Facebook threatens to delete page of pro-Israel UN watchdog chief

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, told his account is at risk over post criticizing Israel boycott; pushes back with legal appeal, online petition

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

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

Facebook has threatened to delete the personal account of the director of a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group at the United Nations, saying he violates community rules.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer was also told that his page had already been under sanctions to reduce its visibility for months, the group said in a statement Monday.

“It turns out that, as I suspected, Facebook has been deliberately and unjustifiably hiding my posts from the public,” Neuer said in the statement. “Now they’re arbitrarily threatening to delete my account. It’s a Kafkaesque situation, and makes absolutely no sense.”

Facebook sent Neuer a warning that his page was “at risk of being unpublished” due to “continued Community Standards violations.”

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.”

UN Watch said the post had been widely shared on Twitter without incident but that Facebook had deleted it.

“No explanation was provided, nor did Facebook respond to attempts by Neuer to appeal the ruling,” UN Watch said of the warning, adding that it was “troubled by the lack of clarity in Facebook’s Community Standards, and the lack of transparency and arbitrariness in the application of those standards.”

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

“It’s possible that this censorship was caused by individuals abusing those standards, acting in bad faith to orchestrate frivolous complaints, but whatever the reason, it needs to stop,” Neuer said.

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.

The group’s legal adviser Dina Rovner filed an official letter of complaint with Facebook’s parent company, Meta.

Rovner addressed the letter to Chief Legal Officer Jennifer Newstead and requested that Facebook “remove strikes against Hillel Neuer’s Facebook page, cease punitive measures, and take the necessary steps to ensure that bad faith actors can no longer trigger baseless actions against Neuer’s page,” UN Watch said.

The NGO also set up an online petition to challenge the Facebook move. According to the petition it needs 7,500 signatures to get “a reaction from decision-makers.” As of Tuesday morning, it had over 5,200.

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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