Israel imposes restrictions on Musk’s Starlink operation in Gaza

Ahram Online , Monday 27 Nov 2023

Starlink, a satellite internet service operated by the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX, will only be allowed to operate in the Gaza Strip following approval by the Israeli Ministry of Communication.

Elon Musk
File Photo: Elon Musk at the Vivatech technology startups and innovation fair at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center. AFP


Israeli Minister of Communications and Member of Knesset, Shlomo Karhi, speaking on behalf of the Likud party, announced the new measure on Monday after they reached a "principle understanding" with tech entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Musk landed in Tel Aviv on Monday, where he is due to meet Israeli President Isaac Herzog. According to Israeli media, he will also meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has imposed sharp restrictions on communications and internet service in Gaza, cutting all services to the strip in late October, before restoring them.

Musk then announced that SpaceX’s Starlink service would provide communication links in Gaza for "internationally recognized aid organizations."

This angered Israel, with Karhi saying he would fight the move.

Israel’s communications restrictions on Gaza have severely impeded the work of emergency and international organizations.

On 28 October, the UN and other NGOs reported that they had lost contact with their teams in the strip.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said that the disruption had prevented them from sending ambulances to help the injured. They also said that they lost contact with their operations room and teams in Gaza.

Censorship pressure

Musk, who also runs social media giant X, formerly known as Twitter, has been under Israeli pressure to censor content that is pro-Palestinian or that reveals Israeli atrocities, much like Facebook and Instagram.

Musk has said X should be a platform for people to post diverse viewpoints, but the company will limit the distribution of certain posts that may violate its policies, calling the approach “freedom of speech, not reach.”

X has “identified and removed hundreds of Hamas-affiliated accounts” since the start of the war.

“X is committed to serving the public conversation, especially in critical moments like this and understands the importance of addressing any illegal content that may be disseminated through the platform,” Linda Yaccarino, CEO of X, said.

X is not alone in dealing with such pressure over content since the conflict.

TikTok removed the hashtag #lettertoamerica after users on the app posted videos about Osama bin Laden's 2002 letter, published in the Guardian, criticizing US support for Israel.

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