Palestinians slam Facebook for removing pages glorifying attacks on Israelis
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Palestinians slam Facebook for removing pages glorifying attacks on Israelis

Journalists and activists accuse the social media giant of ‘waging war on the Palestinians,’ Israel has long accused it of not doing enough to combat incitement

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, 22, head of the terror cell who shot dead Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the West Bank on January 9 (Twitter)
Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, 22, head of the terror cell who shot dead Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the West Bank on January 9 (Twitter)

Palestinian activists and journalists on Monday launched a campaign to protest against Facebook after the social media giant removed dozens of pages in recent weeks, saying they incited and glorified terrorism.

“Facebook is waging war on the Palestinians,” the activists and journalists complained in a statement as they launched a Twitter hashtag entitled “#FBfightsPalestine” to protest the Facebook measures.

According to the Palestinians, the Facebook crackdown intensified after the killing of Ahmed Jarrar, the Hamas terrorist who was part of a cell that killed Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the northern West Bank last month.

Israeli security forces killed Jarrar in a shootout on February 6 in the village of al Yamoun, near Jenin.

Since then, the Palestinians said, Facebook has temporarily suspended or permanently removed more than 50 private and public pages and posts, most of which were dedicated to glorifying Jarrar. One of the deleted pages belonged to the Jarrar clan in Jenin.

During 2017, Facebook took action against 200 Palestinian accounts, the statement said.  The measures also included the removal of posts and photos deemed inflammatory and supportive of terrorism.

Earlier this week, Facebook removed the Hamas-affiliated “Palestine.net” page, which had more than 180,000 likes.

Muath Mashaal, one of the administrators of a page called “Palestine 27” which was recently removed by Facebook, said the move came after he shared a photo of Jarrar.

IDF troops operate in the Jenin area in pursuit of Ahmed Jarrar, the Palestinian who murdered Raziel Shevach, on February 3, 2018.

Mashaal told the Quds.net website that the crackdown on Palestinian content “affirms that Facebook has become a security institution that works on the basis of intelligence operations.”

Mashaal pointed out that “Palestine 27” specialized in “documenting the history of the Palestinian struggle against occupation.” He claimed that Israel had “incited” Facebook against the page.

Another journalist, Naelah Khalil, said that the Facebook measures “prove that Zionists hands are present everywhere.”

Some of the owners and senior officials of Facebook are “Zionists” and are “biased” in favor of Israel, she claimed, an apparent reference to Facebook’s Jewish founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

Mark Zuckerberg delivering a commencement speech at Harvard University in which he quoted the Hebrew Mi Shebeirach prayer, May 25, 2017. (Paul Marotta/Getty Images via JTA)

Palestinian legal expert Majed Arouri also accused Israel of being behind the Facebook campaign against Palestinian content.

Condemning the measures as a “flagrant assault on freedom of speech,” Arouri accused Facebook of turning a blind eye to Israeli pages involved in “incitement” against the Palestinians.

The Sada Social Center, a Palestinian non-governmental organization (NGO), said last week that the Facebook administration had removed content on its website 29 times in less than 48 hours, calling the moves “violations.”

“The Facebook administration has given up to the dictates of the Israeli occupation by violating Palestinian content, especially with regard to Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, such as martyr Ahmed Jarrar,” Iyad Rifaie, spokesperson for the center, charged.

Rifaie said that his center was documenting all “violations” by Facebook and working with human rights organizations in order to restore the removed pages.

Israel has long-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 last year, 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.”

A caricature by Hasan Abadi encourages Palestinians to stab Israeli soldiers [Facebook image]
Facebook has in the past dismissed an Israeli government claim that Zuckerberg, had “some of the blood” of an Israeli terror victim on his hands, because it did not censor Palestinian incitement and hate speech.

In a Hebrew-language statement, the company asserted that it works “on a regular basis with security organizations and policy makers throughout the world, including in Israel, in order to ensure that people know how to use Facebook safely.

“There is no room on our platform for content that encourages violence, direct threats, terror or verbal abuse. We have an array of clear-cut community guidelines meant to help people understand what is permitted on Facebook, and we call on people to make use of our reporting tools if they come across content that they believe violates these guidelines, so that we can evaluate each incident and take swift action,” Facebook said.

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