Citing error, Facebook nixes threat to delete page of pro-Israel UN watchdog chief

Following online petition, formal complaint, social media giant issues apology to Hillel Neuer, says restrictions on his account lifted

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screenshot of UN Watch CEO Hillel Neuer's personal Facebook page, January 21, 2022. (Facebook)
Screenshot of UN Watch CEO Hillel Neuer's personal Facebook page, January 21, 2022. (Facebook)

Facebook has apologized to the director of a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group at the United Nations for threatening to close his account, and said it had restored a post from last year that had prompted it to impose restrictions on his page.

The backpedal came days after Hillel Neuer, CEO of the UN Watch non-government organization, revealed that Facebook had warned him he was breaking community standards and that his account may be deleted. It also notified him that his account had already been sanctioned to lower its visibility over the post.

The warning listed just one incident, a post from August 17, 2021, that used a photo of Afghan Taliban to jab at boycotts of Israel.

It showed Taliban gunmen at the presidential palace in Kabul with a caption “Prediction: Ben and Jerry’s will never announce a boycott of the Taliban,” a reference to the US ice cream maker dropping its operations in West Bank settlements.

Facebook also revealed that Neuer had been penalized over the post, telling him, “Your page has reduced distribution and other restrictions.”

Neuer responded by launching an online petition against the threat while UN Watch’s attorney filed a formal complaint with Facebook. Nearly 12,000 people signed the petition.

Screen capture of a warning from Facebook to Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch, that he was violating community standards. (UN Watch)

“This post was removed in error and has now been restored,” Meta said in a statement published by Neuer Tuesday on his Facebook page. “We have also removed the restrictions on this Page, and have apologized to Hillel Neuer for the inconvenience caused.”

Neuer wrote “I am very grateful for the quick action and passionate support of my friends and followers worldwide, and the responsiveness of top Meta officials when apprised.”

“There remains a pending, similar issue with the UN Watch Page, and we are engaged in discussions over that,” he said.

UN Watch said in a statement Wednesday that it was grateful for “supporters worldwide who signed the petition, and in some cases made personal appeals, to urge Facebook to remove its threat to delete our Executive Director’s Facebook page.”

It also thanked Meta, Facebook’s parent company for taking “quick action when apprised of the situation” and its subsequent apology.

Neuer’s Facebook page, set up in May 2009, has 49,000 followers. The main UN Watch Facebook page has over 168,000 followers.

“We rely on social media to share our vital information about human rights and the United Nations, yet Facebook is stifling our voice and now threatening to shut us down,” UN Watch said earlier this week after Neuer had received the initial threat.

Hillel Neuer of UN Watch (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash 90)
Hillel Neuer (Michal Fattal/Flash 90)

UN Watch was founded in 1993 and, according to its webpage, aims to combat “racism, antisemitism and anti-Israeli prejudice at the UN, taking the offensive against dictatorships and double standards.”

It is headquartered in Geneva and is a UN-accredited NGO, enabling it to participate in some debates and panels at the global body, where it has campaigned against human rights abuses around the world.

Some of Neuer’s appearances at the UN have gone viral, with videos shared on social media networks racking up millions of views. A speech he gave at the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, in which he responded to accusations that Israel engages in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, has had nearly 8 million views on YouTube.

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