Israel enlists US Homeland Security to gag its own citizens online
Marianne Azizi writes:
When Israelis say “It’s not for the phone” or “Don’t write this on messenger”, I used to think this was a touch paranoid. Big Brother is watching us, they say. But it seems they are right.
In this modern world, we are all accustomed to a certain amount of our data being used by official agencies to know more about us. But for bloggers and activists in Israel, it gets a bit more dangerous than that.
There are two faces of Israel. One, which is presented to the world, shows a happy people in a land of contentment. The other, nowadays manifesting itself on Israeli social media, is full of discontent about the corruption and the mistreatment of citizens. Negative opinion polls soon “disappear” and are impossible to trace. This is especially the case where the issues concern the justice system, the welfare authorities or the police.
In Israel, it is a crime to “insult a public official’, even when the “insult” is nothing more than a blog or social media post questioning a decision or action. The fines are high, and those who write can also face a prison sentence of six months. Social media sites are constantly monitored by the authorities and the mere mention of a name can result in an arrest.
Life is becoming dangerous for activists who blog – patriots who advocate reform and campaign for justice by exposing corruption.
Mainstream media, both domestic and international, tend to steer clear of reporting what is happening inside Israel. Freedom of expression is being quashed. Activists are being broken through constant harassment, fines and threats. This month alone two bloggers were fined the equivalent of nearly 200,000 US dollars. Many are afraid to speak out.
The image of Israel as a democracy where protests can take place freely and freedom of speech is unimpeded is simply not true in the case of discontent over certain issues. Permission must be gained from the police to protest, so if the protest is about the police, the welfare authorities or the judiciary, permission is refused. Only a maximum of two to three people are allowed to protest without a permit.
Police brutality is well documented on Israeli social media, but is unknown to the rest of the world.
In January this year the Israel authorities persuaded the US Homeland Security to start closing down websites which they believed could expose corruption and show the judiciary, the welfare system and the police in a bad light, as many articles were being shared overseas.
When you see a WordPress account that has been closed down ostensibly because of a “breach” of the regulations, don’t be fooled. It would have been closed down at the request of the Israeli government, as the document below demonstrates.
One site already taken down displays a message saying it has been closed down due to a breach of regulations. It is one of dozens targeted by the Israeli government. One of the most prolific bloggers in Israel faces constant court cases and penalties, with sources revealing that the intention is to close her site down permanently.
People in Israel are neither anti-Semitic nor self-hating Jews. They want a country that is fair, democratic and not what they call a “police state”. Corruption is rampant. An article which I wrote two years ago about police corruption came to light again when most of the parties mentioned were indicted at the end of 2015.
Staunch supporters of Israel need to be supporters of the people, not the establishment. As children are split from their parents on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israeli social media is filling up with comments by people who believe there is a second, modern holocaust of families, hidden in plain sight. It is painful reading to learn that the “democratic” state of Israel will do almost anything to stop you from knowing what is really happening.
The “only democracy in the Middle East” isn’t quite comparable with its counterparts in the West.
Holocaust Remembrance Day brings up bad memories for two holocaust survivors who buried their son, a human rights activist and lawyer, who jumped to his death in the hope that his action would bring some change.
Nothing has changed in the past three years, and is unlikely to change any time soon.