Archive for the ‘statehood’ category

Hebron in Israel? Facebook’s curious Palestinian geography problem

June 21, 2019

This morning while browsing Facebook, I happened to see that a friend had been tagged in a photo in ‘Beit Lehem, Israel’. This, I though was curious. After all, Bethlehem is in Israeli-occupied Palestine, not in the Apartheid State of Israel.

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Maybe, I thought, this was a mistake tag and was actually referring to Beit Lehem HaGlilit (Bethlehem of the Galilee), a once-Palestinian town ethnically cleansed in 1948 and taken over by Israel farmers. But no, clicking on the ‘Beit Lehem, Israel’ link brought me to a page with a map of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. So, Facebook would have us believe that Bethlehem, or ‘Beit Lehem’, is not in Palestine, but in Israel.

Yet Facebook wants to have its colonial cake and eat it too, as it also lists – as a separate location – ‘Bethlehem, West Bank‘. West Bank mind, not ‘Palestine’. Indeed, Palestine doesn’t appear anywhere on Facebook city locations, as we shall see.

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I next searched for ‘Hebron’, and sure enough, there was both ‘Hebron, Irsael‘ and ‘Hebron, West Bank‘. Hebron is the largest city in the occupied West Bank, and is an Apartheid city par excellence, were the lives of over 200,000 Palestinians are dominated by the presence of around a 1,000 illegal Israeli settlers in the middle of the city, and a further 1,000 Israeli occupation soldiers who ensure Palestinians are utterly subjugated.  There are separate paths for Jews and Arabs, Palestinian shops have been forced to close down, the Ibrahimi Mosque has been partitioned, and settler and military attacks on Palestinian civilians are frequent. As a report on the +972 Magazine website puts it:

Hebron’s Jewish settlers have become notorious for violently harassing their Palestinian neighbors, all under the watchful eye and acquiescence of the IDF. Some Palestinian residents in the seam zone on and around Shuhada Street have literally built cages around their homes to protect themselves from the violent settlers. The souk in Hebron’s Old City is covered by metal netting to catch the bricks, urine and other objects Jewish settlers regularly throw onto Palestinian merchants and passersby.

By allowing Hebron to be listed as being in Israel, Facebook is not only acquiescing in such atrocious behaviour and violations of international law, it is actually helping to normalise them.

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In some respects, Hebron an Bethlehem are lucky. They, at least, get the designation of being in the West Bank. With the exception of Jericho, no other Palestinian city – whether the current de facto political capital Ramallah, the major cities of Nablus, Qalqilyah, Jenin or Tulkarm, or Gaza City with its population of 750,000 – gets any such designation. Instead, each is merely listed as a “City”, presumably existing as independent entities in some geographical ether. The same goes for Madjal Shams, the large Druze city in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, which international law recognises as being part of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.

So what about Jerusalem? Unsurprisingly, ‘Jerusalem’ is listed as being part of Israel – with an image of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Israeli occupied part of the city to illustrate it. Curiously, however, also listed is ‘East Jerusalem‘ (this too exists in the same Facebook geo-ether as other Palestinian cities) – yet its picture is not of any of the most iconic images of the Old City – such as the above mentioned mosque – but simply a map.

Finally, what of the more than 200 other illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine and occupied Syria? It turns out that Facebook can’t make up its mind. Some, such as Ariel, Har Homa, and Gilo are listed as being inside Israel, while others such as the huge settlements of Ma’ale Adummim, Kiryat Arba, Beitar Illit, and Modi’in Illit, right down to the tiny Niran all exist as merely “cities” in undetermined locations.

A final Facebook geography fail is that while Israel not only exists as a ‘country location’, its entry comes illustrated by a satellite map of all of historic Palestine which does not delineate between the Apartheid state of Israel and the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories. Nice!

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Undoubtedly Facebook will claim that it is merely working off third party data like Wikipedia and its own algorithms to compile this data. But this is a nonsense – we all know that algorithms are not neutral, they reflect the values of those who program them. When it comes to such a contested and controversial situation as the Palestine-Israel question, Facebook in fact has a special responsibility to accurately reflect international law – not to merely draw arbitrary borders as it sees fit.

In its treatment of Palestinian cities and Israeli settlements – all of which are illegal and war crimes under the Geneva conventions – Facebook is actively aiding the normalisation of  gross violations of human rights and international law. It is helping to entrench Israel’s decades-long colonial occupation of Palestine and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. It is erasing Palestinain historical, cultural and national connections to their own homeland. It is literally wiping Palestine off the map.

And Facebook wants to lecture people about ‘fake news’?

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Audio: John Reynolds meeting on Palestine’s ‘UN Statehood Bid’

September 21, 2011

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has posted the audio I recorded of John Reynolds’ talk about the Palestinian ‘UN Statehood Bid’ in Dublin last week. Copied from the IPSC website:

Audio: John Reynolds meeting on ‘UN Statehood Bid’

On Thursday 15th September over fifty people attended a meeting on the meaning of the “Palestinian UN statehood bid” organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. John Reynolds, former legal researcher with Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq, was invited to give an overview of the background to this initiative, and spoke about some of the perceived pros and cons that the move could result in.The meeting was chaired by Raymond Deane, Cultural Boycott Officer of the IPSC.

John introduced the meeting by giving an overview of the history of Palestinian international diplomacy over the years, end with the current statehood bid. He then gave outlined what Palestinian groups have been saying, both in favour and in opposition, to the move. The meeting ended with an audience question and answers session.

Download the talk as an MP3 file here (right click & ‘save target/link as’)

To read an IPSC statement on this issue, please click here.

John Reynolds (right), and Raymond Deane of the IPSC

Whatever happens at the UN, the Israeli occupation will continue

September 13, 2011

Yesterday, TheJournal.ie published an Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign opinion piece (penned by myself) in its op-ed section. Entitled, ‘Whatever happens at the UN, the Israeli occupation will continue’ and detailing the IPSC’s view of the coming Palestinian ‘UN statehood bid’, you can read it (and leave comments) online by clicking here.

EXCERPT: Yet, whatever one’s feelings about this particular initiative, regardless of the outcome at the UN, Israel’s decades old occupation is unlikely to end anytime soon – a fact admitted to by the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland on this site last week, when he stated that if statehood is declared “nothing will change on the ground for ordinary Palestinians”. Indeed, for Palestinians the brutality of the occupation will continue, irrespective of whether the UN decides that they live in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” or the “State of Palestine”… – Read More.