Why Apple was wrong to pull iPhone app at Israel's behest

The US computer giant removed the "ThirdIntifada" app under Israeli pressure.

The Arabic word intifada -- literally meaning "to shake off" but usually translated as "uprising" or "resistance" -- has strong political and historical connotations in the Arab world. The First and Second Intifadas were two popular Palestinian uprisings over the past three decades against the Israeli occupation.

That Apple attempted to capitalise on the social turmoil of these events by launching an iPhone application under the name "ThirdIntifada" is thus not the smartest move the company has ever made. The Arabic-language app was released a few days ago, and provided consumers with news reports and editorials, as well as details of upcoming protests and nationalistic Palestinian material.

Unsurprisingly, the Israeli government has been quick to take the offensive, and Apple has since removed the app at the request of the Iraeli state.

But this small and seemingly benign episode raises questions about Apple's political entanglements, and the extent of Israeli influence.

Israel recently appealed personally to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to take down a Palestinian Third Intifada page that had attracted more than 350,000 fans. After initially refusing, Facebook, too, complied.

Arguably, Apple should not have agreed to publish the app in the first place -- or at least changed its name to something less politically volatile. The company enforces stringent guidelines for the applications it approves, and has previously rejected or blocked apps that it considers offensive or inflammatory. Earlier this year, Apple pulled an app offering to "cure homosexuality" after more than 100,000 people signed a petition calling for its removal.

While the Intifada app may indeed be deemed offensive by some Zionist groups, it seems unlikely that such a fuss would have been made for a similar app detailing the Egyptian or Tunisian protest movements -- or, for that matter, the recent protests in Britain against government spending cuts.

The question here is not just about Apple's murky politics, Palestinian antagonism or Israel's far-reaching influence, but about the role of a state -- any state -- in pressurising an international organisation to withdraw one of their products. Two wrongs, as the saying goes, don't make a right.

Whichever way you look at it, this example sets a worrying -- if not wholly unexpected -- precedent for future dealings between Palestinians and the Israeli state.

Emanuelle Degli Esposti is a freelance journalist currently living and working in London. She has written for the Sunday Express, the Daily Telegraph and the Economist online.

Emanuelle Degli Esposti is the editor and founder of The Arab Review, an online journal covering arts and culture in the Arab world. She also works as a freelance journalist specialising in the politics of the Middle East.

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The government needs more on airports than just Chris Grayling's hunch

This disastrous plan to expand Heathrow will fail, vows Tom Brake. 

I ought to stop being surprised by Theresa May’s decision making. After all, in her short time as Prime Minister she has made a series of terrible decisions. First, we had Chief Buffoon, Boris Johnson appointed as Foreign Secretary to represent the United Kingdom around the world. Then May, announced full steam ahead with the most extreme version of Brexit, causing mass economic uncertainty before we’ve even begun negotiations with the EU. And now we have the announcement that expansion of Heathrow Airport, in the form of a third runway, will go ahead: a colossally expensive, environmentally disastrous, and ill-advised decision.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, I asked Transport Secretary Chris Grayling why the government is “disregarding widespread hostility and bulldozing through a third runway, which will inflict crippling noise, significant climate change effects, health-damaging air pollution and catastrophic congestion on a million Londoners.” His response was nothing more than “because we don’t believe it’s going to do those things.”

I find this astonishing. It appears that the government is proceeding with a multi-billion pound project with Grayling’s beliefs as evidence. Why does the government believe that a country of our size should focus on one major airport in an already overcrowded South East? Germany has multiple major airports, Spain three, the French, Italians, and Japanese have at least two. And I find it astonishing that the government is paying such little heed to our legal and moral environmental obligations.

One of my first acts as an MP nineteen years ago was to set out the Liberal Democrat opposition to the expansion of Heathrow or any airport in southeast England. The United Kingdom has a huge imbalance between the London and the South East, and the rest of the country. This imbalance is a serious issue which our government must get to work remedying. Unfortunately, the expansion of Heathrow does just the opposite - it further concentrates government spending and private investment on this overcrowded corner of the country.

Transport for London estimates that to make the necessary upgrades to transport links around Heathrow will be £10-£20 billion pounds. Heathrow airport is reportedly willing to pay only £1billion of those costs. Without upgrades to the Tube and rail links, the impact on London’s already clogged roads will be substantial. Any diversion of investment from improving TfL’s wider network to lines serving Heathrow would be catastrophic for the capital. And it will not be welcomed by Londoners who already face a daily ordeal of crowded tubes and traffic-delayed buses. In the unlikely event that the government agrees to fund this shortfall, this would be salt in the wound for the South-West, the North, and other parts of the country already deprived of funding for improved rail and road links.

Increased congestion in the capital will not only raise the collective blood pressure of Londoners, but will have severe detrimental effects on our already dire levels of air pollution. During each of the last ten years, air pollution levels have been breached at multiple sites around Heathrow. While a large proportion of this air pollution is caused by surface transport serving Heathrow, a third more planes arriving and departing adds yet more particulates to the air. Even without expansion, it is imperative that we work out how to clean this toxic air. Barrelling ahead without doing so is irresponsible, doing nothing but harm our planet and shorten the lives of those living in west London.

We need an innovative, forward-looking strategy. We need to make transferring to a train to Cardiff after a flight from Dubai as straightforward and simple as transferring to another flight is now. We need to invest in better rail links so travelling by train to the centre of Glasgow or Edinburgh is quicker than flying. Expanding Heathrow means missing our climate change targets is a certainty; it makes life a misery for those who live around the airport and it diverts precious Government spending from other more worthy projects.

The Prime Minister would be wise to heed her own advice to the 2008 government and “recognise widespread hostility to Heathrow expansion.” The decision to build a third runway at Heathrow is the wrong one and if she refuses to U-turn she will soon discover the true extent of the opposition to these plans.

Tom Brake is the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton & Wallington.