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Right-wing Israeli ministers meet with Facebook to discuss censoring 'anti-Semitic incitement'

Sept. 13, 2016 5:47 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 13, 2016 11:02 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Two right-wing Israeli ministers reportedly met with top Facebook executives on Monday in an effort to “minimize online anti-Semitic incitement,” according to Israeli news website Ynet.

The site reported that Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, members of right-wing Israeli parties Jewish Home and Likud respectively, met with Facebook’s vice president of public policy, Joel Kaplan, head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, and the head of policy and communications in Israel, Jordana Cutler -- who was the chief of staff at the Israeli embassy in the United States prior to working with Facebook.

Among the specific terminology Shaked and Erdan were reportedly looking to have removed and censored were “intifada,” “Nazis,” “stabbings,” “shahid,” -- the Arabic word for "martyr," often used colloquially to designate anyone whose death has a political and or social significance -- and “death to Jews,” which they claimed all led to incitement against the state of Israel.

Shaked and Erdan also allegedly included the phrase “death to Arabs” -- a slogan often heard in protests and mobs of extremist Israelis -- saying that it too, led to incitement in general.

In an earlier report, Ynet quoted Shaked who spoke on Sunday at a counter terrorism conference in northern Israel, as saying that in recent months, Facebook had complied with 95 percent of Israeli government removal requests, while YouTube had complied with 80 percent.

"This is an impressive statistic, but we understand that the quantity of incitement on the web is much greater, and we need to continue and increase our efforts, and this we will do," Shaked said.

In recent months, Israel has detained scores of Palestinians for social media activity, alleging that a wave of unrest that first swept the occupied Palestinian territory last October was encouraged largely by "incitement." The violence has left 222 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers, as well as some 32 Israelis killed by Palestinians.

Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel's decades-long military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.

Israel has responded to the perceived threat of social media incitement by blaming Facebook for not doing more to censor posts promoting "terrorism" against Israelis.

Following a series of deadly incidents, Erdan reportedly said that Facebook chairman and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg had “blood on his hands” for not adequately cooperating with Israel to remove content.

In July, an Israeli lawyer filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Facebook Inc., claiming that the social media platform allowed members of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas to plan and carry out attacks against Americans and Israelis.

Commenting on the suit against them, Facebook referenced its community standards, and highlighted its ‘report’ tool, which allows and encourages Facebook users to flag content that they deem as encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech.

Facebook also cited its track record regarding incitement, referencing a case in March when the company took down a page promoting a Palestinian uprising against Israel because it made “direct calls for violence,” in violation of company policies.

Shaked and Erdan have also proposed a bill that would compel social media providers like Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter to remove "criminal" content which constitutes a danger to personal, public, or state security.

In response to incitement claims against Palestinians, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat condemned the current Israeli government for its failure to “entrench a culture of peace and coexistence within Israeli society” in a statement last week.

Erekat flipped the script, holding Israel responsible for incitement, saying “official Israeli discourse entrenches hatred, racism, and discriminatory attitudes against Palestinians. The discourse is only further entrenched by the institutional protection that is given to those who commit or incite violence against Palestinians.”

Shaked herself has used Facebook in the past to advocate for the killing of the mothers of slain Palestinians, referring to them ‘snakes.’ “They should follow their sons. Nothing would be more just. They should go as should the physical houses in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise more little snakes are raised,” she wrote on the social media platform in the summer of 2014, just one day before a group of Israeli settlers attacked, beat, and burned alive Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager from occupied East Jerusalem.
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