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Monday, April 23, 2012

Freedom of the press, 'Palestinian' style

Extensive testing shows that the 'Palestinian Authority' is blocking websites that are critical of it or of its leader, 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen.
The testing was conducted over four weeks by Ma'an and the Open Observatory of Network Interference, a new project by Web security experts Arturo Filasto and Jacob Appelbaum to track censorship around the world. Using a tool called an OONI probe, they scanned 1.1 million websites for a specific type of blocking.

"The technique being used to restrict access is a transparent HTTP proxy," Filasto said, meaning the company is intercepting attempts to reach blocked websites and returning a different page. Testing a connection in Bethlehem demonstrated that Hadara was blocking access to eight websites, while others blocked between four and six. The method being employed by Hadara is relatively basic, Filasto said.

Experts who have analyzed the data say the company configured an open-source software called Squid to detect the blocked sites and redirect users. Squid was originally developed with funding from two US government agencies, but neither one has any control over its distribution today.

Syria and Lebanon also use Squid for Web blocking, according to experts. Its appearance now indicates that while the Palestinian Authority may be more determined than before to censor the Internet, it is less willing to spend much time or money doing it, they said. The software is free and easy to alter for censorship.

"It’s a pretty common approach," says Danny O'Brien, Internet advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists, a US press freedom group. “Instructing ISPs to block a few websites can be so tempting, and it's usually how a government’s Web censorship program begins," O'Brien says.

"The big problem is no one willingly hands over the list. It would provide a map of places the government doesn’t want to you to see. When you can’t see the list, there’s no accountability from the public."

The new program's timing may also embarrass the Palestinian Authority's financial backers in the United States and European Union, both of which are considering legislation to curb the export of Western technologies used to censor political speech in the Middle East.

In Washington, a spokeswoman said the State Department was "concerned about any reports regarding the use of technologies to restrict access to information. The United States advocates Internet freedom."
I'm sure you're all shocked to hear this.

The problem with Western foreign policy in the Arab world has for years been a naive belief that if only we give them a free election, they will suddenly become democrats and recognize the value in the freedoms that we recognize. Time and again that has been proven false. Remember the optimism we all felt the day that Iraqis risked their lives to get in line to vote? Well, look at the results.
"The Republic of Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Iran as two Muslim countries and with rich cultural and historical background have friendly and brotherly relationships," Maliki said in a meeting with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani on Sunday.

He also said that Iraq and Iran are enjoying good and friendly relations in political, parliamentary, economic and cultural areas.

Referring to numerous commonalities for further expansion of relations between two countries, he said that enhancement of regional and international cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad is of prime importance for Iraq.

Larijani, for his part, said that the presence of a stable Iraq in neighborhood of Iran will help to tranquility and peace in the region.
Isn't that great? How many Americans died so that Iran and Iraq could kiss and make up?

Natan Sharansky's ideas about democracy - adopted by George W. Bush and to a lesser extent by Hussein Obama - only have a chance of working if the West is willing to do what it did with Germany and Japan after World War II: Occupy until they're ready to run it themselves. Otherwise, the best thing the West can do is to stay out, keep developing its own oil supplies so that it's not dependent on the 8th century Sheikhdoms, and keep the oil flowing to the extent that it still is. And leave off Israel. Because left to our own devices - without Western interference on behalf of the 'Palestinians' and Iran - we will survive here just fine God willing.

Read the whole thing.

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