Three hundred sixty-nine members of the US House of Representatives want the Palestinian Authority president to condemn violence in Israel and renew direct peace negotiations.
Lawmakers are asking Mahmoud Abbas not to incite violence, to continue security cooperation with Israel, and to agree to renew peace talks without conditions.
Their letter says Abbas and other PA figures are inciting violence and that unless calm is restored there’ll be little chance for a two-state solution.
The letter comes ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington next week.
In a bipartisan gesture, the letter was released by Rep. Ed Royce, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Republican chairman, and New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat.
Palestinians attribute the current cycle of violence to a lack of hope of gaining independence, while Israeli officials have repeatedly charged that widespread incitement in Palestinian media and its endorsement by Palestinian leaders is fueling the recent surge of attacks against Israelis.
According to The Associated Press, social media — particularly Twitter and Facebook — is the “number one source of news among young Palestinians.” Some 3.7 million Palestinians follow the Quds News Network, believed to be affiliated with Islamic Jihad, on the social media platform and 4.2 million follow the Shehab News Network, which is believed to be affiliated with Hamas, AP reported.
The social media pages for sites such as Quds News Network (3.6 million followers on Facebook, 264,000 on Twitter); Shehab News Agency (4.1 million followers on Facebook, 99,000 on Twitter), and Urgent from Gaza (282,000 followers on Facebook) flood Palestinian computer screens with gruesome images of dead Palestinians and caricatures encouraging more attacks, often accompanied by a hashtag ordering “stab!” or warning “Al-Aqsa is in danger!”
Approximately one third of Palestinian society in Jerusalem and the West Bank is active on social media, said Orit Perlov, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) who specializes in Palestinian social media.
“There are no borders in social media,” she said. “The same message resonates in Gaza, Jerusalem and Umm al-Fahm.” In recent months, she added, Israel and the PA have been monitoring and arresting prominent Palestinian social media activists in Jerusalem and the West Bank, leaving the arena “like an octopus with tentacles but no head.”
Last week, some 20,000 Israeli plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the social media platform of ignoring widespread Palestinian posts calling for violence against Jews.
In the suit filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, the plaintiffs claim the Facebook posts have inspired many recent terror attacks and that “Facebook’s algorithms and platform connects inciters to terrorists who are further encouraged to perpetrate stabbings and other violence attacks against Israelis.”