Instagram removes accounts for leading NYC pro-Palestinian group Within Our Lifetime

After being used to express support for Hamas and its Oct. 7 atrocities, pages of the organization and its founder Nerdeen Kiswani are deactivated

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrators at a rally in Times Square, October 13, 2023. (Luke Tress / JTA)
Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrators at a rally in Times Square, October 13, 2023. (Luke Tress / JTA)

New York Jewish Week — Within Our Lifetime, perhaps the most visible pro-Palestinian activist group in New York City, said on Friday that Instagram had permanently disabled its accounts, depriving it of a major platform for organizing protests.

Within Our Lifetime’s main account and a backup page, each of which had tens of thousands of followers, both appeared to be inactive, as did two pages belonging to founder Nerdeen Kiswani. Within Our Lifetime shared a screenshot on X, formerly Twitter, saying that the accounts had been disabled due to violations of community guidelines.

A Facebook page belonging to the group, which has not been active in months, is still online.

A spokesperson for Meta, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, told the New York Jewish Week that the accounts had been removed because they violated the platform’s community guidelines, including its “Dangerous Organizations & Individuals policy.”

Shortly after the Hamas-led October 7 massacre in which 1,200 people in southern Israel were killed and 253 were abducted to the Gaza Strip, the tech giant clarified that it did not allow “content containing praise for Hamas, which is designated by Meta as a Dangerous Organization,” a designation that preceded the attack.

In recent months, Within Our Lifetime and Kiswani used Instagram to endorse the October 7 onslaught as “whatever means necessary it takes” to achieve Palestinian liberation and voice support for Hamas. It has also urged followers to target Jewish and Israel-linked institutions in New York City. The group’s post on X blamed the suspension on “zionist forces.”

“As zionist forces continue their crackdown on Palestine online and in the streets, @instagram has permanently deleted both WOL & WOL chair @NerdeenKiswani’s main and backup accounts, with no option to appeal or request a review to restore them,” the post said. “But the more they try to silence us, the louder we will be.”

The ban came on the same day that Meta shut down the Instagram and Facebook accounts of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “for repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy.” Khamenei had also praised Hamas and the October 7 massacre. Meta is also considering how to police the term “Zionist,” according to The Washington Post.

A Meta spokesperson told the New York Jewish Week that the removal of Within Our Lifetime’s accounts was unrelated to recent discussions about policy changes.

Since October 7, Within Our Lifetime has used Instagram as a platform to organize its frequent pro-Palestinian street protests across the city — announcements that were widely shared on other activist groups’ and student organizations’ Instagram pages.

The protests have often blocked traffic, massed at transportation hubs and holiday events, and targeted civic institutions for alleged links to Israel, including the Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer hospital. The group’s demonstrations frequently include banners reading “By any means necessary” and chants of “Globalize the intifada,” in addition to calls for the destruction of Israel and the targeting of Zionists.

Demonstrators take part in a protest organized by Within Our Lifetime, which endorses the Hamas-led October 7 massacres in southern Israel, outside the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, January 15, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Antisemitic crimes have spiked in New York City since the outbreak of the war, with at least 193 antisemitic incidents reported to police since the start of October.

National pro-Palestinian groups lashed out at Meta for removing Within Our Lifetime’s accounts, including National Students for Justice in Palestine and the Palestinian Youth Movement.

“This blatant censorship is a clear response to WOL’s unrelenting mobilizations,” National SJP posted on X. “We’re here to repeat what these corporations don’t understand: OUR POWER IS IN THE STREETS.”

The groups are all loosely connected: Within Our Lifetime grew out of Students for Justice in Palestine, and the three organizations have collaborated on and advertised each other’s events.

All three also route their funding through a small charity in Westchester, north of New York City. The organization, Wespac, uses its nonprofit status to collect funds on behalf of a number of pro-Palestinian groups that are not recognized charities through a financial arrangement called a fiscal sponsorship.

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