US computer giant Apple has culled a Palestinian application (app) from its iPhone offerings at the request of Israel, which said it incited people to violence against the Jewish State.
The Arabic-language app ThirdIntifada, released by Apple just days ago, provides users with details of upcoming anti-Israel protests, access to news articles and editorials, and links to Palestinian nationalist material.
In calling on Apple to act decisively, Israel's public diplomacy minister Yuli Edelstein said the iPhone app was "anti-Israel and anti-Zionist", and warned that it could "unite many towards an objective that could be disastrous".
The decision by Apple to purge the app has been criticised by pro-Palestinian campaigners, who claim that the term "Intifada", used to refer to a mass uprising, is not necessarily a call to violence. Apple said the app "violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people".
Apple has responded swiftly to pressure in the past, dropping apps deemed sexual in content or anti-gay. More controversially, it pulled an unofficial WikiLeaks app that enabled people to make donations to the whistle-blowing site run by Julian Assange after PayPal, MasterCard and Visa all cancelled their cooperation with WikiLeaks in what appeared part of a concerted campaign.
Israel recently scored another success in cyberspace when it convinced Facebook to pull down a Palestinian Third Intifada page calling for an uprising against Israel. The page had attracted more than 350,000 fans.
Facebook, whose social networking site has played an instrumental role in galvanising protests across the Arab world in recent months, initially refused, buckling only after Israel appealed personally to founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The campaign underscores Israeli fears that if a much-anticipated Palestinian bid to seek recognition of statehood at the UN in September is thwarted, it could trigger a new uprising against Israel's 44-year occupation.
Arab Spring protests have inspired many Palestinians to hope that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza can be ended through peaceful resistance in the absence of peace talks. Even before that, the non-violent protest movement was gathering strength, encouraged by Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, a moderate politician who enjoys Western backing.
Some Palestinians envisage a return to the First Intifada, which started in 1987 and was characterised by civil disobedience and mass protests. But the Palestinian resistance became synonymous with deadly violence during the Second Intifada, which broke out in 2000, when the use of suicide bombers particularly hurt the Palestinian cause.
"People are disillusioned with what armed struggled achieved. The Palestinian political discourse is shifting towards popular resistance," said Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli activist who organises weekly protests against Israel's separation wall. "But if [Israeli] oppression is too much, it turns into something else."
Blocked by Apple
* An app offering to "cure homosexuality" was scrapped after gay rights campaigners launched an online petition.
* Apple also banned apps which warned drivers of the location of traffic police carrying out Breathalyser tests after a campaign by four US senators.
* Record labels successfully pressured Apple into removing the free music-streaming "Grooveshark" app.
* "Wobble iBoobs" was among the soft-porn apps removed by Apple following complaints by parents.