Facebook shuts down Palestinian ruling party’s official account

Facebook shuts down Palestinian ruling party’s official account

Fatah claims page was closed because it posted picture of Yasser Arafat holding a rifle

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

A photo shared on the Fatah official Facebook page of a mound of skulls marked with Jewish stars. (screen capture: Facebook)
A photo shared on the Fatah official Facebook page of a mound of skulls marked with Jewish stars. (screen capture: Facebook)

Facebook on Monday closed the official page of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party amid a crackdown by the social media giant on Palestinian incitement.

In a statement on its Twitter account, Fatah, which is headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed that Facebook closed the account after it posted a historical picture of former Fatah leader Yasser Arafat holding a rifle, standing alongside Fatah leader Mahmoud al-Aloul.

The page, which had garnered over 70,000 likes, routinely posted material that glorified Palestinian terrorism and martyrdom.

On February 15, Aloul was elected the first-ever vice president of Fatah by the party’s central committee.

Munir al-Jaghoub, who heads Fatah’s Information Department in the Office of Mobilization and Organization, wrote on his personal Facebook page that this was actually the second time the social media giant had closed Fatah’s account, but he did not specify when the first time was. Jaghoub was not available for a comment.

The closure of Fatah’s official account follows a series of measures by Facebook to crackdown against Palestinian incitement over social media.

In January, Facebook shutdown more than 100 pages belonging or sympathetic to the Hamas terror group in control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas responded by telling its supporters to find other social media platforms outside of Facebook.

Last April, Facebook shut down the page for the spokesperson of Hamas’s military wing the Qassam Brigades.

Israel has accused Facebook of facilitating Palestinian incitement against Israelis, especially following a wave of hundreds of attacks that began in October 2015, which security services said was fueled by online incitement.

In January, the so-called Facebook bill, which would allow the state to seek court orders to force the social media giant to remove certain content based on police recommendations, passed its first reading in the Knesset.

The government says the bill will only be invoked in cases of suspected incitement, where there is a real possibility that the material in question endangers the public or national security.

Additionally, in April, families of five Americans murdered or injured in recent Palestinian terror attacks in Israel filed a billion-dollar lawsuit against Facebook for failing to ban the Gaza-based terror group Hamas from using its social media platform.

“Facebook has knowingly provided material support and resources to Hamas in the form of Facebook’s online social media network platform and communication services,” a press release issued by the plaintiffs said. “Hamas has used and relied on Facebook’s online social network platform and communications services as among its most important tools to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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