(MEE) — Tributes were being paid on Wednesday to renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking – not only remembering him for the brilliance of his scientific mind but as an impassioned campaigner who lent his unique voice to causes including Palestinians’ right of resistance and to call for an end to the war in Syria.
Hawking, who died early on Wednesday at the age of 76, achieved international acclaim following the publication in 1988 of A Brief History of Time, his book on theoretical physics’ search for a unifying theory that would resolve general relativity and quantum mechanics.
RIP Professor Stephen Hawking – a beautiful mind, brilliant scientist, principled human being, and, among others, a vocal supporter of the BDS boycott of Israel (in 2013 Hawking publicly backed the academic boycott of Israel). Hamba kahle…
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The book would go on to sell more than 10 million copies and transformed Hawking into one of the world’s most recognizable scientists.
By then, Hawking was wheelchair-bound and only able to speak via his distinctive voice synthesizer, having been diagnosed with motor neuron disease at the age of 22.
Among those to post tributes to him on social media were campaigners for Palestinian rights, who recalled his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for an academic boycott of Israel.
In 2013, Hawking withdrew from a conference on the future of Israel in Jerusalem, stating that he had decided to “respect the boycott” based on advice from Palestinian academics.
Rest in Power Stephen Hawking. A brilliant mind and principled man. In 2013, Hawking pulled out of a conference in Israel in support of the Palestinian call for academic boycott 9:05 PM – 13 Mar 2018
Hawking was condemned by supporters of Israel, with a spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry saying: “Never has a scientist of this stature boycotted Israel.”
Israel Maimon, the chairman of the conference, said: “The academic boycott of Israel is in our view outrageous and improper, certainly for someone for whom the spirit of liberty lies at the basis of his human and academic mission.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera in January 2009 about Israel’s Cast Lead invasion of Gaza in which more 1,000 Palestinians were killed, Hawking said: “A people under occupation will continue to resist in any way it can. If Israel wants peace it will have to talk to Hamas like Britain did with the IRA [Irish Republican Army].
“Hamas are the democratically elected leaders of the Palestinian people and cannot be ignored.”
Hawking’s position on Palestine by then appeared to have hardened since an eight-day visit to Israel in 2006 when he had met then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.
During that trip, Hawking had also delivered a lecture at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, and visited Birzeit University in the illegally occupied West Bank.
Hawking also used his Facebook page to support scientists in Palestine, last year calling for his followers to donate funds to support the opening of a second Palestinian Advanced Physics School.
In 2014, Hawking also spoke up about the war in Syria as part of a campaign by Save the Children to mark the then-third anniversary of the conflict, by voicing the experiences of children affected by the fighting.
Hawking said: “What’s happening in Syria is an abomination, one that the world is watching helplessly from a distance. We must work together to end this war and to protect the children of Syria.”
Hawking also spoke out against the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Addressing a Stop the War rally in 2004, Hawking said the war had been justified on the basis of the “two lies” that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and suggestions of a link between Saddam Hussein’s government and the 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001.
“It has been a tragedy for all the families. If that is not a war crime, what is?” Hawking said. “I apologize for my pronunciation. My speech synthesizer was not designed for Iraqi names.”
Putting pressure on prominent public figures to retract their criticism of the apartheid Israeli state is a tactic that reveals its undeniable weakness
Last month, Sarah Silverman, a well-known Jewish American comic and actor, tweeted a link to an Amnesty International petition that calls upon Israel to release the 17-year-old Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, who is being detained, alongside several of her family members, for slapping an Israeli soldier.
Tamimi was reacting after Israeli soldiers shot her cousin, Mohammed al-Tamimi, on 15 December while he was protesting US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Silverman attached her own words to the tweet, posting, “Jews have to stand up EVEN when – ESPECIALLY when – the wrongdoing is BY Jews/the Israeli government.”
Weaponising social media
Despite receiving more than 1,600 replies, a majority of which expressed condemnation of her righteous tweet, Silverman remain undeterred in her expressed commitment to speak for injustices carried out by the state of Israel, fighting back against those who attacked her online, explaining in clear detail why she posted that tweet.
When pro-Israel activist Chloe Valdary accused Tamimi of belonging to a “notorious terrorist-supporting family”, Silverman replied: “Ok, friend. But may I ask, do you wonder why she has done this? And where her rage comes from? And might we see ourselves in her in any way?”
Palestinian human rights defenders and activists praised Silverman for her brave and defiant stand against those who seek only to whitewash Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. I wish that was the end of the story but sadly it isn’t.
Through intimidation and harassment, Israel’s army of online trolls succeeded in pushing Silverman back into a corner. Three days after expressing solidarity with Tamimi, and imploring Jewish Americans to stand up against Israel’s crimes, Silverman recanted, withdrawing to the safety of false equivocation.
“The more I learn the less I feel I know I’m going to RT [retweet] conflicting pieces on the Israel/Palestine from people who R there & believe w every fiber they know who is right & who is wrong. Both are very convincing. Both may even be right,” tweeted Silverman on 18 February.
Her capitulation came the following day when she posted: “Dear Palestinians/Jews/Israelis/and everyone w an opinion: I can only speak for me & all I care about is what is true, & what is just. Unfortunately, from what I see, those things seem to be wildly subjective. Only God/Allah/Hashem/Mr. Rogers knows….”
Score another victory for Israel’s army of online trolls! They’ve succeeded yet again in pressuring a prominent public figure into retracting his/her criticism of the apartheid Israeli state.
A propaganda war
This is how Israel’s trolls operate: the more prominent or well-known the person who posts something in favour of Palestinian human rights, the harder that person is hit with a tsunami of pro-Israel online trolls, who threaten and harass the account holder until either the post is removed or apologised for.
It’s a tactic that works all too well, as these pro-Israel trolls not only work hand-in-hand with right-wing media publications, but also prey on people’s fears of being falsely branded an anti-Semite.
Israel’s effort to silence its critics has become both desperate and deranged, going so far to weaponise social media in order to “wage a propaganda war” against those who threaten or promise to boycott it until it ends its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.
“Israel aims to recruit a mob of slacktivists and trolls to join their war against the most insidious forms of violence: pro-Palestinian tweets and Facebook posts,” observes Michael Bueckert.
Israel’s effort to silence its critics has become both desperate and deranged, going so far to weaponise social media in order to “wage a propaganda war” against those who threaten or promise to boycott it
A 2017 study found that an Israeli threatens or insults a Palestinian online every 71 seconds, usually inciting or threatening violence, while using disparaging words such as “garbage”, “whore”, “dog”, and “burn”, which provides one with a little insight into what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this kind of harassment.
French academics and writers published a collective letter in Le Monde on 23 January, focusing on the case of Ahed Tamimi and the plight of the approximately 360 Palestinian child prisoners in Israeli prisons. The letter also highlights the case of Salah Hamouri, the French-Palestinian lawyer jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention. Public officials and municipalities across the country have adopted declarations demanding Hamouri’s release and even the French government has acceded to the popular call to demand his freedom.
The statement follows below.
We call for the support and intervention of the President to stop the detention of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons. We especially wish to draw attention to the case of Ahed Tamimi, pursued by the Israeli government. Last 15 December, Mohammed Tamimi, 15, was hit in the head by a rubber-coated metal bullet fired at close range by soldiers of the Israeli occupation army. The boy was in critical condition and his cousin Ahed Tamimi, age 16, was visibly upset by the announcement of his condition and the severity of his injuries.
This same unit of soldiers approached the family home an hour later, and Ahed screamed at them and slapped a soldier. This time, the encounter was filmed by her mother and posted on social media, and it shows the courage of an unarmed teenager confronting two heavily armed soldiers.
On 19 December 2017, Ahed Tamimi was abducted from her home in the night by the army and brought before a military court. The twelve counts of indictment brought against her could carry a sentence of 12 years in prison. Israeli military courts deal exclusively with Palestinian prisoners, with a conviction rate of 99.74 percent. Thus, the future of Ahed Tamimi appears dark without intervention.
Some as young as 12
We call on the President to provide urgent support for the immediate release of Ahed Tamimi and the dismissal of all charges against her. However, Ahed Tamimi’s case is not isolated. According to Defense for Children International – Palestine, Israel brings 500 to 700 Palestinian children before military courts each year, some as young as 12. It imprisons an average of 200 children in any given period.
According to the reports of international agencies, including UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Amnesty International and Defense for Children International – Palestine, three out of every four children arrested experience violence during arrest or interrogation. They are frequently arrested in night raids on their home; 85 percent of arrested Palestinian children were blindfolded and 95 percent were handcuffed.
They are deprived of access to lawyers, denied the presence of their parents during interrogation and forced to sign confessions. They are also subject to “administrative detention,” imprisonment without charge or trial. They are often detained in detention centers located outside the territories occupied by Israel, making visits from their families difficult. The use of isolation cells for the interrogation of children is a practice that has been likened to torture under international law.
Salah Hamouri victim of the same procedure
The UNICEF report of 2013, “Children in Israeli military detention,” concludes: “The abuse of children in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systemic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the time of arrest through the prosecution of the child, their potential conviction and the application of a penalty.”
We urge President Emmanuel Macron to take action urgently to contact the Israeli authorities to finally end their detention practices that violate children’s rights, human rights and international law. We also remind him that, to date, our compatriot Salah Hamouri also remains in Israeli jails, a victim of the same unfair framework of “administrative detention.” France must ask so that Ahed Tamimi and other Palestinian child prisoners come home as soon as possible. We cannot look away while children and one of our compatriots are illegally detained far from their families.
Etienne Balibar, emeritus professor of philosophy, université de Paris- Ouest ;
Pierre Barbancey, journalist ;
Michel Benassayag, psychoanalyst and philosopher ;
Rony Brauman, physician and essayist ;
Alain Brossat, professor of philosophy ;
Marie Buisson, FERC CGT ;
Cybèle David, organizer of the SUD Education Federation ;
Alain Gresh, editor of the online journal OrientXXI.info ;
Bernadette Groison, general secretary of the FSU ;
Nacira Guénif, sociologist, université Paris-8 ;
Kaddour Hadadi, artist (HK) ;
Geneviève Jacques, president of Cimade ;
Nicole Lapierre, social anthropologist ;
Jean Etienne de Linarès, CEO of ACAT ;
Gilles Manceron, historian ;
Malik Salembour, president of the LDH ;
Sylvie Tissot, sociologist ;
Dominique Vidal, collaborator of Le Monde diplomatique.
Illegal construction work of settlements in the West Bank on 22 February 2017 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
Ireland is set to discuss a new bill that seeks to prohibit the import and sale of goods originating in illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian Territory.
Independent Senator Frances Black, yesterday, launched the “Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018”, which is scheduled for debate in Seanad Éireann on Wednesday 31 January 2018.
According to a press release announcing its launch the bill “seeks to prohibit the import and sale of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories”. “Such settlements,” said the statement, “are illegal under both international humanitarian law and domestic Irish law, and result in human rights violations on the ground”. Despite the illegality of the import and sale of goods from Israeli settlements, the statement points out that Ireland is still providing “continued economic support through trade in settlement goods”.
Drafters of the bill revealed that the legislation had been “prepared with the support of Trócaire, Christian-Aid and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), and applies to settlements in occupied territories where there is clear international legal consensus that they violate international law”. They insisted that the “clearest current example of these violations were the expansion of settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, which have been repeatedly condemned as illegal by the UN, EU, the International Court of Justice and the Irish Government”.
Speaking in advance of the bill’s introduction, Senator Black said:
“This is a chance for Ireland to stand up for the rights of vulnerable people – it is about respecting international law and refusing to support illegal activity and human suffering.”
Black said he is “passionate about the struggle of the Palestinian people”. He insisted that “trade in settlement goods sustains injustice” and explained that “in the occupied territories, people are forcibly kicked out of their homes, fertile farming land is seized, and the fruit and vegetables produced are then sold on Irish shelves to pay for it all”.
The bill is seeking more than mere denunciation of Israeli settlements and is trying to get governments around the world to treat settlements as illegal. Black pointed out that six years ago the Irish Government criticised the relentless progress of Israeli settlements, but they have failed to do anything about it since.
“In years since then it has only gone one way, with settlements expanding, more Palestinian homes being demolished and land being confiscated. It’s clear that empty promises have not worked but nothing has been done. Ireland needs to show leadership and act” Black protested.
The Occupied Territories Bill 2018 will be debated at Second Stage in Seanad Éireann on Wednesday and will be streamed live on Oireachtas TV. It has been co-signed by Seanad Civil Engagement Group Senators Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Grace O’Sullivan, Colette Kelleher and John Dolan, as well as Senator David Norris.
People come together to support Palestine as they walk to the Israeli embassy in Dublin, Ireland [Tommy Morrin/Facebook]
Israel’s frosty relations with Ireland may get worse after news that it was considering closing its embassy in Dublin.
Sources in Israel reported that the Dublin embassy is the only western European mission on a list of seven embassies and consulates earmarked for closure by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as part of a cost-cutting plan.
The ministry is currently undergoing negotiations to decide on the embassies that will be closed. A committee is due to submit recommendations by the end of the month.
It is widely suspected that the Netanyahu government is reassessing its priorities on the world stage. Africa is recognised as the continent with most potential for diplomatic inroads. Disappointment following Israel’s defeat at the UN also encouraged the right-wing Knesset to punish states that voted against Trump’s unilateral and illegal declaration to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The Israeli government moved to close down diplomatic missions in seven countries at the beginning of the year. TheJerusalem Post reported that under the new plan, the embassies will be closed over the next three years, with three closed the first year, and two during each of the next two years after that.
According to Pulitzer prize winner Glenn Greenwald, the Israeli government — in partnership with Facebook — have begun aggressively targeting Palestinian voices on social media for censorship;
“The meetings — called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country… Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists…”
This isn’t much of a surprise though, considering the Times of Israel reported in early January of 2016 that the government’s military censor had been trying to control much of what could and could not be posted on Facebook.
Interestingly (or unsurprisingly), the Intercept claims Israeli calls for Palestinian bloodshed remain largely untouched by way of comparison.
Israeli leadership say they’re only targeting social media accounts that inspire “incitement” against their country and people, but critics — including myself — believe this is simply an indirect form of censorship, considering that they have a very well documented history of aggressively targeting and silencing media correspondents.
In fact, journalists frequently engage in self censorship to avoid the Israeli government’s reproach. I don’t blame them for this chosen course of action either, since Israeli forces have (successfully) targeted media personnel for assassination in the past, by simply using the excuse that they were affiliated with terrorists. Human Rights Watch has accused the regime of “war crimes” because of this.
They also recently arrested a woman for simply filming a live recording on Facebook, of an incident between her daughter and the military, claiming she was engaging in “incitement“. Israeli officials are quick to go after anything that even vaguely resembles resistance to their illegal occupations and colonization of Palestine.
It should also be mentioned that Israeli authorities passed a law to censor websites engaged in “promoting criminal or terror activity” — another vague generalization, ambiguous enough to justify shutting down any pro Palestinian website or group that rejects Israeli foreign occupation.
Facebook also recently deleted the Facebook and Instagram accounts of the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, simply because the U.S. government decided to place him on a list of people that should be sanctioned.
Now, don’t get me wrong, to the best of my limited knowledge this guy is a very bad person, but just because the U.S. government says someone should be sanctioned does not justify censoring them, for the obvious fact that the U.S. government has a long history of deception and corruption — as well as supporting dictators, drug lords and even terrorists — and thus simply cannot be relied upon to be the arbiter of Truth.
Germany’s government has taken even greater repressive steps towards imposing censorship; On January 1st The German Network Enforcement Law (NetzDG) was passed, which allows the authorities to censor any website they claim is involved in the spread of “hate speech,” or “fake news“. Social media outlets that do not obey the government’s demands, to have content removed within 24 hours (7 days for more “complex cases“), will be fined up to to €50 million (roughly $58 million).
According to the Guardian, far right wing deputy leader Beatrix von Storch had her Facebook account suspended as a result of this law, and is currently facing potential criminal prosecution because of her behavior.
The staunch nationalist politician was quoted as accusing the Cologne police department of appeasing “barbaric, gang-raping Muslim hordes of men” when they tweeted an Arabic Happy News Years message (they did the same in French, German, and English). Twitter temporarily banned her account as well for this.
Do I agree with her opinion or method of expressing it, no I most certainly do not. But this is a slippery slope that leads to irrational censorship, because emotions and feelings are starting to override logic and reason. When someone insults me online I debate with them, and rebuke them logically and intelligently. If they persist and are clearly irrational trolls I simply block them, just as everyone online can do when they are confronted with an unpleasant human being. It’s really not rocket science.
This censorship started long before this law even came into effect though. According to the New York Times, 36 homes were raided by German police for “hateful postings over social media” last year. And according to a posting made by Facebook’s European Vice President for Public Policy back on June 19, 2017, “In the last two months, we’ve deleted an average of 3,500 posts per week, which were reported as hate speech in Germany. This means we delete around 15,000 posts a month for hate speech in Germany.” A few months after this, “tens of thousands of fake profiles” were allegedly deleted by Facebook during the German election. How many of these were actually fake we most likely will never know, since Facebook’s customer service is shockingly awful and people tend not to pursue these things as a result.
French president Emmanuel Macron has just announced similar proposals to allegedly ban fake news. Like the German government, they intend to block any website they find fault with. In response to these overreaching intentions, French Twitter users have been spreading the hashtag #InventeDesFakeNews (or InventYourFakeNews).
Facebook’s willingness to compromise on freedom of speech, and their moral integrity, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise either. Back in 2016, several former employees told Gizmodo that they routinely manipulated people’s newsfeeds, and the world’s most popular social media platform was also caught conducting psychological experiments on their users back in 2014. Relevant to this blog in particular, the company has also made headlines on numerous occasions for engaging in censorship. Likewise, Twitter has also engaged in censorship on a number of occasions, including censoring the hashtags #PodestaEmails and #DNCLeak during the U.S. elections. Strangely, this censorship has hardly been addressed by the establishment media.
THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING Throughout history there has been an information war between the ruling class and the common people. The so called elite know that without us believing in their imaginary authority, they would never be able to rule over us, wage major wars, or turn us into worker ants for their unscrupulous system.
Since the internet’s introduction there has been a change in the world unlike any before. Activists, revolutionaries, and concerned citizens alike, are all now able to communicate in an unprecedented way. You see, the ruling class’s power historically, has firmly been rooted in our ignorance and inability to effectively communicate and organize rebellion. Naturally, as our access to information and social media have accelerated, so too has our ability to intelligently rebel.
The ruling class are well aware of this dangerous unfolding, and although it has taken them rather long to respond to this mass awakening (showing that they underestimate our power in my opinion), they are now taking more assertive steps to control our ability to access important information. Consequently, we can expect this censorship to only get worse, and it will be done under the guise of “preserving democracy,” or some other bullshit excuse that the unwitting and naive will cheer with ignorant fervor.
It should also be mentioned that although I have been highlighting tech giant abuses in this blog, I largely believe that Mark Zuckerberg and other social media bosses have very limited control over what they can and cannot actually do with their own companies, so placing all the blame on them would be wrong. I believe this is due to an antiquated power structure that has been in place for much longer than any of these companies have even been around, as vaguely mentioned by Facebook’s former executive Chamath PaliHapitiya. This system is much bigger than any one man, or one company, and is going to take a collective effort from a significant percentage of the world’s population to overcome.
GOOGLE IS HIRING 10,000 ADDITIONAL HUMAN CENSORS Google announced last month that it will be hiring an additional 10,000 human censors to police “problematic content” online. While this will most certainly be done under the auspices of fighting terrorism, hate speech, and the usual stories — and in many instances I presume they will — I know from first hand experience it will also be used as a tool of indirect censorship.
Amongst the many annoyances I have personally dealt with pertaining to online activism, I’ve also had my YouTube account shut down, and banned, with no proper clarification as to why except a broad set of ambiguous community guidelines which I allegedly violated.
Last year Google claimed it would fight “fake news,” but was caught instead censoring legitimate websites like CounterPunch, World Socialist Website, Democracy Now, American Civil liberties Union, and Wikileaks, amongst others. Certainly not the type of behavior one would expect from an organization with the ironic motto, “Do the right thing” (previously “Don’t be evil”).
Furthermore, as I documented in a previous blog, there are numerous verifiable instances of the establishment media spreading lies, inciting war (large scale terrorism), and deceiving the public, yet they aren’t being held to the same standard as smaller alternative media outlets, who are being censored for doing the same thing on a much smaller scale.
This is shamefully biased and wrong, if we are to earnestly purge deception from news media, it should be done indiscriminately and with objective concern for the Truth.
CENSORSHIP OF THE INTERNET IS ULTIMATELY CENSORSHIP OF KNOWLEDGE & TRUTH The internet does not merely represent technological achievement, it mostly represents the knowledge and ideas of millions and millions — and even billions — of people who dedicated their lives before us to fighting for a better world. And although these great thinkers and minds may no longer be with us, their thoughts, ideas, and teachings live on through the internet.
These teachings are then discovered by other people like us, who are lucky enough to have access to something as remarkable as the world wide web. We then learn from them and then expand upon them. We see the world around us, and try to figure out how we can create a better world by applying many of these teachings, and where possible we expand upon them through social media and other available platforms.
Being able to communicate and share our thoughts and ideas freely, is the key to furthering this great mission and progress, because mankind as is; dominated by war, racism, tribalism, elitism, poverty, inequality, injustice, and corruption, has yet to actually reach a state of authentic civilization — It is a great duty which we all share to help realize a decent world.
But when a group of powerful governments and elitist interests — that have ultimately profited from keeping us ignorant throughout history — start telling us that they are going to censor our thoughts, ideas, and regulate our ability to communicate under the cloak of benevolence, it means they are ultimately going to hide important knowledge from us; because all expression online — even the most irrational and idiotic — represent some form of knowledge, even if it is just the knowledge of what the most extreme elements of society are thinking.
Why should it be up to the ruling class to decide what knowledge is good, and what is bad? Do not all of us possess the ability to think for ourselves? Do not all have us have the ability to block or ban someone that is acting like a fool online? So how can we rely on the very elitist class that has benefited from our ignorance throughout known history to be in charge of the regulation of knowledge and information?? The answer to that last question is very simple, we cannot, and we would be very stupid to think that we can.
At the end (or beginning depending on your perspective) of our journey towards creating a better world, is the realization that we are actually the ones with the power not them. Their only real power resides in controlling our minds and what we believe. Without this, they literally have nothing. They become insane people running around making ridiculous demands and establishing rules using their imaginary authority — a course of action that would generally land someone in a mental institution, which is exactly where the overwhelming majority of them belong.
We must adjust intelligently to the changing of these times, and raise our standards accordingly my friends. Be precise when sharing information, fact check, and where ever possible, provide overwhelming evidence to prove your point. The censors are looking for reasons to take us down, so we must become more intelligent in our delivery.
Our ignorance has always been their power, but our disillusionment, and subsequent awakening — which is happening right now — will ultimately be their demise. I am not calling for a violent revolution, I am calling for a revolution of the mind.
We are many, and they are few. We just have to wake up and their bullshit game is over.