startup-to-spy-tech-leader-israel-invasive-spyware-7414370/

Israel and the international crime of Apartheid: a response by Human Rights Watch worth studying in full

July 9, 2021

EJIL Talk!, the Blog of the European Journal of International Law, last week had a symposium (see: https://www.ejiltalk.org/), which has addressed a number of legal issues arising from HRW’s report released in late April 2021 “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.” This report has received significant media attention.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/18/israel-and-apartheid-israeli-human-rights-group-stirs-debate/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/10/israeli-government-sponsored-app-goes-after-hrw-for-apartheid-categorisation/

On 9 july 2021 Clive Baldwin, Senior Legal Adviser of HRW, uses the opportunity to contribute to a substantive discussion focusing primarily on the implications of the report for the broader international legal discourse.

After detailed discussion of the international LEGAL aspects, he concludes:

The discussion demonstrates the importance of considering the term “apartheid” under international criminal law as a specific crime against humanity, together with the closely related crime against humanity of persecution. This requires a legal understanding of its definition and constitutive elements, as well as of ways to apply it. To even begin the process of criminal justice, prosecutors – and in particular those at the ICC – will first need to understand and investigate these crimes. Legal discussions like this symposium can, we hope, help advance this objective. These are crimes against humanity that have been neglected for too long.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/07/09/human-rights-watch-responds-reflections-apartheid-and-persecution-international-law

Israeli government-sponsored app goes after HRW for Apartheid categorisation

May 10, 2021

Alan Macleod in Mint-press News of 7 May 2021 studies in quite some detail the way in which the recently released Human Rights Watch (HRW) report has made waves around the world and the organised backlash that followed.

For the first time, the New York-based non-governmental organization has categorized Israel as an apartheid state guilty of “crimes against humanity.” [see also`: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/18/israel-and-apartheid-israeli-human-rights-group-stirs-debate/]

The 213-page study goes into detail about a range of racist laws and policies carried out by successive administrations, concluding that there is an “overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.” The report accuses the state of Israel of widespread “institutional discrimination” and of “denying millions of Palestinians their fundamental rights…solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish.” It further notes that, across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, it has “sought to maximize the land available for Jewish communities and to concentrate most Palestinians in dense population centers.”

Prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change,” said the organization’s executive director, Kenneth Roth. “This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

Perhaps most importantly, Human Rights Watch is now openly calling for global action to end the repression. The report asks the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute those involved in Palestinian persecution. While not explicitly endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sactions (BDS) movement, Human Rights Watch directly advocates that “[s]tates should impose individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against officials and individuals responsible for the continued commission of these serious crimes,” and for businesses to “cease business activities that directly contribute to the crimes of apartheid and persecution.”

A big splash

The report was widely covered across the world and has been heralded by Palestine solidarity activists, with experts seeing it as a potential turning point in the struggle for Palestinian sovereignty. “It was inevitable that Human Rights Watch would have to declare Israel an Apartheid state and, from what I hear, Amnesty International is going to be next to say it,Asa Winstanley of the Electronic Intifada told MintPress. “It puts Israel’s backers in a difficult spot because Human Rights Watch is really part of the establishment so they cannot just dismiss it and it makes it impossible to ignore… It is harder for them to say Human Rights Watch is anti-Semitic, but they’re trying it anyway,” he added.

Trying indeed. Michigan Congresswoman Lisa McClain tweeted that “Human Rights Watch has shown again how they have an anti-Israel agenda,” suggesting they instead focus their attention on China or Iran’s repressive governments. “Hostility and hypocrisy are HRW’s hallmarks when it comes to Israel,” wrote the American Jewish Committee. The Jerusalem Post’s editorial board was equally condemnatory, denouncing what they saw as the “cynical appropriation of the suffering of the victims of the actual apartheid regime.” Other Israeli journalists described the report as “a disgrace to the memory of the millions who suffered under that policy [apartheid] in South Africa.” The news even made enough waves to force a response from the White House. Press Secretary Jen Psaki replied that “[a]s to the question of whether Israel’s actions constitute apartheid, that is not the view of this administration.”

Organized spontaneity

Yet much of the online anger at the report was actually manufactured by an Israeli government-sponsored app, Act.IL, which organized supporters of the Jewish state to act in sync to create an artificial groundswell of opposition to it. The app, which reportedly has a budget of over $1 million per year, instructed users to leave combative comments on Facebook, Twitter, and popular news outlets, and to like and promote others who did the same.

Human Rights Watch’s Facebook post announcing the report’s release has received over 1,400 comments, hundreds of them written in a similar, scathingly negative tone. One that the app directly told users to signal boost, for instance, described Palestinians as a people “indoctrinated with hate for Israel and Jews for over 100 years,” and claimed they were paid salaries to murder Israelis. It also presented the 1967 war and occupation as a humanitarian effort to bring electricity and other infrastructure to Arabs.

Another “mission” Act.IL gave its users was to promote a Facebook comment attacking the report as “nothing more than hate speech” and calling its lead author a “rabid anti-Zionist and Israel hater.”Omar Shakir HRW

One of the many images provided to Act.IL users for their astroturfing campaign against HRW

Act.IL is one of the chief tools in Israel’s online public relations enterprise. The app debuted in 2017 and is part of what Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan called an “Iron Dome of Truth.” “Our cell phones are the number one weapon against us,” he explained, noting that public opinion in the U.S. was beginning to turn against them. While most of the app’s nearly 20,000 users are volunteers, a core of them are paid operatives, with many students receiving scholarships as a reward for their work.

The app has been designed to feel like a game, with points assigned for completing “missions” such as sharing pro-Israel videos, reporting anti-Israel content, signing petitions, or attending online seminars. Users can track their progress on leaderboards, earn badges and prizes, and chat with other members of the community. While it might feel like Animal Crossing or World of Warcraft for some, its creators see this very much as a new front in the war against Palestine. Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked categorizes BDS as “another branch of terrorism in the modern age,” and has been an important voice in taking the fight to a new front.

An Act.IL mission encouraging astroturfing of online discussions. Source |
@AntiBDSApp

There is also an online toolkit full of folders of responses to typical questions and issues that arise. Users can, for instance, go to the BDS folder to find stock replies to their arguments. Or they can go to a specific folder to find articles, images and videos they can use to demonize Hamas.

The missions are organized by outlet, so users can, for instance, target only Facebook, Telegram, or other platforms they are most familiar with. At the time of writing, there are 10 missions each to complete on Facebook and YouTube, 30 on Instagram, 25 on Twitter.

One current challenge is to upvote an answer to a question on Quora that asks about the validity and purpose of checkpoints in the West Bank. The answer claims they are purely about protection from terror attacks, and claims that Red Crescent ambulances are used to ferry bombs around the area. Other missions include pressuring an online store to remove a bag with a message stating “Make Israel Palestine Again.”Act.IL

An Act.IL “mission” encouraging users to demand the removal of products with pro-Palestinian messaging

It is quite astounding how openly they do it. But, of course, when you see a comment online, you wouldn’t necessarily think that it was coming from the Israeli government, but this is essentially what is happening,” Winstanley said. “Israel is not the only state to do this, but they do it fairly successfully.

For all this, however, it is clear that Act.IL has a serious problem with user retention and lacks the volunteer numbers for it to be truly game changing.

Controlling the message

In a time of heightened awareness about foreign government interference online, it is particularly surprising that these operations can be openly carried out across virtually every major platform. Big tech companies like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are constantly deleting tens of thousands of Russian, Chinese, Iranian and Cuban accounts belonging to what they claim are organized, state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.

In an effort to gauge the legality of its operations, MintPress reached out to Facebook, YouTube, Quora, and other big platforms used by Act.IL. We received no response from any of them. While this is particularly noteworthy — as these companies have teams of public relations representatives and are extremely forthright and timely with responses on other issues — it is perhaps not surprising. Facebook especially has long been working closely with the Israeli government in deciding which voices to censor. As far back as 2016, Ayelet Shaked boasted that Facebook removed 95% of the posts her office asked them to. Yet when Shaked herself called for a genocidal war against Palestine and its women, who give birth to “little snakes,” not only did the post remain online, it received thousands of likes and was widely circulated.

“The concern is that Facebook is adopting Israeli policy and terminology when it comes to defining what incitement is,” said Nadim Nashif, co-founder of 7amleh, the Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media. 7amleh was therefore dismayed when last year, Facebook appointed former Israeli Minister of Justice Emi Palmor to its Oversight Board, the council having the final say in the moderation of content on the platform used by 2.6 billion people worldwide. In her role as justice minister, Palmor was directly implicated in the persecution and subjugation of Palestinians.

Earlier this year, an Israeli Defense Forces soldier attempted to sue a Palestinian-American activist living in California over an allegedly slanderous Facebook post condemning her for participating in ethnic cleansing. Remarkably, the plaintiff attempted to convince a California judge to apply Israeli law to the incident, despite the fact that both she and the defendant are American citizens. https://cdn.iframe.ly/r7H7ueP?iframe=card-small&v=1&app=1

Inside the world of academia, professors critical of Israel have found themselves pushed out of the profession. In 2007, prominent critic of Israel Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure at DePaul University for political reasons. Seven years later, the University of Illinois “unhired” Steven Sailata for his comments denouncing Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza. Emails showed that wealthy donors put significant pressure on the university to pull the plug on him. More recently, Cornel West was blocked from a tenured job at Harvard this year, despite having previously held tenure at Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. “Being the faculty advisor for the Palestinian student group was the one that probably went outside of the line for many Harvard staff,” West told Krystal Ball and Kyle Kulinski. “It’s a joke. It’s ridiculous. It’s ludicrous. It’s preposterous that it wouldn’t have something to do with politics.”

Top media figures have also paid the price for their support of BDS. CNN fired commentator Marc Lamont Hill after he made a speech at the United Nations calling for a free Palestine. Meanwhile, journalist Abby Martin was blocked from speaking at a conference at Georgia Southern University last year after she refused to sign a contract promising to renounce BDS. Georgia is one of dozens of U.S. states to have anti-BDS legislation, essentially forcing any would-be recipient of public contracts or funds, including government employees, to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel. Martin is currently suing the state of Georgia. MintCast Interviews Abby Martin About Her Anti-BDS Lawsuit & The Israel Lobby

While Human Rights Watch’s report is new, the charge of apartheid is not. In 2017, a United Nations report “clearly and frankly concludes” that Israel is “a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people.” Earlier this year, Israeli human rights organization B’TSelem also used the word “apartheid,” claiming that Israel had established “a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”…

Advocates for Palestine hailed Human Rights Watch’s study. Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies wrote:

There can be little doubt that much of HRW’s decision to issue this report now was based on the recognition that not only is it no longer political suicide to call Israeli apartheid what it is, but that we are now at a tipping point whereby failing to call out apartheid risks losing credibility for a human rights organization. It’s a huge victory for our movement.”

The battle, however, is far from won, and it is clear that the Israel lobby will continue to fight to hold back the tide until it is insurmountable.

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/04/27/abusive-israeli-policies-constitute-crimes-apartheid-persecution

Israel and Apartheid: Israeli Human Rights Group stirs debate

January 18, 2021

At the risk of inviting a torrent of abusive reactions, I think that the question of whether there is a case of APARTHEID is a legitimate one as a recent human rights NGO report asserts that one unequal system governs Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

B’Tselem, a prominent Israeli human rights group has intensified its criticism of the country’s policies toward Palestinians, saying Israel pursues a nondemocratic “apartheid regime” and “Jewish supremacy” in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. The report of Tuesday 12 January 2021 reflects a recent shift by critics within Israel, widening their focus beyond the country’s half-century military occupation of Palestinian territories to policies stretching back to Israel’s founding, and endorsing highly charged parallels to South Africa’s former regime of white rule.

An editorial in the Guardian of 17 January states: It was a deliberate provocation by B’Tselem, Israel’s largest human rights group, to describe the Palestinians in the Holy Land as living under an apartheid regime. Many Israelis detest the idea that their country, one they see as a democracy that rose from a genocidal pyre, could be compared to the old racist Afrikaner regime. Yet figures such as Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter have done so. There is a serious argument about injustices to be had. Palestinians – unlike Israeli Jews – live under a fragmented mosaic of laws, often discriminatory, and public authorities which seem indifferent to their plight. Apartheid is a crime against humanity. It is a charge that should not be lightly made, for else it can be shrugged off. Some might agree with the use of such incendiary language, but many will recoil. The crime of apartheid has been defined as “inhumane acts committed in the context of a regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups with the intention of maintaining that regime”.

Many Israelis firmly reject the comparison. They boast of a vibrant Israeli democracy, say Palestinians have representation in their own semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority, and justify restrictions on Palestinians as necessary security measures in the absence of peace.

B’Tselem’s director Hagai El-Ad, who is Jewish, said he hoped the report would inform the analysis of the incoming Biden administration as it considers how to steer U.S. policy, after the Trump administration sided with Israel and against Palestinian positions on the most sensitive aspects of the long-running conflict between the two peoples. “I expect this will be part of a new chapter for fighting for justice in this place,” El-Ad said.

B’Tselem, which has documented Israeli human rights abuses in Palestinian territories since 1989, said it now rejects the commonly held notion that Israel maintains two separate regimes side-by-side: a democracy inside Israel, where the country’s 20% Palestinian Arab minority shares equal citizenship and rights with its Jewish majority, and a military occupation imposed on Palestinian non-citizens in territories captured in 1967 which Palestinians seek for an independent state. “One organizing principle lies at the base of a wide array of Israeli policies: advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians,” B’Tselem said in a statement Tuesday.

Daniel Estrin notes in his piece on NPR some reactions:

The Israeli government did not issue an immediate public response, but defenders of Israeli policy accused B’Tselem of radicalized anti-Israel propaganda.

This is no longer the same NGO that once gained respect, even from critics, by championing human rights based on credible research. Today, it is a platform for demonizers,” Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog of pro-Palestinian groups, said in a statement.

B’Tselem seeks to “fundamentally delegitimize Israel and call for its destruction – because one does not reform an Apartheid regime, one ends it,” said Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum, a conservative Israeli think tank.

Another prominent Israeli advocate for Palestinian rights, lawyer Michael Sfard, issued a legal opinion last year that Israelis practice apartheid over Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but he stopped short of evaluating whether the same definition applied within Israel proper.

Last year, the Israeli NGO Yesh Din found that Israeli officials were culpable of the crime of apartheid in the West Bank.

B’Tselem said Palestinian Arab citizens in Israel have more rights than non-citizens in the West Bank and Gaza but that they were second-class citizens to Jewish Israelis. It pointed to Israel’s construction of hundreds of Jewish communities while building few communities for the country’s Palestinian citizens; and laws that grant automatic Israeli citizenship to Jews around the world but exclude non-Jews, including Palestinians.

B’Tselem’s criticisms of Israel’s military occupation include travel restrictions placed on Palestinians, who require Israeli travel permits; and Palestinians’ lack of voting rights in the Israeli political system which holds sway over their lives.

B’Tselem said it decided to embrace the apartheid terminology following the adoption in 2018 of Israel’s Nation State Law, which defined Israel as a Jewish state and accorded Jews priority in areas ranging from the official use of Hebrew versus Arabic, to land development, to the government’s discussion last year of potentially annexing occupied West Bank territory without extending voting rights to Palestinians living there, a move Israel says is possible.

“Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it: it is one regime between the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: apartheid,” El-Ad said.

The human rights group’s name, B’Tselem, Hebrew for “In the Image,” is taken from Genesis 1:27 which states that humanity was created in the image of God.

See also: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/18/israel-moves-to-rein-in-rights-group-over-use-of-term-apartheid

https://www.npr.org/2021/01/12/956020789/israeli-human-rights-group-says-the-country-pursues-nondemocratic-apartheid-regi?t=1610539620271

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/17/the-guardian-view-on-israel-and-apartheid-prophecy-or-description

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2105/S00023/quibbling-over-cruelties-human-rights-watch-israel-and-apartheid.htm

Palestinian human rights defender Amro Issa convicted for speaking out

January 7, 2021

On Wednesday morning 6 January 2021 an Israeli military court convicted Palestinian Human Rights Defender Issa Amro for peacefully protesting and civil disobedience. The Israeli military judge announced the verdict in a hearing attended by representatives of British, European, EU and Canadian consulates. Amnesty International issued a statement calling to drop all the “politically motivated” charges.

Today Israel announced that Palestinians are not allowed to peacefully protest the Israeli occupation without a permit from the occupier,” Amro stated. “This conviction is the military system against the Palestinian nonviolent resistance. It aims to suppress my voice and end all activism against the Israeli occupation.” Amro’s Israeli lawyer Gaby Lasky added that “The military court is just an organ of occupation. The [indictment for nonviolent protest] is an example of how the courts are used in order to deter the important voices of human rights defenders.”

Amro is a founder of the Youth Against Settlements group in Hebron, which organises non-violent activism against the illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron and the discriminatory restrictions placed on Palestinians by the Israeli authorities in the city. Amro first appeared in an Israeli military court in 2016 on 18 charges, ranging from “insulting a soldier” to “participating in a march without a permit”. Some of the charges dated back to 2010.

The indictment, first presented in 2016, included 18 charges related to Amro’s community organizing deemed “baseless,” “politically motivated” or “physically impossible” by Amnesty. The military judge convicted Amro on six counts: three counts of “participating in a rally without a permit,” two counts of “obstructing a soldier,” and one count of “assault.” These surround Amro’s participation in the peaceful “Open Shuhada Street” demonstration in 2016; Amro’s participation in the nonviolent “I Have a Dream” demonstration from 2013 in which participants wore masks of Obama and Martin Luther King; one count of obstruction relates to a nonviolent sit-in protest in 2012 calling to re-open the old Hebron municipality building; one count of “assault” by “shoving someone” related to a previously-closed case from 2010, an incident for which the indictment had included an obstruction charge (acquitted) for Amro yelling “I am being assaulted” in the Israeli police station prior to Amro being carried out to an ambulance on a stretcher.

In 2019, UN Special Rapporteurs called for Amro’s protection and expressed “concern” over the charges. In 2017[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/11/un-rapporteurs-intervene-again-for-palestinian-human-rights-defender-issa-amro/]; thirty-five U.S. House Representatives and four Senators including Bernie Sanders sent letters highlighting that some charges were not internationally recognizable offenses and that Amnesty would consider Amro a “prisoner of conscience” if convicted. Issa Amro is the co-founder and former coordinator of the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements initiative. In 2010, he was declared “Human Rights Defender of the year in Palestine” by the UN OHCHR and he is formally recognized by the European Union. He won the One World Media Award in 2009 for his involvement in B’Tselem’s camera distribution project. He was a guest of the U.S. State Department in 2011 and has spoken at the UN Human Rights Council on numerous occasions. The sentencing is scheduled for 8 February.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/21/palestinian-human-rights-defenders-continue-to-be-persecuted/

Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said: “The Israeli authorities must end their campaign of persecution against Palestinian activist Issa Amro, who is a prominent voice against Israel’s regime of discrimination and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly in Hebron.”

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2101/S00025/israeli-military-court-convicts-un-recognized-palestinian-human-rights-defender-for-protesting-without-a-permit.htm

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/30290

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

https://mailchi.mp/3fff66fe2a8b/military-court-convicts-human-rights-defender-issa-amro?e=51113b9c0e

Euro-Med Monitor’s report of November 2020 shows progress in some areas

December 3, 2020

On Thursday, 3 December 2020 Scoop carries the recent report by the Euro- Med Monitor which shows actions in a number of countries covered by the NGO

Hungary

The European Commission issued a new notice/ procedure against Hungary in which it considers Hungary’s new laws against refugees and asylum seekers illegal and violates the European Union laws for asylum seekers. The Hungarian government closed its transit areas and approved a new law prohibiting asylum seekers from entering the country. Under the new law, asylum seekers must first submit “a declaration of intent” at the embassies of Hungary in Serbia or Ukraine, and if they were approved by the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing (formerly the Office of Immigration), asylum seekers can then enter the territory of Hungary to formally submit an asylum application.

During a lobbying and advocacy campaign extending for more than three years, Euro-Med Monitor has worked with partner international organizations to pressure the EU governments to accommodate more asylum seekers and distribute the burden among them. Euro-Med Monitor called on the EU to search for the best mechanisms to redistribute refugees and asylum seekers in Hungary in a fair manner between the EU member states, pressure the Hungarian government to take full responsibility for migrants and asylum seekers in its custody, and put an end to violations of their basic rights.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/07/good-example-of-authoritarian-abuse-of-covid-19-emergency-hungary/

Croatia

The EU Ombudsman announced on 10 November that an investigation has been opened into the possible complicity of the EU’s Executive in mismanaging funds allocated for overseeing the conduct of the Croatian border officers accused of participating in violence against asylum seekers, including shootings of refugees.

On May 19, Euro-Med Monitor addressed the Croatian government and concerned parties in the EU to immediately put an end to all illegal and discriminatory practices against asylum seekers and to conduct an independent investigation into violations committed by the Croatian police against refugees.

Spain

On 30 November, the Spanish authorities have cleared and dismantled dock camp in Gran Canaria, which was used to accommodate thousands of migrants and asylum seekers in very adverse conditions since last August.

On November 26, Euro-Med Monitor issued an urgent appeal to the Spanish authorities to end the overcrowding conditions in refugee camps in the Canary Islands, to deal with unsanitary conditions, to increase alternative reception centers, to transfer asylum seekers to the Spanish mainland in a quicker manner, and to establish fair asylum procedures for migrants and asylum seekers.

The Palestinian Territories

The EU called on the Israeli government to halt its policy of home demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), including demolishing housing units funded by the EU. This comes amid the high rate of demolitions this year.

In lobbying and advocacy campaigns that spanned over years, Euro-Med Monitor representatives met with members of the European Parliament and launched an intensive correspondence campaign revealing the high number of demolitions against projects funded by the EU in the Palestinian territories. Euro-Med Monitor brought the case to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), providing a number of reports and statements, and contacted the Special Rapporteur on housing to exert pressure on Israel to put an end to its violations and demolitions last September.

The Jericho Magistrate’s Court issued a decision to release Palestinian activist Nizar Banat after he was arrested for publishing a video on Facebook criticizing the resumption of relations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel.

On November 22, Euro-Med Monitor called on concerned bodies in the PA and its Public Prosecutor to immediately release Banat, and urged the PA to to review its security policies in dealing with opponents and to put an end to all violations committed against the rights guaranteed by relevant international laws and treaties.

Saudi Arabia/United Arab Emirates

Negotiators in the European Council and the European Parliament approved new rules on November 8 that would control the export of dual-use goods such as electronic surveillance equipment to third countries that might use these technologies to harm their own citizens and are involved in human rights violations.

During the past months, Euro-Med Monitor, in cooperation with partner organizations, addressed several European Parliament members and representatives. The Euro-Med released several reports revealing the grave human rights violations committed by both Saudi Arabia and the UAE against civilians, including the war in Yemen, enforced disappearances, and arrest campaigns against journalists and activists for opposing the regime. Euro-Med Monitor, in cooperation with its partners in the region, called on the European Union (EU) countries to stop the export of weapons and modern surveillance technologies to countries that violate human rights in the Middle East.

Europe

On November 10, members of the European Parliament called for ensuring accountability for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) over returning migrants and asylum seekers from Greece to Turkish territorial waters. On May 6, 2020, Euro-Med Monitor addressed members of the European Parliament and the EU to impose transparency and accountability measures against Frontex practices and to establish an independent oversight committee to investigate and prevent any violations.

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2012/S00020/good-news-on-euro-med-monitors-joint-efforts-towards-ceasing-human-rights-violations-november-2020.htm

ALERT: IF true, unbelievable: Trump to declare Amnesty, HRW and other NGOs as antisemitic!

October 22, 2020

The normally reliable Jerusalem (By SARAH CHEMLA) reports on 22 Ocrtober 2020 that US President Donald Trump may declare major international Human Rights NGO’s Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam as antisemitic in a soon-to-be released State Department declaration, voicing that governments should not support them any longer. If the declaration happens, it is likely to cause an uproar among civil society groups and might incite litigation. Critics of the possible move also worry it could lead other governments to further crack down on such groups, according to Politico.

T’ruah, a rabbinic human rights organization that represents over 2,000 rabbis, responded to the allegation on Wednesday, saying that “any US government declaration that these groups are antisemitic for criticizing the Israeli government is ridiculous, and contributes to the silencing of Israel’s human rights defenders.” It continued, adding that “the Trump administration’s smear of these three human rights organizations is yet one more example of this administration’s disregard for democracy and human rights at home and abroad.” “In casting aspersion on longtime respected human rights organizations, the Trump administration joins an ignoble list of autocratic governments that have discredited, smeared and even banned their own internal human rights organizations,” T’ruah said.”Actions such as these damage US democracy by threatening the transparency necessary to protect human rights. Human rights and civil society groups play a prophetic role, even if their words may not be ones governments want to hear.”Israel is a state bound by international human rights law, like all other members of the United Nations, and like other countries can be criticized when it fails to live up to these commitments,” it said.”By falsely smearing human rights organizations as antisemitic, the Trump administration only makes it harder to counter actual acts of antisemitism when they happen, while simultaneously harming these organizations’ effectiveness in reporting on all countries’ human rights abuses – including those of the United States.” 

ACCORDING TO Politico, the declaration is expected to take the form of a report from the office of Elan Carr, the US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. It would declare that it is US policy not to support such groups, including financially (NOTE: AI and HRW do not accept government funding as a matter of policy!) , and urge other governments to cease their support.The report would cite such groups’ alleged or perceived support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which has targeted Israel over its construction of settlements on land Palestinians claim for a future state. The declaration is also expected to point to reports and press statements such groups have released about the impact of Israeli settlements, as well as their involvement or perceived support for a United Nations database of businesses that operate in disputed territories, Politico said. Contacted by Politico, the organizations named in the report denied any allegations that they are antisemitic. 
[In 2019, David Collier released a report into the work of Amnesty International after monitoring dozens of social media accounts maintained by the NGO and people who work for it, and concluded that the amount of hatred Israel receives is beyond any proportion, to a level that is, he said, antisemitic.“Targets are not chosen for their actions, but rather for their identity,” wrote Collier. “Persecuted Christians are blatantly ignored.”[see also: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/how-racist-blogger-david-collier-infiltrated-labour-party]

However, some differ, see e.g.: https://www.jns.org/opinion/time-to-call-out-human-rights-groups-for-their-anti-semitism/

https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/trump-administration-to-declare-amnesty-human-rights-watch-oxfam-antisemitic-646535

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/23/us-seeks-discredit-human-rights-groups

UN Office in Israel being curtailed through visa denial

October 17, 2020

Israel, which was angered in February by the UN listing companies with activities in illegal Israeli settlements, has granted no visas to UN rights staff for months, the agency said Friday. “Visa applications have not been formally refused, but the Israeli authorities have abstained from issuing or renewing any visas since June,UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told AFP in an email.

He stressed that Israel had not formally refused any of the office’s visa applications, but had simply not acted on new requests or requests for renewal. Nine international staff members (including country director James Heenan) had been forced to leave so far after their visas were not renewed. And “three newly appointed international staff have not been able to deploy because they have not received their visas,” he said. Only three international staff members of the agency still have valid visas to work in the country.

This, Colville lamented, was creating a “highly irregular situation and will negatively impact on our ability to carry out our mandate.

Israel has not provided an official explanation, but the blockage comes after the UN rights office in February released a list of over 100 companies with activities in Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law. And in June, the country reiterated its decision to “freeze ties” with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and her office.

Colville stressed that the UN rights agency’s offices in Israel and the Palestinian territories remained open, with 26 national staff members and the remaining three international staff onsite. The remainder of the international staff were working remotely, he said, adding that this was not having a big impact on operations yet, since remote work had become a norm in many places anyway due to the ongoing pandemic. “We continue to hope that this situation will be resolved soon, and we are actively engaged with various relevant and concerned parties to that end,” Colville said.

Forcing [out] human right monitoring groups is part of a clear strategy that aims to muzzle documentations of Israel’s systematic repression of Palestinians,Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/06/human-rights-watch-omar-shakir-loses-his-appeal-in-israeli-supreme-court/]

Shakir, who is currently based in Amman after being expelled from Israel after claims he supported calls for a boycott, said it is part of a wider trend in which other human rights activists are being denied entry due to their criticism of Israel’s human rights record.

However, Shakir said that if Israel’s goal was to silence criticism it had failed, as human rights activists continue to do their work as “strongly” as before.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/16/israel-stops-issuing-visas-to-un-human-rights-workers

Amnesty International’s bid to block spyware company NSO fails in Israeli court

July 15, 2020

Amnesty International’s bid to block spyware company NSO Group’s international export licence has been shut down in a Tel Aviv court, apparently due to a lack of evidence, reported several media, here in the New Statesman of 14 July 2020. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/17/has-nso-really-changed-its-attitude-with-regard-to-spyware/ ]

The case argued that the Israeli defence ministry should revoke the group’s export licence in light of numerous allegations that its phone-hacking Pegasus spyware has been used by governments (including Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the UAE) to spy on civilians including an Amnesty International employee, human rights activists, lawyers and journalists..

The district court judge Rachel Barkai wrote in a statement that there was not enough evidence to “substantiate the claim that an attempt was made to monitor a human rights activist”. She wrote that in reviewing materials provided by the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she was persuaded that export licences were granted as part of a “sensitive and rigorous process”, and closely monitored and revoked if conditions were violated, “in particular in cases of human rights violations.”

Amnesty International decried the court’s decision. Danna Ingleton, acting co-director of Amnesty Tech, said in a statement: “Today’s disgraceful ruling is a cruel blow to people put at risk around the world by NSO Group selling its products to notorious human rights abusers. […] The ruling of the court flies in the face of the mountains of evidence of NSO Group’s spyware being used to target human rights defenders from Saudi Arabia to Mexico, including the basis of this case – the targeting of one of our own Amnesty employees.

NSO said: “Our detractors, who have made baseless accusations to fit their own agendas, have no answer to the security challenges of the 21st century. Now that the court’s decision has shown that our industry is sufficiently regulated, the focus should turn to what answer those who seek to criticise NSO have to the abuse of encryption by nefarious groups.”

The NSO Group is currently embroiled in another lawsuit brought by WhatsApp, which alleges that Pegasus spyware was used to hack more than a thousand of the messaging platform’s users. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/30/nso-accused-of-largest-attack-on-civil-society-through-its-spyware/]

https://tech.newstatesman.com/security/amnesty-international-nso-group-export-licence

European Court of Human Rights finds France violated freedom of expression of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists

June 13, 2020

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that France violated the freedom of expression of pro-Palestinian activists who were convicted of campaigning for a boycott of Israeli products and pressuring that country to end the occupation of Palestine.

The ruling refers to a 2009 French justice conviction against 11 activists from the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement for “economic discrimination” for protesting and distributing leaflets against Israeli products in a supermarket in eastern France.

BDS has called for boycotts against Israeli companies, universities and cultural institutions in what it says is a non-violent campaign against Israeli abuses in Palestine, while Israel claims that the movement masks attempts to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

This important court ruling is a decisive victory for freedom of expression, for human rights defenders and for the BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality,” said Rita Ahmad of the Palestinian-led movement. Most of the international community considers Israeli settlement in the West Bank illegal.

The ECHR ruling orders the French government to pay € 101,000 in general damages to the activists, as the criminal conviction “had no relevant and sufficient basis” and violated the freedom of expression of the protesters. The French government has three months to appeal the decision

Israel promotes a number of legislative initiatives against BDS abroad, particularly in the United States and Europe. The United States House of Representatives passed a bipartisan resolution last year condemning the boycott of Israel as detrimental to peace efforts. The German Parliament passed a resolution last year describing the movement’s methods as “anti-Semitic” and reminiscent of Nazi-era calls to boycott Jews. BDS activists deny the charges of anti-Semitism and say discrimination laws have been used to unfairly attack them. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/25/revoking-of-kamila-shamsies-dortmund-book-award-is-fiercely-contested/

Amnesty International expressed hope that the ruling “will send a clear message to all European states that they must stop the prosecution of peaceful activists.

https://www.explica.co/europes-top-human-rights-court-supports-boycott-movement-against-israel/

https://www.israelhayom.com/2020/06/12/european-court-rules-against-france-in-israel-boycott-activist-case/