By Rima Najjar
Facebook is under pressure to chill or suppress speech that delegitimizes the Jewish state in the context of the Palestinian national liberation movement and international solidarity for Palestinians.
At the same time, speech that delegitimizes Palestinians as a people with fundamental human rights is freely promoted on Facebook, not least by Israeli and U.S. officials themselves.
The battle for hearts and minds over Palestine has long been framed as “conflicting narratives”, obscuring the revolutionary nature of the Palestinian struggle, with Israel’s hasbara narrative dominating the airwaves until recently.
Many believe that social media, and especially Twitter, is what promoted the sea change in the conversation, hence the pushback by Israel and the United States on Facebook — and Facebook’s unfortunate cooperation with it.
Israel realizes that its greatest enemy is the truth, which happens to be the Palestinian so-called “narrative”, often absent from the dominant discourses of policy-makers, academics, institutionalized think tanks and party leaders, and especially mainstream media, whose frame of discussion is the one dictated by Israel.
The two ascendant concepts that now frame criticism against Israel are 1) Israel’s Apartheid character as a settler-colonial Jewish state, and 2) Israel’s violations of international laws as they pertain to Palestinian human rights and Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Both frames expose the legitimate basis of a Palestinian revolt, leading logically and in a principled fashion to a call for an end to Israel as a Jewish state, starting with the necessity of reorganizing Israel’s government institutions, which,
“are adapted from liberal European models … [but] are described in Israel in a political terminology which invokes the slogans and symbols of earlier epochs of Jewish rule in Eretz Israel.” (Israel as a Jewish State)
Palestinian revolt against the Jewish state is precisely the idea that Facebook is suppressing. Facebook does not only censor what any reasonable person can recognize as “hate speech” or “incitement to violence” against an individual or group — “to keep Facebook safe” as Facebook advertises in its warning messages; it is censoring the idea that justice and peace in Palestine are now predicated on the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Glenn Greenwald’s expose of meetings between Facebook and Israeli government officials described them as being,
“called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked … [and coming] after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.”
“Lawfare” in the International Court of Justice or The United Nations is now part of the Palestinian international push to make Israel accountable for its crimes. But it has always been a tool Israel has used to suppress Palestinian liberation efforts — in its own triple-tiered injustice system and in its suppression efforts of U.S.-based Palestine advocacy or of BDS advocacy in Europe.
Ayelet Shaked was recently reported as saying,
“I think that ‘Judaizing the Galilee’ is not an offensive term. We used to talk like that. In recent years we’ve stopped talking like that. I think it’s legitimate without violating the full rights of the Arab residents of Israel.” (Justice minister: Israel must keep Jewish majority even at the expense of human rights)
Israel may or may not have “stopped talking like that”, but it certainly has never stopped acting “like that” since its inception (See The Judaization of the Israeli Land Regime, 1948–2008). On the other hand, it’s never been “legitimate” or normalized speech for Palestinians to call for “de-Judaizing” Palestine in a push-back against the colonial crime of Judaizing Palestine.
To date, I have been blocked from posting on my account on Facebook twice, in an escalating punishment that might very well move steadily and systematically toward a permanent block of my account:
“You can’t post right now: You may have used Facebook in a way that our systems consider unusual, even if you didn’t mean to.” (Facebook message that popped up when I tried to post after being blocked)
My guess as to what triggered this new surveillance of my account on Facebook (I have long been an outspoken public critic of the Jewish state on Facebook and elsewhere) is the algorithm that Israel has had a hand in developing (no doubt partly under the impetus of fake anti-Semitic posts), which equates speech that threatens to delegitimize Israel as an Apartheid settler-colonial Jewish state in Palestine with anti-Semitic, i.e., hate, speech.
Facebook’s activity against such speech is not easy to analyze because it is inconsistent and therefore unpredictable, leading to self-censorship on the part of users as a desired outcome by Facebook. In a way, this tactic eerily mimics Israel’s border police “algorithms” for denying entry or re-entry to Palestinians with Western passports — inconsistent and unpredictable, discouraging people from fully understanding “the rules” for access and from even trying to enter. (Israel Restricts Entry of Foreigners Into Palestinian Territories)
The first time I was blocked from Facebook for three days was related to a comment I had made, which was (I assume) read as incitement to violence against Jews as a religious or ethnic group, when, in fact, it was advocating for the right of Palestinians to defend themselves against the oppression of the Jewish state. I wrote about this incident here [Yes, Palestinians Teach Their Children to Hate the Jewish State].
The second time I was blocked from posting on Facebook for seven days for saying that Jews worldwide would do Palestinians a favor by staying in their countries of origin and by not emigrating to Israel. I have since expanded on this idea and published in several places, including here [Two Scenarios Only: Is Jewish Exodus from Palestine Inevitable?].
The only way Palestinians and their supporters can change this censorship of Palestinian speech is by normalizing speech that calls for the end of the Jewish state in the context of the Palestinian struggle for liberation and the formation of a unitary state that embraces self-determination for all Palestinians in their own homeland and restitution for the wrong committed against them.
It is also necessary for a greater number of Jews and Jewish organizations to do the same by loudly and publicly discouraging Jews worldwide from emigrating to Israel from their countries of origin, as Jewish Voice for Peace is doing.
A petition sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace and Palestine Solidarity Campaign now circulating on social media says: “I agree that the time has come for Palestinians to be free from occupation and apartheid” It supports the initiative of Norwegian MP Bjørnar Moxnes, who has nominated the Palestinian-led BDS movement for the Nobel peace prize.
There is now a growing understanding that dismantling occupation and apartheid in Israel and the rest of Palestine means ending the Jewish state and making way for a unitary state. Calls for the end of the Jewish state are neither “hate speech” nor “incitement to violence” but a call for justice and peace in historic Palestine. A call for revolt against Palestinian Arab dispossession.
Dr. Gideon Polya eloquently put this call in Palestinian Me Too: 140 Alphabetically-listed Zionist Crimes Expose Appalling Western Complicity & Hypocrisy with these words:
“A peaceful , humane solution that would be of enormous benefit to all the world, to all the Jewish Israelis and to all the Indigenous Palestinians, would be a unitary state in Palestine with return of all refugees, zero tolerance for racism, equal rights for all, all human rights for all, one-person-one-vote, justice, goodwill, reconciliation, airport-level security, nuclear weapons removal, internationally-guaranteed national security initially based on the present armed forces, and untrammeled access for all citizens to all of the Holy Land. It can and should happen tomorrow.”
– Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.