September 22 2022 GM
Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IFF Square on the IFF Mattermost, at 9am EDT / 1pm UTC. Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.
Date: Thursday, September 22nd
Time: 9am EDT / 1pm UTC
Who: Laila Sit Aboha
Where: On IFF Mattermost Square Channel.
- Don't have an account to the IFF Mattermost? you can request one following the directions here.
Palestine under a digital panopticon: what can we do?
We will speak with Laila Sit Aboha about how Palestine is censored in the digital sphere at this meetup. However, rather than focusing solely on corporate censorship, such as Meta, we will also discuss the self-censorship and silences experienced by pro-Palestinian voices who fear being smeared, doxxed, and literally taken to court over their tweets. What can you do when speaking up means losing everything you own, including your job and visa? How can we show solidarity and do more for vulnerable voices? Join us as we consider these and other questions!
Laila Sit Aboha is a Palestinian community organizer, activist, and writer who currently works as Junior Advocacy and Communication Office at the European Legal Support Center (ELSC)
- Laila Sit Aboha (@laila.sitaboha on Mattermost), is an advocacy and communication officer of ELSC. She’s Italian-Palestinian currently based in Italy! She’s working with ELSC as well as doing activism with GPI/ Giovani Palestinesi d'Italia, a network of Palestinians based in Italy.
- Alice Garcia (@Alice on Mattermost) is the Advocacy and Coms Manager of the ELSC, she has been involved in activism in NGO work on Palestine for 7 years now and she is French-Spanish.
- The European Legal Support Center is the first and only independent organization defending and empowering the Palestine solidarity movement in Europe through legal means (including in the UK). We provide free legal advice and assistance to associations, human rights NGOs, groups and individuals advocating for Palestinian rights – Most of our clients are students, activists, academics, journalists, artists etc.
- We are very active in the UK and Germany where the context for Palestinian voices is very harsh.
- Many of our cases concern online surveillance of Palestinians, monitoring in order to cancel and censor them. See the cases we sent.
- Here are some of the cases!
How would you define the general atmosphere around Palestinian discourse today?
- In general the atmosphere around Palestinian discourse - especially in Europe (but also in North America for instance) - is one of fear, censorship and repression. Of course it depends on the countries and spaces but what we have been observing as ELSC in the past years, especially in the UK, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, France, is very limited and restricted spaces.
- Palestinians face a very hostile climate in Europe especially in the field of journalism, activism, and university.
- They are alleged of antisemitism through the conflation of antizionism, criticism of Israel and antisemitism and by analysing social media content, production of academic knowledge
- Targets: Palestinian women, producing knowledge, or BIPOC people, or anticolonial voices, discrimination and anti-Palestinian racism
Can you tell us about the tools used to silence those voices?
- The tools used: IHRA definition of antisemitism: denouncing apartheid, colonialism, racisim and white supremacy is often interpreted as violating the IHRA definition and therefore antisemitic. An example are the Anti-BDS resolutions.
- The tools are often common in the cases we observe and support: the IHRA definition of antisemitism and its examples that conflate legitimate criticism of Israel with antisemitism: it is used for instance to say that denouncing apartheid is a violation of the IHRA definition and therefore antisemitic.
- And anti-bDS resolutions adopted by local councils, states and other institutions are another tool
- Anything related to BDS will be considered antisemitic/illegal based on those resolutions that are not even binding (in law it is not supposed to have concrete effects on your fundamental rights). But in practice they are because the authorities consider them as such. It is quite worrying for democracy.
- We observe the same mechanism with the IHRA definition that is not supposed to be binding but which is used to effectively repress/sanction Palestinian voices and their allies
- Other tools used concern surveillance of Palestinians sm accounts in order to silence and censor Palestinian voices. See our legal cases.
In all of the cases you sent us, there is a clear systematic attack on pro-Palestinian voices, do you think this might impact what people might say or share in the future, because of this atmosphere of fear and silencing?
- Self-censorship can be a huge risk for Palestinians. As we noticed from cases such as Documenta, to find a place in the public sphere is more and more difficult for Palestinians. This tendency risks to increase in the next few years. Public opinion is an important space for voices which risk being silenced. If you look at our case concerning the journalist Farah Maraqa, when journalists are silenced our freedom is at risk.
- This is entrenched also at the institution level and this is why we observe cancellation, disinvitation (Mohammad el Kurd v. Goethe Institute in Hamburg for instance) because instead of thinking and asking themselves about the real questions (what do it mean to call for ending apartheid, what is the right of return, what is legal, illegal?) they will have an automatic reaction stemming from the climate of fear: better to cancel than risking my own position or reputation. Those things happen most of the time very quickly (also Anna Younes was disinvited one day before the planned panel and few hours after MBR called the organiser of the panel to "warn" her about Anna and her alleged links with BDS)
Do you think this also might hinder solidarity because orgs and movements might de-tach themselves from particular Palestinian voices because of this censorship?
- Yes of course, orgs, parties, movements that are sustained by European funds or private funds are afraid of being at risk of exposing themselves in solidarity with Palestine and Palestinians. This attitude is particularly dangerous as it detaches possible allies, supporters from Palestinians. It must be a priority to think about what it mean to be an activist nowadays, fight against injustices and oppressions everywhere.
- And this is very bad, if an activist or an organization does that then they're not on the side of global justice or human rights anymore. This must absolutely be prevented
- So this leads to a previous question you sent to protect Palestinian voices: it is very necessary to show solidarity, express support publicly, denounce the attacks, reach out to other groups and build a solid basis of support for the individuals or groups attacked.
- And actually not only when attacks are coming up but also on a regular basis: never forget to give space for Palestinian narratives because it is also about this: constant limitation of the space for Palestinian discourse and realities.
- More specifically, also super important to get involved in campaigns against Meta (7amleh will come up soon with a statement regarding that), Google (Nimbus project) and other big companies complicit in digital repression of Palestinians
- Also remember that Palestine is a test field of repression. Many repression tactics are tested on Palestinians. Administrative detention, surveillance, violation of privacy rights.
In many of the cases you have sent us, it seems very clear that there is a violation of labor rights. What do you think about this censorship in terms of employment protection and labor rights?
- Have you seen Meta's report on human rights due diligence of the company's impact on Palestine? It is finally out and public. The assessment is focused on the events of May 2021. The report was actually leaked yesterday and the Intercept published an article about it.
- It's an example of how flawed are Meta's accountability processes denying the company's responsibility in systematically silencing Palestinian voices reducing it to technical capacity issues and their bias to being "unintentional"
- In the Deutsche Welle case in particular, yes. So here the Deutsche Welle, in addition to having (in our opinion) discriminated against the employees, have also violated German labor laws. This is what particularly assessed in Court because the cases were in Labor courts, so in that case the use of the IHRA definition and the general political bias of DW about Palestine/Israel led to a violation of employment law, but in other cases it violates other legislation, for instance in Anna's case data rights
- In the case of labor rights this situation is extremely dangerous. This is a very strong threat in fields such as journalism and university. Trade unions must start to understand how much is important to defend and empower people's right to expressions. In such a situation with global economic and social crisis every person is worried about their own work, life and also career.
- In Documenta, lawyers are actually working on it but in addition of the violation of artistic freedom, there's a question of breach of contracts between artists and documenta direction
What would you suggest to digital rights defenders in order to protect pro-Palestinian voices and to just end this culture of silence or retaliation?
- ARIEL KOREN LETTER on silencing palestinians
- Again, speak out after having reached out (to allies, to ELSC or Palestine Legal in the US), do not be afraid, you are not alone :smile: Challenge structural racism and reclaim space for our narratives
- One important thing is to conduct researches on the biased system and show how it hits Palestinian voices. Moreover, we need digital rights defenders to advocate for Palestinian's right to advocate and speak up against colonialism and injustices. Amply their voices and support their narratives. Other tools can be to prepare toolkits and advice to understand how to deal with digital surveillance and shadow bans.
- Also see this video