Far-right Israeli individuals and groups appear on extensive Facebook blacklist

Bentzi Gopstein and his Lehava organization are among several Jewish and Israeli groups banned from social media platform, alongside Islamic terrorists and neo-Nazi organizations

Benzi Gopstein, chairman of the far-Right group Lehava seen in Kfar Qasim, October 5, 2021. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Benzi Gopstein, chairman of the far-Right group Lehava seen in Kfar Qasim, October 5, 2021. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

A far-right Israeli activist and the racist organization he heads are both on Facebook’s blacklist of entities banned from the social media platform, alongside a wide array of terror and hate groups, according to a list published by The Intercept this week.

Among those who appear on the list of people, organizations and groups sanctioned by the social media giant are far-right activist Bentzi Gopstein, and the racist, homophobic Lehava organization he heads, both of which are listed as being banned for “hate.”

Lehava opposes intermarriage of Jews and non-Jews, as well as LGBT rights, and tries to stifle any public activity by non-Jews in Israel, including coexistence events.

There have been a number of efforts in Israel, including ongoing attempts, to have Lehava outlawed as a terrorist organization.

Gopstein has been arrested on a number of occasions and investigated for statements that he made against non-Jews, including for an article in which he called Christians living in Israel “bloodsuckers.”

He was also arrested shortly after members of his group tried to burn down an Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem in November 2014. Gopstein was not charged over the attack, for which three Lehava members were eventually convicted.

Otzma Yehudit member Benzi Gopstein (with microphone), head of the anti-miscegenation group Lehava, leads a demonstration against the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on June 6, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

More recently, Gopstein attempted to launch a political career in the extremist Otzma Yehudit party, but was barred by the Supreme Court from running in 2019, over remarks that “unequivocally” proved that he “systematically incites racism against the Arab public.”

The Israeli far-right Kahane Chai organization — which is deemed a terrorist group in both Israel and the US — is listed as being banned for “terror.” The Jewish Defense League, the US-based organization started by the extremist rabbi and former MK Meir Kahane, is also blacklisted as a terrorist group, as is an unknown organization called “Jews of Jihad Media.”

The Intercept said it had reviewed a snapshot of the list that is divided into the reasons groups or individuals are banned: Hate, Crime, Terrorism, Militarized Social Movements, and Violent Non-State Actors. It also published an 11-page document that details Facebook’s policies on the matter.

Other groups included on the banned listed are companies and figures linked to Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic State, Boko Haram, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other terrorist organizations, according to The Intercept. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar both appear on the list.

The purported blacklist also includes a wide range of neo-Nazi figures and associations in the United States and Europe. The list of banned individuals also includes a number of prominent Nazis, including Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Joseph Mengele and Klaus Barbie — in order to prevent fan pages and discussion groups focused on them.

Illustrative: Right wing activists attend a ceremony honoring late Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane in Jerusalem on November 17, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Among the other deceased figures named, included to prevent discourse about them, are Hamas founders Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi and Ahmed Yassin — who were both assassinated by Israel. Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini is also on the alphabetically ordered list, one spot above Gopstein.

Facebook has in the past faced calls to reveal who is on the list of those who are banned under its so-called “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” policy against “organizations with a record of terrorist or violent criminal activity.” Such calls have also come from Facebook’s own Oversight Board, which says it is in the public interest for the information to be made available.

The list published by The Intercept includes more than 4,000 entries, among them “politicians, writers, charities, hospitals, hundreds of music acts, and long-dead historical figures,” according to the report.

Experts have assessed that the “list and associated rules appear to be a clear embodiment of American anxieties, political concerns, and foreign policy values since 9/11,” the Intercept reported.

A mural in Gaza City in 2012 shows (left)
Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, killed by Israel in a March 2004 missile strike, and PLO chief Yasser Arafat, who died of a mysterious illness in November of the same year. (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

“Nearly everyone and everything on the list is considered a foe or threat by America or its allies: Over half of it consists of alleged foreign terrorists, free discussion of which is subject to Facebook’s harshest censorship,” the report said.

The experts also noted there are fewer restrictions placed on comments about white anti-government militias than on those listed as terrorists who are predominantly Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Muslims.

Brian Fishman, Facebook’s policy director for counterterrorism and dangerous organizations, told The Intercept in a statement that “we try to be as transparent as possible, while also prioritizing security, limiting legal risks and preventing opportunities for groups to get around our rules.”

“We don’t want terrorists, hate groups, or criminal organizations on our platform, which is why we ban them and remove content that praises, represents, or supports them,” Fishman said.

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