19 thoughts on “Has Facebook Decided the Star of David is Anti-Semitic? – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Keep at ’em, Richard!!! We’ve got to close this chapter on America’s censorship. It’s dark, dirty and snuffing even further Constitutional guarantees to the people.

  2. Whilst I agree that the star of david is not a religious symbol, it is certainly a Jewish symbol and not exclusively Israeli. For about 1000 years the symbol has adorned Jewish artifacts and buildings associated with prayer, and the eventual horrific use of the yellow star had only Jewish and not Zionist implication.
    One maybe ought to distinguish between the use of the Israeli flag in caricatures (which contains the natural adoption of the star of david for Israel) and the use of the star without the flag which includes all Jews.
    The NY Times cartoon wrongly used the star and not the flag thus causing the anti semitism accusation and the withdrawal of the cartoon.
    The Mondoweiss cartoon rightly uses the flag to relate to Israel but then errs by drawing a classic hooked nose anti Arab to represent MBS.

    1. @ Shai: I’m not talking about historic context. Nor does a cartoonist have to make use of historical context in his work (unless its important to whatever point he seeks to make). I’m talking about the use of the Star of David in cartoons which criticize Israel. Clearly the cartoons do not comment on Judaism or Jewishness and only on Israel and its pernicious policies. Claiming otherwise is absolutely false.

      Sorry, but that ‘hook-nosed Arab’ (your language, not mine) is first of all not MBS but his father, King Salman. Second, Salman is not a handsome man and the nose is not a caricature. Since you can’t tell the difference between son and father, I suggest you look at a picture of Salman before making ridiculous claims of anti-Arab bias.

      Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like Latuff’s cartoons. But your critique of both cartoons is far off the mark.

  3. “In actuality, the Star of David is the national (not religious) symbol of the State of Israel.”

    I cry bulls**t.
    The Nazis made the Jews in the ghettos wear the Star of David. Made them wear it right into the gas chambers. That made the Star of David a specifically religious symbol.


    This, religious symbology, Richard, occurred years before the State of Israel had been created out of the ashes of the Holocaust.
    So please retract this inaccurate statement of yours.

    BTW, is Carlos Latuff misusing the Star of David in his cartoons?

    You can say that he is, if that’s what you feel.

    1. @ EUnice: First, a few quick issues to get out of the way: do not EVER direct me to do anything, even by saying “please.” I do not take orders from you, even when prefaced by “please.” I also don’t take well to having hasbaroids call my arguments “bullshit.” First, because they aren’t. Second, because if anything, it refers to the level of your arguments. Third, because invariably you will have either deliberately misunderstood or distorted my argument. And yes, I do periodically use the term myself here. If you wrote a blog and dealt with thousands of commenters like you, you’d probably do the same. Anyway, I own the blog and if you don’t like the rules, you know where to go.

      Second, read the entire blog post and address every argument I offer. If you write a comment which deliberately ignores one of my arguments I will tear you to shreds in reply, as I do here. Not to mention that such laziness on your part makes me repeat myself, and I hate repeating myself.

      So let’s get into your actual argument. As I said, no cartoonist is obligated to delve into the entire historical context of images he uses in creating his artwork. Just as Uncle Tom’s Cabin didn’t have to examine the entire history of human slavery to be a great work of American fiction; just as Genesis doesn’t have to explicitly reference every creation myth that preceded its own. In other words, Artunes and Latuff were using the Star of David because Netanyahu is prime minister of Israel and that Star is the national symbol of Israel, a state–not a religion. Nor does that Star in the cartoon’s context in any way reference Netanyahu’s Jewishness or Judaism itself.

      I don’t care about whether the Star has a 500 or 1000 year history; whether Jews wore them during the Holocaust. None of that is relevant in the context of these particular cartoons because the cartoonist doesn’t reference that history and doesn’t intend to. He intends to reference Israel, a nation-state and its sins, which are many. Hence the cartoons are entirely legitimate political and artistic speech.

      Your argument strays into self-pitying over-the-top Holocaust maundering. Exploiting a heinous Jewish tragedy on behalf of Israeli crimes. The two are and must always be separate. LInking them is not only illegitimate. It is a chilul against the memories of the Jews (note, not Israelis) who Hitler exterminated.

      Do not comment further in this thread.

  4. [comment deleted: comments must contain an argument of substance. Knock-off comments like yours violate the comment rules and will not be permitted.

  5. The person you should be complaining to isn’t Bickert, but Joel Kaplan, who is the VP of Facebook’s Global Policy. Bickert is a POS but Kaplan sets the policy.

    Kaplan has an interesting background. He worked for the George W. Bush administration, and after having been a Democrat, switched his political allegiance to the Republican Party. He is a buddy of Brett Kavanaugh, and in the ceremony for Kavanaugh’s confirmation, he was spotted sitting right behind him. This caused quite a bit of consternation among Facebook employees, as you might suspect.

    Kaplan was appointed to his position at Facebook primarily so the company can burnish its image with the Trump Administration. He is not stationed at the company’s Silicon Valley office, but in Washington D.C. Essentially, he’s Facebook’s lobbyist to the Trump administration.

    I have a big beef with FB because they removed a post for comparing Trump to Hitler, and another for calling out ultra-orthodox thugs in Beit Shemesh for attacking an Israeli woman for affixing an Israeli flag to her car during the Israel Independence Day celebration. They didn’t suspend me, though.

  6. You are right, of course. But you seem to be advocating government control of speech. Unconstitutional, no?

    1. @ Steve Ross:

      Unconstitutional, no?

      Not at all. First, the immediate danger posed by Facebook content trumps the issue of free speech. As Hughes wrote in his op ed, you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Despite the constitutional protections for free speech. There are many instances in which FB content posted by users led directly to mass murder (Myanmar, most recently). So yes, the first amendment in this case needs to be tempered by protection of life and the fabric of democracy. I would also argue that the abuse of FB to sabotage a presidential election is a pre-eminent reason to regulate FB publishers, what they publish and how they use the platform. Our system cannot stand many more such savagings of our electoral process.

      Further, I see FB as a public utility just like television and radio. They are regulated by the FCC, including speech on these platforms. Thus there is no reason social media is any different, despite arguments to the contrary by Zuckerberg, et al.

      The most important question to me is: do we want billionaires and their minions privately controlling online speech; or do we want government officials and cabinet agencies accountable to both Congress and the American people to set these standards, however imperfect they may be?

      I am by no means claiming that this is an ideal solution or that it will work smoothly and fairly at all times. But it will be far better than having Mark Zuckerberg and Israel Lobby hacks like Joel Kaplan control my speech.

  7. The Latuf cartoon should have displayed the American and Saudi flags on king Salman and Trump as well, or no flags at all. As the cartoon stands now, it does suggest that both are manipulated by the grinning guy with the star of David. I find this cartoon borderline, just as many comments on Mondoweiss.

  8. @Richard Silverstein: Re free speech and your response to Steve Ross – it is always the argument that certain disfavored private speech (or lack of favored private speech) is “dangerous” and therefore must be regulated. That’s what the U.S. government argued in seeking to prevent the publication of the Pentagon Papers, for instance. Danger has to be defined more narrowly and concretely if it to be used as justification for restriction of speech, and indeed U.S. courts have so defined and applied it.

    Regarding your analogy to the FCC’s regulation of television and radio, this is what the FCC itself has to say: “Broadcasters – not the FCC or any other government agency – are responsible for selecting the material they air. The First Amendment and the Communications Act expressly prohibit the Commission from censoring broadcast matter.” This is discussed at greater length on their website: https://www.fcc.gov/media/radio/public-and-broadcasting#REGULATION. You will see that there are certain narrow exceptions to this no-speech-regulation rule, but none would require any network to broadcast content by, say, Latuff or Silverstein, if it does not wish to broadcast it.

    Finally, I must wonder, if Facebook is so terrible, what’s to keep people from using a competing social network? And what’s to keep you from starting your own social network that would be committed to allowing anyone to say anything? It is neither a law of nature nor a divine decree that Facebook is the biggest social network.

    1. @ Chen: Unfortunately, you’ve mixed up a number of terms and deal with them imprecisely. I consider Facebook, as I wrote, a public utility (like not just TV or radio, but the electric or telephone companies). That would make speech uttered on Facebook public, not private speech. Akin to someone speaking from a soapbox in a public square, rather than someone having a discussion at home in private.

      The issue of the Pentagon Papers is different than Facebook content because in the case of the Papers, the Nixon administration sought to suppress information that did not endanger anyone’s life. Rather, the Papers revealed the absolute bankruptcy of U.S. policy in Vietnam. While Facebook, on the other hand, often publishes content which either displays outright violence or incites violence. Speech that embarrasses a president must not be regulated. Speech that incites violence against a race, nationality or ethnic group (to use one particular set of examples) should and must be regulated (carefully).

      You completely misunderstand the FCC’s role in regulating the media. It is not true, as you stated that the FCC does not engage in censorship. Everyone knows there are certain words and acts that cannot be shown on TV (Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction,’ anyone? or George Carlin’s “7 dirty words you can’t say on TV”) or uttered on radio. They know this because the FCC has levied fines of millions of dollars against stations or networks which have violated them. So whether or not this is called censorship, that’s what it is. Why do you think stations have network standards executives who review scripts before airing? Because they don’t want to run afoul of the FCC or cause embarrassment or worse for the network if such material were to be aired.

      Be sure to follow an important comment rule I’ve mentioned here only 50 times or so: when you read a post, read not just the entire post but every article linked in the post. Especially in this case, when I made a point of highlighting Chris Hughes masterful op-ed calling for the breakup of Facebook. He explains why your comment about finding a competitor to Facebook is disingenuous. In short, Facebook is a monopoly just like Standard Oil or IBM in the 1970s. It doesn’t want competition in its key markets or product lines. So if a competitor does show promise of eating into Facebook’s dominance, the company either buys the competitor or tramples it out of existence. Microsoft too did this in the 1980s to Netscape and others. That was one basis of the antitrust lawsuit brought against MS in the 1980s (or was in the 90s?).

      Facebook is an illegal monopoly just like those mentioned above. It either buys you (Whatsapp, Instagram) or destroys you (Snapchat). In other words, no competitor can come forward to threaten the company’s dominance. So saying we who criticize FB should all just create, or move to another platform, ignores the fact that no such competitor can hope to attain the level of size or success to compete with Facebook. That’s what used to be called in the old days of antitrust law, “restraint of trade.”

  9. @Richard Silverstein: I’m afraid you’re the one mixing up terms and using them imprecisely. Private speech is speech by a private person. Someone speaking from a soapbox in a public square? That’s private speech.

    The government generally cannot regulate private speech based on its content. There are certain narrow exceptions to the government’s general inability to regulate the content of private speech. Indecent language in broadcast media is one exception to the government general inability to regulate private speech based on content, recognized by the Supreme Court. This is what allows the FCC to prohibit profane speech between 6am and 10pm. But the FCC cannot censor offensive views. Nor can it compel networks to abstain from filtering content as they see fit.

    Hate speech, specifically, is generally protected under the First Amendment. Only when the speaker intends to incite unlawful action that is both imminent and likely does his speech lose constitutional protection. The vast majority of hate speech on Facebook and elsewhere does not meet this threshold and therefore is protected by the First Amendment.

    As to Facebook and the market, Mr. Hughes is a smart guy, but his opinion is not the gospel. First, there are current, meaningful alternatives to Facebook, some of which he lists in his piece. (For example, I rarely ever post on Facebook anymore but frequently post (tweet) on Twitter.) But even if Facebook were a monopoly, that would not necessarily mean that the government must intervene. Every couple of decades there’s a company people think is invincible and would forever dominate the world unless government cavalry intervenes – they end up going away because new competitors take over or because the market has simply changed so much. Yes, Microsoft worked to drown out competition like Netscape. Where are Microsoft’s browsers, Internet Explorer and Edge, today? They’re at 4% and 9% market-share, respectively. It wasn’t government regulation that kicked Microsoft out of the top of the chart, it was better browsers. Where are Microsoft’s smartphones?

    Facebook is a very large company, and it will be around and do some great and some not-so-great things for years to come, but in ten years there will be a different behemoth that may not have even formed yet, and then everyone will say that behemoth must be broken up or it would FOREVER dominate the market.

    1. @Chen:

      The vast majority of hate speech on Facebook and elsewhere does not meet this threshold

      Absolutely false. First, you don’t know how much hate speech Facebook censors before it’s even published. That’s why they have tens of thousands of human reviewers plus AI algorithms searching out this material. So essentially, Facebook is already doing what the government would do if it established a federal agency to govern Facebook’s business practices and content standards. Second, there is vile hate speech that is published on Facebook which incites violence. It’s just Facebook chooses what it will censor and what it won’t and some truly vile speech isn’t censored. THough it should be.

      Chris Hughes isn’t just “a smart guy.” He’s a co-founder of Facebook. He, along with one of the earliest investors in Facebook, have both realized they helped create a monster. And that if Mark Zuckerberg can’t control the monster, then the government must do so. These are two figures without whom Facebook would not exist and who were instrumental in every aspect of its business plan in that crucial period. They know the company in and out, warts and all.

      Again, you haven’t read Hughes if you suggest Twitter is a competitor to Facebook. It isn’t. They are totally different companies, business models and product lines. Content is different as well. Not to mention that Facebook is 100 times bigger than Twitter. And if Twitter was a true rival to Facebook, Zuckerberg either would have bought it or killed it, as he did Snapchat.

      even if Facebook were a monopoly

      It IS a monopoly. So stop being disingenuous. Chris Huges and scores of Democratic legislators say so and he’s in a much better position to know than you.

      Every couple of decades there’s a company people think is invincible and would forever dominate the world unless government cavalry intervenes – they end up going away

      Again, this is false. When a company like Standard Oil, AT&T, IBM, Microsoft or Facebook comes along and violates antitrust laws as each of them did and does, the government intervenes and sues them. Either it wins and breaks them up or it doesn’t’ win, but just the lawsuit itself is enough to rein in the worst ambitions of such companies. Again, it’s all in Hughes’s article which you clearly haven’t read. If you have, you’ve done a terrible job of comprehending his argument.

      Where are Microsoft’s browsers, Internet Explorer and Edge, today?

      Again, if you’d read Hughes you wouldn’t be wasting my time by offering arguments he’s already handily rebutted. Microsoft was sued both in the U.S. and in Europe. In Europe, it did not succeed. It’s anti-competitive business practices were seriously curtailed and it paid massive fines. As a result of this and the chill of almost losing his company, Bill Gates adapted the company’s business practices going forward to restrain some of its worst behavior. So government intervention was instrumental in achieving this end.

      Facebook…will be around and do some great and some not-so-great things for years to come,

      Facebook is doing far more damage to the world than good. And the sooner we all restrain it from its worst impulses the sooner we undo that damage or at least limit it. If we don’t, it will further erode our society, democracy and electoral processes. Facebook is no ordinary company following the rules of American capitalism. It is a monster doing irreparable harm to America and the world.

      You are done in this thread. Do not post here again.

  10. The reason for declaring all those companies as as monopolies were economic, not political.
    What you are proposing is preposterous!

    1. @ Yoni Levy: Once again and for the third time in this thread: READ THE FRIGGIN’ linked op ed by Chris Huges before you respond here. Hughes deals with and rebuts this argument. Monopolies have changed markedly since the old days of the trusts. Today, monopolies are not determined solely by price fixing or restraint of trade as in the 1930s or even 1960s. Today, corporate monopolies express themseleves differently and their impacts on society are much deeper and more insidious than when all Americans had to worry about was an oil trust or phone monopoly. Now mega corporations like Facebook have the power to destroy democracy, incite war and genocide. We’re far beyond the days of Standard Oil and AT&T.

      What you are proposing is preposterous!

      I’m not proposing anything. Chris Hughes is. And he knows a damned sight more about Facebook than you do.

      Do not post again in this thread.

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