Palestinians Suffer in Cell Phone Dark Ages — and Point Finger of Blame at Israel

In Facebook Age, Politics Takes Back Seat to Connectivity

Cell phones are ubiquitous in the West Bank. But Israeli rules prevent providers from offering even 3G service, angering tech-savvy Palestinians.
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Cell phones are ubiquitous in the West Bank. But Israeli rules prevent providers from offering even 3G service, angering tech-savvy Palestinians.

By Ben Lynfield

Published July 27, 2013, issue of August 02, 2013.
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Meanwhile, when it comes to domestic economic policy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu preaches the virtues of deregulation and touts Israel as a world hub of cutting-edge technology. Last December, Netanyahu proclaimed a “revolution in the field of fiber optics” whose goal was to “enable every home in Israel to hook up to fast Internet, of 100 mega, super-fast, and to do this at low prices.”

Fast Internet in every Israeli home, Netanyahu vowed, would wipe out differences between center areas like Tel Aviv and development towns in the periphery. “We are paving fast electric highways in order to enable this link and to cancel the existing technological gap,” he said.

Many Palestinians view Israel’s restrictions on electromagnetic frequencies as part of an overall policy in which Israel deprives the Palestinians of their share of the territory’s natural resources. This includes access to water and to land for building in the zone designated under the Oslo Agreement as Area C, which constitutes the majority of the West Bank and remains under full Israeli control.

“They are monopolizing our resources and keeping our economy in a situation in which it is unable to grow or to create jobs, or to get more taxes for the authority,” said Samir Abdullah, director general of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute, in Ramallah.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, dismissed this allegation. “On the contrary, the Israeli government understands that economic growth and greater prosperity in the West Bank is a vital ingredient as we move forward in peace.”


Contact Ben Lynfield at feedback@forward.com


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