Sep 10, 2020

Challenging Israel's measures censoring freedom of protest online

Photo: Israeli Cyber Unit website
Photo: Israeli Cyber Unit website

Dear Friends,

Warm regards.  We hope you are keeping safe and healthy through these challenging times.

In early August 2020, the Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) held a hearing on our “Cyber Unit” case filed by Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). Following the hearing, the SCT issued an “order to show cause” – meaning that it found a strong legal basis for the case – and mandated state authorities to explain under which legal authority the state operates its “Cyber Unit”, which conducts censorship of online speech.

The Israeli Cyber Unit, which is part of the State Attorney’s Office, flags and submits content removal requests– without any formal legal proceedings– to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, and asks these platforms to “voluntarily” remove user-generated content according to the platforms’ own terms of service.

Adalah and ACRI filed the petition in November 2019 demanding to put an end to Israeli  censorship of freedom of expression on social media platforms. The case followed two years of complaints by Adalah that the Israeli Cyber Unit has been unlawfully issuing content removal requests to major social media providers.

Israeli authorities have long attempted to silence Palestinian free speech online, cracking down on Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians living under Occupation in the OPT for publishing content critical of the state’s policies. The right for free speech on the internet has become even more crucial since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020. Palestinian and Israeli activists alike have utilized the internet as a main platform for voicing their dissent with the government’s discriminatory practices.

During the course of litigating the petition, state authorities have failed to respond to the Court’s repeated inquiries regarding the legal authority by which the Cyber Unit acts, emphasizing that the social networks themselves, rather than the State, are the bodies that actually remove user content from their platforms. In fact and ironically, the state is arguing before the Court that there is “no state action” in this case!

In this interim ruling in August, the Supreme Court also ordered the state to present similar mechanisms of internet referral units used in other countries, and to clarify the mechanisms’ respective legal authorities.

Censorship of internet-based activism not only deprives activists from practicing their right to express their views, but also violates the right of other users to access to the censored content.

Adalah will continue, via legal interventions, to challenge Israel’s use of online suppressive means in order to ensure Palestinians’ freedom of speech.

Thank-you for your support.

Aug 19, 2020

We continue to challenge the harmful effects of Covid-19 on Palestinians

Schoolchildren in Naqab. Photo: Amir Abu Kaf
Schoolchildren in Naqab. Photo: Amir Abu Kaf

Dear Friends,

Many greetings to you from Adalah! We hope that you are healthy and safe. Adalah is continuing in August 2020 to tackle the ongoing and evolving impact of the COVID-19 on Palestinians in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Since mid-March 2020, Adalah has undertaken over 40 emergency legal actions, including 12 petitions to the Israeli Supreme Court, to confront the COVID-19 crisis. While this this work was covered by local and international media, Adalah convened webinars for the local and international community to raise awareness, and worked closely with other civil society groups and coalitions to fight against discriminatory practices. Thus far, Adalah has succeeded in securing access to health services, promoting dignified living conditions, and protecting civil liberties.

Among our major achievements throughout the coronavirus crisis:

  • The opening of COVID-19 testing centers and clinics in the Naqab, Triangle, Upper Galilee, and East Jerusalem neighborhoods, and by the Qalandya checkpoint.
  • An Israeli Supreme Court decision accepting our argument that there is no legal authority for the government to expand the powers and use of the secret Shin Bet security service (“the Shabak”) for cellphone surveillance of coronavirus patients and other citizens.
  • The cancellation of emergency regulations allowing to put over 4,300 pregnant women on unpaid leave without a special permit from the Labor Ministry.
  • The securing of NIS 200 million (aroundUS $59 million) in state funds- the amount requested by Arab local municipalities in Israel to mitigate the COVID-19 financial damages for the first three months of the crisis.

Israel is currently facing a second-wave of the coronavirus health crisis, and together with its political, social and economic implications, the pandemic is expected to cast its shadow upon us for a long time. As we go forward, Adalah will continue to undertake legal cases and interventions in our three main fields to mitigate the dangerous ramifications and grave threat posed by the coronavirus.

Access to healthcare: Adalah will work to ensure that the government’s emergency response does not leave Palestinian communities unnecessarily exposed to the pandemic through substandard protection and limited access to testing and emergency medical services, and future treatments and vaccines, particularly in the unrecognized Bedouin villages and East Jerusalem.

Dignified living conditions Adalah is currently working on cases toward the opening of the new school year as many Arab schools in Israel lack the funds to prepare the schools to meet the Health Ministry’s guidelines. Of particular concern is access for 50,000 Bedouin children in the Naqab, who live in villages that lack electricity and the internet or have no computers, to in-person studies as well to distance learning. Adalah is monitoring and working on securing government action to prevent unnecessary deterioration in the already poor living conditions of Palestinians, by demanding equal access to state aid funding, unemployment benefits and tax relief measures for Arab citizens of Israel during the economic crisis. Further, Adalah is continuing to defend the rights of thousands of Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons, who are isolated from the outside world and left with little to no protection due to overcrowding, lack of adequate hygiene and sanitation, and lack of access to visits and phone calls by family members and lawyers.

Protection of civil liberties: Adalah will continue to intervene legally to prevent the government from resorting to and exploiting Emergency Regulations. Adalah is challenging comprehensive coronavirus legislation, and we recently filed a major case demanding the cancellation of “corona fines” issued to thousands of individuals, due to the lack of clarity in the rules and the arbitrariness of their enforcement.

The following Adalah newsletters documented our extensive coronavirus-related work: Adalah’s News, March 2020; Adalah’s News, April 2020; Adalah's News, May 2020, and Adalah’s News, July 2020.

 

For more on Adalah’s coronavirus work to date, see links under Additional Documentation and Resources.

 

Thank you for your support.

Mobile Coronavirus testing clinic in Naqab
Mobile Coronavirus testing clinic in Naqab
Jun 2, 2020

SUCCESS: Arab municipalities to receive equitable state funds to mitigate COVID-19 financial damages

Arab mayors protest. Photo: The Joint List
Arab mayors protest. Photo: The Joint List

Dear Friends,

One of Adalah’s top priorities as we exit the coronavirus lockdown is to secure dignified living conditions for Palestinian citizens of Israel by protecting their economic rights.

Once again, Adalah’s legal intervention has pressured Israeli authorities to respect the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, this time by securing a significant increase in emergency state resources to Arab municipalities in Israel facing the harsh economic repercussions of the coronavirus crisis.

On 10 May 2020, Adalah, on behalf of the National Committee of the Heads of Arab Local Authorities in Israel, petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court demanding equal budgets for Arab towns. The petition demanded to set equal criteria for budgeting to local authorities in a manner that takes into account the characteristics of the damage done to Arab communities during the coronavirus period, mainly due to loss of income from municipal taxes.

Adalah argued that the government's aid policy for local councils runs contrary to Israel’s Basic Law: State Economy. The law was amended on 7 April 2020 to approve a state budget during the coronavirus crisis, including a provision to allow for financial discounts in municipality tax payments. However, the government implemented it in an unequal manner by allocating aid to local councils for loss of commercial municipal taxes, which greatly benefitted Jewish Israeli towns, but discriminated against Arab municipalities since, in the absence of industrial zones and business complexes, the bulk of Arab municipal income comes only from residential property taxes. 

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, the Arab municipalities have lost about US $20 million every month, with a total expected loss of US $60 million over three months. Municipal expenses have increased in many cases during this period as local authorities have worked to fight the virus.

Financial assistance offered by the government to Arab towns amounted to just 1.7 percent of aid provided to all local municipalities nationwidealthough Palestinian citizens comprise over 20 percent of the population. The grossly unequal allocation of state budgets in response to the pandemic would not only fail to revive Arab towns, but would lead to their fiscal collapse, jeopardizing the continued provision of essential public services to residents.

Following Adalah’s petition, officials from the Ministries of Interior and Finance held talks with the National Committee to reach an agreement outside of courtThroughout this process, Adalah continued to provide to legal advice to the leaders of the National Committee. Ultimately, Israeli authorities agreed to increase budgets to Arab towns to an amount almost equivalent to that which was demanded in the petition. The Arab towns are set to receive at least NIS 150 million (or US $43 million) as a result of this legal action.

Following this achievement, Adalah withdrew the petition.

Adalah’s litigation made a major impact on the end result by directly pushing the Israeli government into negotiating a better deal with the mayors for the Arab towns. 

Your support is crucial to the struggle against discrimination, and will help Adalah to continue to make a significant, positive impact on the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

 
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