Microsoft backs down from Israeli investment

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Members of the Palestinian security services guard the entrances to the city of Nablus – there have been two more cases of Covid-19 confirmed in the occupied West Bank

AFTER eight months of campaigning to demand that Microsoft drop their investment in the Israeli facial recognition company AnyVision, the hi-tech giant finally announced its divestment from the latter.

‘This is a huge and sorely needed victory at a time when corporations and governments have begun to use Covid-19 as an excuse to violate human rights,’ said a statement by the international campaign to demand Microsoft divestment from AnyVision, adding: ‘A win against a massive corporation like Microsoft is meaningful and important.’
The campaign said that ‘with Microsoft workers, community leaders in Seattle, MPower Change, and SumOfUs – we can make significant change happen and get a corporate giant to do the right thing.’
The campaign explained that as soon as Microsoft announced a $74 million investment in AnyVision last June, a campaign was launched ‘demanding they drop the facial recognition tech company, which an investigation found was secretly surveilling Palestinians’.
‘AnyVision’s surveillance violates Palestinians’ human rights, privacy, and basic dignity. Over 75,000 people signed our combined petitions to Microsoft, and we held a powerful action at Microsoft HQ where we delivered those names in person.’

  • Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced today that the government will be applying an austere emergency public budget, in light of the inevitably shrinking government revenues as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis in Palestine and the world.

Shtayyeh announced during a press conference today that the government revenues are expected to decrease by more than 50 per cent and that international aid is scheduled to decline, but said the salaries of the public servants for March will be paid 100 per cent. He added that the salaries will be disbursed on several days to avoid crowding – a main cause for infection of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister announced that 51 new doctors, medical specialists and general practitioners will be recruited by the government in the coming days to cover the needs of the healthcare sector at this critical stage.
On private-sector workers, Shtayyeh said the government agreed with the Palestine Workers Union to pay half of the salary of the workers – who are currently unemployed as a result of the crisis – for the months of March and April.
The premier renewed calls on the Palestinian workers not to work in the illegal Israeli settlements which have been an epicentre of the novel disease.
Responding to a question on the availability of test kits and respirators in Palestine, Shtayyeh said there is a severe shortage of equipment necessary for diagnosis and treatment of Covid-19 patients, but said a number of respirators and test kits will soon be donated to Palestine by China.
‘The world is on a battle to secure this medical equipment because the producers are few and the competition is intense,’ he said, but maintained that President Mahmoud Abbas has been reaching out to friendly countries to fill the gap in medical supplies and equipment at this hard time.
He also thanked Jordan for allowing a private pharmaceutical company based in Jordan to dispatch about 40,000 tablets of a drug foreseen as a good treatment for the virus. He said the drug is scheduled to first arrive in Palestine on Tuesday.
‘We are working to provide everything possible. Currently we have no shortages, but that doesn’t mean all our needs are fulfilled. We are in contact with our friends in the world: The WHO, Russia, India, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and all the countries that wanted to help us. ‘
Earlier, Shtayyeh confirmed two more cases of Covid-19 in the West Bank, which brought up the total cases to 106.

  • The Presidency yesterday condemned the recent ballistic attacks which targeted posts in Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, the Presidency affirmed the firm support of the people and leadership of Palestine for Saudi Arabia in its ongoing campaign against these attacks, as well as its defence of Saudi land, security, stability and the protection of its people.

  • Mayor of the village an-Nassariya, to the east of Nablus in the West Bank, Hasan Dabbas, 55, was shot dead last night by unknown assailants in the village, according to the police.

Lu’ay Rzekat, spokesman for the police, said that the Dabbas was shot and seriously injured by unknown assailants in the village, and was rushed to a hospital in nearby Tubas town for treatment, before he was pronounced dead of his wounds.
He said that following the deadly incident, police and security forces were deployed to the village to maintain public security, safety and order as well as to inspect the scene of the crime. He added that several suspects were arrested in the village pending criminal proceedings.
Rzekat explained that the Public Prosecution and the police launched a probe into the incident.

  • Member of Hamas Political Bureau Mousa Dudeen has called for mass action to place pressure on the Israeli occupation to ensure the safety of Palestinian detainees held in Israeli jails amid coronavirus fears.

Hundreds of sick Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails have been suffering from medical negligence and Covid-19 pandemic comes as a new form of suffering sustained by the detainees, Dudeen added in a press release on Saturday evening.
Amid fears of the spread of the coronavirus in Israeli prisons, Dudeen continued, Palestinian detainees need cleaning supplies and sanitisers, but the Israeli prison service rejects taking precautionary measures against the novel virus.
‘The prisoners’ issue is sensitive to every Palestinian and isn’t subject to any political infighting,’ stressed Dudeen.
Dudeen explained that the Palestinian detainees were ready to protest at the shortage of cleaning and medical supplies and pile pressure on the Israeli prison service to take precautionary measures against Covid-19.
The Hamas official urged human rights groups and international organisations to activate their role towards the Palestinian detainees and mobilise an international appeal to release them from Israeli prisons.
The Israeli occupation bears full responsibility for the life of every Palestinian detainee and has to take their wellbeing and health seriously, Dudeen pointed out.
Dudeen called on the Palestinian Authority to step up their efforts for the Palestinian detainees, particularly in international and human rights organisations.

  • Hamas has praised an offer by the leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement to free several Saudi captives in exchange for the release of members of the Palestinian resistance movement currently being held in the kingdom.

Hamas, in a statement released late on Thursday, stated that it ‘followed with interest the appreciated initiative announced by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi in a televised speech broadcast live from the Yemeni capital Sana’a, which marked the fifth anniversary of the Saudi-led aggression against its impoverished Arab country.
The Palestinian resistance movement then thanked Ansarullah for ‘the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity with Palestinian people’.
Hamas also reiterated its call on Saudi authorities to release all Palestinian prisoners, ‘on top of whom is Dr. Muhammad al-Khudari’.
The Palestinian movement noted that it has been contacting the Saudi leadership throughout last year in a bid to reach a deal on the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Saudi officials have reportedly arrested more than 60 people for supporting the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement.
Hamas concluded its statement by assuring that the Palestinian cause will thrive, calling upon Muslims worldwide to support the Palestinian people and their righteous cause.
‘We are fully prepared to release one of the captured pilots along with four Saudi officers and soldiers,’ Houthi said in a televised speech on Thursday afternoon.
‘This will be in exchange for the release of those from Hamas arrested in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.’
On March 22, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, in a letter addressed to the Saudi monarch King Salman pleaded with him to make a quick decision and order the freedom of Palestinian detainees in Saudi prisons.
‘In light of the pandemic of the novel coronavirus that has spread across the globe, due to fears for the lives of our honourable brethren and given all humanitarian and religious considerations … the release of the Palestinians becomes a humanitarian and national necessity. We are all confident that His Majesty will not hesitate to do so,’ the letter read.
‘We call on the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to make a long-awaited decision and release our fellow countrymen from prison.’
Palestinian families and human rights groups have called on Saudi authorities to immediately release the Palestinians, citing the threat posed by the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the highly contagious new coronavirus.
‘We renew our call on the Saudi authorities to release all Palestinian prisoners in Saudi Arabia. Most of them suffer from chronic diseases and need medication on a regular basis. The lack of health care in the prisons threatens their lives,’ they said in a joint press statement.
‘In light of the intensified spread of coronavirus around the world, we ask the Saudi authorities to consider the release of these detainees in accordance with the Amnesty International’s directives,’ the statement added.
Families of the detainees, some of whom are in their 80s, say the Palestinians have been denied access to lawyers and visitation rights, and authorities have recently begun reducing phone call access.
Umm Qusai al-Haddad, who was born in Saudi Arabia but now lives in Gaza City, said she feared for the safety of her father Suleiman, 67, and her two brothers, Yahya, 40, and Muhammad, 38, all of whom have been in Saudi detention since 2018.
She said Saudi authorities had repeatedly withheld information from the family, including their recent court session on March 8.
Last month, the Prisoners of Conscience, a non-governmental organisation advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page that Saudi authorities had launched a new campaign of ‘arbitrary’ arrests against Palestinian expatriates living in the kingdom on charges of supporting Hamas.
On October 21 last year, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Arabic-language Shehab news agency that Palestinians being held at prisons and detention centres in Saudi Arabia are exposed to various forms of torture and cruel methods of interrogation.
A Hamas spokesman says Palestinian detainees in Saudi Arabia are subjected to various forms of torture and brutal interrogation.
‘Unfortunately, there is a harsh investigation procedure against the detainees, some of whom are subjected to various forms of torture.
Interrogators of different nationalities are questioning them,’ he said back then.
‘There are about 60 Palestinian detainees (in Saudi jails), and some of them are the sons or supporters of Hamas.
Some of them have even lived more than three decades in the kingdom and greatly contributed to the construction of the country.’
He further noted that Hamas has made great efforts, either through contacts with a number of countries or Saudi officials, to secure the release of the Palestinian inmates but all to no avail.