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Commentary: Communications infrastructure in Palestine has become a tool of repression

Critical conversations on the human rights risks surrounding communications technology have encompassed issues as diverse as the human costs exacted along the smartphone supply chain, the perils of poorly thought out queer dating apps, issues of privacy rights and state surveillance. Yet more work needs to be done on the political, economic and human rights implications of the very control of cellular infrastructure in situations of occupation... In the context of the occupied Palestinian territory, telecommunications infrastructure, though formally independent and controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestinian companies since 1995, remains occupied, its subjugation crafted into the economic protocols annexed to the Oslo Accords. Continued Israeli constraints on the bandwidth of microwave links mean that Paltel—the Palestine Telecommunication Company—is forced to route all calls between the West Bank and Gaza, and many intra-Gaza and West Bank calls, through Israeli providers... The dependence of Palestinian infrastructure on the Israeli backbone for all internet, landline and cellular activity also endows the occupying power with massive surveillance abilities, abilities that can be used not only to circulate propaganda, but also to spy on the occupied population... Since the Israeli telecommunications sector is fully privatized, it is for-profit Israeli and international corporations such as the Netherlands-based Altice and the Israeli Bezeq that carry out the exploitation of the Palestinian telecommunications sphere and that reap the profits. 

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