Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’

Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’
Israeli security forces conduct a search operation. experts say the number of Palestinian TikTok users highlighting Israeli brutal activities is growing rapidly. (AP)
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Updated 02 October 2022

Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’

Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’
  • After Facebook, Instagram clamp down on content, Chinese-owned platform sees user surge

RAMALLAH: Palestinian activists are turning to TikTok to rally against activities by Israel, which accused the social media platform of igniting the security situation in the Middle East in recent weeks.

Israel had successfully pushed Meta to block thousands of Palestinian accounts and content from its social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, in addition to limiting Palestinian content through Twitter and Snapchat. However, TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has rejected the Israeli allegations and refused to change its policies.

Thousands of Palestinian social media activists switched to TikTok during the past few weeks to enjoy online freedom and bypass Facebook’s restrictions.

Amer Hamdan, a Palestinian political activist, told Arab News that he recently switched from Facebook to Tiktok after suffering from restrictions imposed by the former, which he said flags the use of words including martyr, resistance and occupation.

Hamdan, who had 200,000 followers on his Facebook page, added that his account was closed because he published a picture of Khalil Al-Wazir, the Palestinian leader who Israel assassinated in Tunisia in 1988.

“Because Facebook is no longer the ideal platform for the Palestinians to spread their cause, the alternative is TikTok, which provides an adequate and sufficient space for the dissemination of media covering armed parades of Palestinian military groups and pictures of Palestinian resistance fighters with their weapons,” said Hamdan.

TikTok previously ranked third in Palestine — after Facebook and Instagram — in social media app usage. However, it jumped to second place during recent weeks, with Palestinian social media experts telling Arab News that though 3 million Palestinian accounts are on Facebook, more than 1 million Palestinians are on TikTok, with the number rapidly increasing.

Palestinian activists also see more technical flexibility while publishing on Tiktok compared to Facebook, with the platform allowing three-minute clips for all users, and 15-minute videos for users who have 1,000 followers or more.

“Within a year, TikTok will be the number one social media platform used by Palestinians,” Hamdan said.

Sam Bahour, an expert in business development affairs, said that social media is gaining “exceptional importance” for Palestinians by enabling them to communicate and bypass Israeli restrictions across the West Bank, Gaza Strip, as well worldwide through the diaspora.

Ahmed Al-Qadi, from a center that specializes in researching social media activities, told Arab News that after the violent events in the Palestinian territories last May and after Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube removed Palestinian content, people switched to TikTok.

On the other hand, Israeli political analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem told Arab News that TikTok is a “tool of dangerous influence” and incites violence through videos glorifying attacks against Israelis.

Ben-Menachem added that TikTok content targets young people, who are particularly vulnerable to misinformation and propaganda.

Last May, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with senior officials from ByteDance, demanding that the company block Palestinian content. But Gantz’s appeal was denied, with the company only promising to pay more attention to published content.

Young Palestinians have filmed Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities and towns, house demolitions, arrests, killings, settler attacks and racist treatment, with the content going viral on TikTok.

Despite the Israeli government’s anger, officials do not expect TikTok to take any action against Palestinian accounts, whether based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or abroad.

“Maybe TikTok will close a few Palestinian accounts, but thousands of accounts that incite against Israel will remain active, and whoever loses his account can open a new account under a pseudonym,” said Ben-Menachem, adding: “TikTok has become the most dangerous means of incitement against Israel.”


Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment
Updated 23 sec ago

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment
  • Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri earlier said the morality police ‘had been closed’
CAIRO: An Iranian lawmaker said Sunday that Iran’s government is “paying attention to the people’s real demands,” state media reported, a day after a top official suggested that the country’s morality police whose conduct helped trigger months of protests has been shut down.
The role of the morality police, which enforces veiling laws, came under scrutiny after a detainee, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, died in its custody in mid-September. Amini had been held for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress codes. Her death unleashed a wave of unrest that has grown into calls for the downfall of Iran’s clerical rulers.
Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri said on Saturday the morality police “had been closed,” the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. The agency did not provide details, and state media hasn’t reported such a purported decision.
In a report carried by ISNA on Sunday, lawmaker Nezamoddin Mousavi signaled a less confrontational approach toward the protests.
“Both the administration and parliament insisted that paying attention to the people’s demand that is mainly economic is the best way for achieving stability and confronting the riots,” he said, following a closed meeting with several senior Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi.
Mousavi did not address the reported closure of the morality police.
The Associated Press has been unable to confirm the current status of the force, established in 2005 with the task of arresting people who violate the country’s Islamic dress code.
Since September, there has been a reported decline in the number of morality police officers across Iranian cities and an increase in women walking in public without headscarves, contrary to Iranian law.
Montazeri, the chief prosecutor, provided no further details about the future of the morality police or if its closure was nationwide and permanent. However he added that Iran’s judiciary will ‘‘continue to monitor behavior at the community level.’’
In a report by ISNA on Friday, Montazeri was quoted as saying that the government was reviewing the mandatory hijab law. “We are working fast on the issue of hijab and we are doing our best to come up with a thoughtful solution to deal with this phenomenon that hurts everyone’s heart,” said Montazeri, without offering details.
Saturday’s announcement could signal an attempt to appease the public and find a way to end the protests in which, according to rights groups, at least 470 people were killed. More than 18,000 people have been arrested in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the demonstrations.
Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said Montazeri’s statement about closing the morality police could be an attempt to pacify domestic unrest without making real concessions to protesters.
‘‘The secular middle class loathes the organization (morality police) for restricting personal freedoms,” said Alfoneh. On the other hand, the “underprivileged and socially conservative class resents how they conveniently keep away from enforcing the hijab legislation” in wealthier areas of Iran’s cities.
When asked about Montazeri’s statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian gave no direct answer. ‘‘Be sure that in Iran, within the framework of democracy and freedom, which very clearly exists in Iran, everything is going very well,’’ Amirabdollahian said, speaking during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia.
The anti-government demonstrations, now in their third month, have shown no sign of stopping despite a violent crackdown. Protesters say they are fed up after decades of social and political repression, including a strict dress code imposed on women. Young women continue to play a leading role in the protests, stripping off the mandatory Islamic headscarf to express their rejection of clerical rule.
After the outbreak of the protests, the Iranian government hadn’t appeared willing to heed the protesters’ demands. It has continued to crack down on protesters, including sentencing at least seven arrested protesters to death. Authorities continue to blame the unrest on hostile foreign powers, without providing evidence.
But in recent days, Iranian state media platforms seemed to be adopting a more conciliatory tone, expressing a desire to engage with the problems of the Iranian people.

Iranian city shops shut to step up pressure on clerical rulers

Iranian city shops shut to step up pressure on clerical rulers
Updated 10 min 20 sec ago

Iranian city shops shut to step up pressure on clerical rulers

Iranian city shops shut to step up pressure on clerical rulers
  • 1500tasvir Twitter account shared videos of shut stores in key commercial areas like Tehran’s Bazaar

DUBAI: Iranian shops shut their doors in several cities on Monday, following calls for a three-day nationwide general strike from protesters seeking the fall of clerical rulers.
Iran has been rocked by nationwide unrest following the death of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 in the custody of the morality police, posing one of the strongest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
1500tasvir, a Twitter account with 380,000 followers focused on the protests, shared videos of shut stores in key commercial areas, such as Tehran’s Bazaar, and other large cities such as Karaj, Isfahan, and Shiraz.
Witnesses speaking to Reuters said riot police and the Basij militia had been heavily deployed in central Tehran.
The semi-official Fars news agency confirmed that a jewelry shop belonging to former Iranian football legend Ali Daei was sealed by authorities, following its decision to close down for the three days of the general strike.
Similar footage by 1500tasvir and other activist accounts was shared of closed shops in smaller cities like Bojnourd, Kerman, Sabzevar, Ilam, Ardabil.
Kurdish Iranian rights group Hengaw also reported that 19 cities had joined the general strike movement in western Iran, where most of the country’s Kurdish population live.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the unrest since the death of Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by the morality police for flouting hijab rules.


Signing of framework agreement in Sudan to resolve political deadlock

Signing of framework agreement in Sudan to resolve political deadlock
Updated 3 min 34 sec ago

Signing of framework agreement in Sudan to resolve political deadlock

Signing of framework agreement in Sudan to resolve political deadlock

CAIRO: Sudanese political parties signed a framework deal on Monday that provides for a two-year civilian-led transition towards elections and would end a standoff triggered by a coup in October 2021.

The framework agreement puts an emphasis on a unified professional national army and will be committed to criminalize military coups, the parties said at the ceremony. 

The framework agreement will also adopt a “balanced” foreign policy that serves the interests of Sudan. 

It also set the transitional period at two years from the moment a prime minister is appointed. The agreement will expand the powers of the prime minister during the transitional period. 

A deep crisis that has gripped Sudan since a coup a year ago. Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seized power in October 2021, derailing a rocky transition to civilian rule that had started after the 2019 ouster of veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The past year has seen near-weekly protests and street clashes that have claimed 120 lives, a spiralling economic crisis and a rise in ethnic violence in several remote regions.

Divisions among civilian groups have deepened since the coup, with some urging a deal with the military while others insist on "no partnership, no negotiation".

The announced deal was negotiated in the presence of officials from the United Nations, African Union, the regional IGAD bloc and Western diplomats.

It is based on a proposal by the Sudanese Bar Association, said a statement by the main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change, which was ousted in the coup.

In a first phase, "the framework agreement lays the groundwork for establishing a transitional civilian authority," said the FFC.

 

(With AFP abd AP)


Man killed during Israeli raid in West Bank – Palestinian health officials

Man killed during Israeli raid in West Bank – Palestinian health officials
Updated 05 December 2022

Man killed during Israeli raid in West Bank – Palestinian health officials

Man killed during Israeli raid in West Bank – Palestinian health officials
  • It was the latest death in a recent surge of violence in the territory
  • Israeli military has been conducting daily raids throughout the West Bank since the spring

JERUSALEM: Palestinian health officials said a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli fire during a military raid in the occupied West Bank on Monday.
It was the latest death in a recent surge of violence in the territory. The Israeli military has been conducting daily raids throughout the West Bank since the spring.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said that soldiers entered the Deheishe refugee camp near the city of Bethlehem early on Monday, sparking clashes with a group of local residents. The soldiers then fired tear gas and opened fire at the crowd, it said.
The agency said Omar Manaa, 22, was killed, while six other Palestinians were wounded. Four people were arrested.
There was no immediate Israeli comment.
Rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions have made 2022 the deadliest year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the long-running conflict since 2006. Further escalation appears likely, as the most right-wing and religious government in Israel’s history is poised to be installed in the coming weeks, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power.
More than 140 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting this year. The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting Israeli army incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.
Monday’s deadly shooting came against the backdrop of months of Israeli arrest raids in the West Bank, prompted by a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the spring that killed 19 people. The military says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks, but the Palestinians say they entrench Israel’s open-ended occupation, now in its 56th year. A recent wave of Palestinian attacks against Israeli targets killed an additional nine people.


UAE President arrives in Qatar for official visit

UAE President arrives in Qatar for official visit
Updated 05 December 2022

UAE President arrives in Qatar for official visit

UAE President arrives in Qatar for official visit
  • UAE among the Arab countries earlier invited to attend the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony in Doha

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has arrived in Qatar on Monday for an official visit.

The visit comes in response to an invitation from the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and builds on the existing brotherly relations between the two nations and their people, state news agency WAM reported.

Sheikh Mohamed and his delegation were welcomed by the Qatari ruler upon his arrival at the Amiri Terminal of Hamad International Airport on Monday morning.

The two leaders would discuss bilateral ties and ways to enhance cooperation between the two Gulf states, said WAM.

The UAE was among the Arab countries invited to attend the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony in Doha.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE’s vice president, prime minister and ruler of Dubai, represented the UAE among Arab leaders attending the opening ceremony of the global tournament.