There’s been a great deal of media reporting on the increasing level of censorship by social media platforms on political speech, especially supporting Palestinian rights or criticizing Israel. I and others have reported the intense pressure by Israeli ministers to censor their content and rid it of attacks on Israel or its Occupation. Though companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have denied the most blatant claims by Israel that they are collaborating with the government, actions say otherwise.
The past few weeks bring further proof that they are not just collaborating, but that they’ve accepted de facto Israeli legal jurisdiction over their platform, not just in Israel but throughout the world. This episode begins with the recent IDF commando raid in Gaza which led to a Sayeret Matkal senior officer dying and seven Hamas fighters dying. That in turn nearly led to an all-out war with Israel.
Let’s remind ourselves of what these commandos did: they invaded Gaza; they used a legitimate Gaza NGO as cover for their offensive operation thereby violating the Geneva Convention; they stole the identities of real Gazans to create their fake IDs, thereby endangering the victims. This is what Facebook is protecting. Exposure of these grave misdeeds purportedly violates its community standards.
Israeli military censor immediately slapped a ban on reporting the dead officer’s name or unit (Lt. Col. Mahmoud Kheireddine). An Israeli source gave me that information and I published it. A few days later, Hamas published the photos of each of the eight commandos which they used to create fake Palestinian IDs. Within a few days, the Twitter account of Quds News Network, which featured the image, was suspended. Electronic Intifada also received a demand from Twitter that it remove its own tweet featuring the image.
In response to Israeli demands, Twitter just removed the Arabic account of Quds News Network after QNN published reports on the botched Israeli clandestine operation in Khan Younes last month. pic.twitter.com/1CCtjPXrhG
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) December 5, 2018
To promote my own blog post, I created a Hebrew Facebook post and tweet. Today, I received notice from Facebook that it was censoring the post. It did not offer any explanation, other than to say I’d violated “community standards.” It did not offer any right to object to the decision, explain my intent or offer context. At the same time, Ronnie Barkan’s post sharing my earlier Facebook post was removed for the same reasons.
I immediately reposted the same exact material to Facebook, where it is still available (for now). I also wrote to the Facebook press team objecting to the decision to censor my content. Here’s what I wrote:
I am a journalist and political blogger who writes about Israeli national security issues. I have both a FB personal page and a page devoted to my blog.
In my work (I am based in the U.S.), I often report news that is under judicial gag order in Israel or under military censorship. Fortunately, here in the U.S., Israeli law and censorship regulations are not under that country’s jurisdiction.
However, it appears that Facebook has now adopted the policy that Israeli censorship rules DO apply as far as Facebook is concerned. Instead of censoring offending posts only in Israel as has been done in the past, Facebook has censored one of my posts by eliminating it entirely, claiming it violated “community standards.”
The post in question did not violate community standards. It was a Hebrew language post which noted that I had identified the name of the senior IDF officer who was killed in a failed military operation in Gaza. It also featured a picture of the other 7 IDF commandos who participated in the raid.
These images are widely available on the internet. But they violate only Israeli censorship. That is, a military censorship regime imposed by a national security state. Not a democracy and not a country which upholds the same values as the U.S. and other western democracies do.
FB determined erroneously that they violate “community standards.” I’d like someone to explain why Israeli military censorship regulations appear to be the same as FB community standards.
As a longtime Facebook user, I would expect you would uphold my right to free speech and my right as a journalist to report on important news stories; and not to cave to the whims of the Israeli censor.
I have reposted this item to my account. You can review it yourself to determine its appropriateness.
As a journalist, I will be reporting on this incident in various media venues. I hope you will rescind this decision and inform me that I am not in danger of further disciplinary action. I would be happy to note this in any news reports or interviews I do.
I did an interview this afternoon with Dennis Bernstein’s Flashpoint on KPFA (listen or download the interview). I welcome other opportunities to talk about this case to the media.
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