Letter to Steve Jobs

Very late last night we got the news that the Apple had caved to pressure from the israeli government to remove from the App Store an App called ThirdIntifada. I’m not going to go into the details of the pressure here you can read all about it in this article from the Guardian. The article itself is problematic as it says “Intifada is the Arabic term for two violent uprisings against Israel over the past two decades.” That in itself is wrong. Intifada is an arabic word that finds its root in the verb  Intafada which means shook off. So Intifada literally means shaking off. It is in a passive form thus connoting a certain natural essence of the process, a certain uncontrollable and uncontrolled force. The term refers to popular rebellions or uprisings, particularly by the Palestinians against the israeli brutal military occupation.

Historically in Palestine there have been two intifadas since the establishment of israel in Palestine in 1948 and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip in 1967. The first of these intifadas was a popular uprising in 1987 and was largely non-violent. The images of this particular intifada inhabit the collective consciousness of all arabs and some of these images are seen by many, including myself, as the images that shaped our political outlook. Particularly the image of a child throwing a rock at an israeli tank. The second uprising started much like the first one in 2000 when Ariel Sharon, who was in the opposition at the time, along with a Likud delegation and hundreds of riot police visited the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest muslim site. This was viewed by Palestinians as a further humiliation and provocation and led to wide spread unrest. The second intifada had both the non-violent tactics of the first intifada but also included the use of force by military wings of Palestinian factions. Around 6500 Palestinians died, mostly civilians, and 1100 israelis, also mostly civilians althoughin a smaller proportion than Palestinians during the uprising. There was also massive destruction in the occupied territories due to the extreme violence used by the israeli military.

Since the start of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring, the series of pro-democracy protests and revolutions sweeping the region, there have been calls for a similar sort of protest against israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and its refusal to conform to international law, including the recognition of the Palestinian right of return. We saw what these protests might look like during the Nakba and Naksa protests. Basically the protests were peaceful non-violent marches to demand an end to occupation and discrimination as well as the internationally recognised right of return. If there is to be a third intifada it is going to be modeled on the first intifada and the peaceful pro-democracy protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and others.

The foreign minister of israel called the Application an anti-zionist and an anti-israel application. That might be the case. But as far as I know there is nothing wrong with that. This is a political position against an ideology and a state that practices discrimination and is in violation of international law. The application gathers news resources, including news articles, videos and images that relate to Palestine and the ongoing occupation there. These are not grounds to remove the application. Apple cannot remove a political application, otherwise it has to remove all political applications because politics by its nature is about the clash of ideas. Some applications are offensive to me, however I understand that they represent a certain point of view. I do not want them to be banned unless they call for hate and violence. Being anti-zionist and anti-israel is not the same as being anti-semitic and anti-Jewish. I would be calling for the removal of such hateful apps along with homophobic, islamophobic, xenophobic, sexist, misogynistic, and racist apps.

I believe that we need to pressure Apple to reverse their decision has come. I therefore propose that we email Steve Jobs and ask him to reverse that decision. I will include the email I’m about to send him, it can be used as a template. But first let me tell you what I think should be included in that email, in no particular order. First if you use and enjoy Apple’s products like me then tell him that. Second, talk about the role that these products have played as tools in helping to organise the pro-democracy Arab uprisings. Third, include an explanation of what Intifada means and what it describes. Finally, explain that a political app is necessarily going to be offensive to a large number of people since politics is by it’s nature about the clash of ideas and that it is thus impossible to pick and choose what to remove and what to keep. Here is my email:

“To: sjobs@apple.com

Subject: The Removal of the ThirdIntifada App

Dear Steve Jobs,

I have enjoyed and used the products and services provided by your company for many years. I have found them to be superior to their competition. I have also found that the customer service provided by Apple and the Mac Store to be some of the best around. It is because of this that I feel the need to email you.

Your products have played an important role in helping to organise the wave of protests we have seen around the Arab world. Many of the protesters were able to organise and keep the world informed of what is happening through the use of you smartphone technology. By connecting to the internet using your iphones and laptops people were able to share images and videos, as well as blogs and opinions, carry out debates, and provide information that was outside the control of the tyrannical and dictatorial regimes they were fighting. Thanks to these products images that would have otherwise been censored by the state media were able to enjoy widespread distribution over the internet.

This is why it comes as a shock to many of us that your company would remove an application from the App Store which helps the users share and gather information about the situation in Palestine. I am referring to the decision to remove the ThirdIntifada App from the App store. The reason given by Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr
was that “it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.” This reason is not satisfactory. Any political app or app that deals with politics will be offensive to large groups of people. Politics is by its nature about the clash of ideas. Some ideas will be seen as offensive to people who hold opposing views. If you start removing one side of the political divide then there is no justification to keep applications from the other side. As long as there is no hate speech then it is impossible to justify removing one side of the political discussion and not the other(s).

The Israeli minister of public affairs Yuli Edelstein sent you an email in which he described the Application as  “an anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist application that (…) calls for an uprising against Israel”. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre said of the Application that it “contains anti-Israel content – articles, photographs of ‘martyrs’ and stories – and updates its users on further incitements to protest and violence.” However, they do not provide any evidence for their claims. The application provides resources about the ongoing occupation and colonisation of the West Bank in violation of international law and the continued siege of Gaza, again in violation of international law. They claim that the app incites violence, there is no evidence of that. It does, by its name, refer to an uprising, however as we have seen over the past few months uprisings don’t have to be violent.

The truth of the matter is that Palestinians are living under occupation and they have many of their basic human rights and rights under international law denied by the israeli occupation. This app provides information and is a useful tool to resist against this occupation non-violently. Removing it is tantamount to supporting the occupation.

The reason for its removal might come from a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word intifada. Intifada is an arabic word that finds its root in the verb  Intafada which means shook off. So Intifada literally means shaking off. It is in a passive form thus connoting a certain natural essence of the process, a certain uncontrollable and uncontrolled force. The term refers to popular rebellions or uprisings, particularly by the Palestinians against the israeli brutal military occupation.

Historically in Palestine there have been two intifadas since the establishment of israel in Palestine in 1948 and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip in 1967. The first of these intifadas was a popular uprising in 1987 and was largely non-violent. The images of this particular intifada inhabit the collective consciousness of all arabs and some of these images are seen by many, including myself, as the images that shaped our political outlook. Particularly the image of a child throwing a rock at an israeli tank. The second uprising started much like the first one in 2000 when Ariel Sharon, who was in the opposition at the time, along with a Likud delegation and hundreds of riot police visited the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest muslim site. This was viewed by Palestinians as a further humiliation and provocation and led to wide spread unrest. The second intifada had both the non-violent tactics of the first intifada but also included the use of force by military wings of Palestinian factions. Around 6500 Palestinians died, mostly civilians, and 1100 israelis, also mostly civilians althoughin a smaller proportion than Palestinians during the uprising. There was also massive destruction in the occupied territories due to the extreme violence used by the israeli military.

Since the start of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring, the series of pro-democracy protests and revolutions sweeping the region, there have been calls for a similar sort of protest against israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and its refusal to conform to international law, including the recognition of the Palestinian right of return. We saw what these protests might look like during the Nakba and Naksa protests. Basically the protests were peaceful non-violent marches to demand an end to occupation and discrimination as well as the internationally recognised right of return. If there is to be a third intifada it is going to be modeled on the first intifada and the peaceful pro-democracy protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and others.

I hope that you reconsider the decision to remove the ThirdIntifada App from your App Store. It is an important resource and there is no justified or justifiable reason for removing it.

Sincerely,”

Anyway, that’s my email. If anyone wants to use it as is go ahead. If you want to use it and tweak it go ahead. Or write your own email in your won words. The point is it is important to email Steve Jobs and put pressure on Apple not to bow to pressure by the israeli government and pro-israel lobby. It is important that we make our voices heard and start lobbying companies and political institutions on behalf of the Palestinians. As always, stay safe. Love you bye.

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