Israel shuts down free speech to silence calls for investigation into Palestinian deaths

Published January 17th, 2016 - 10:54 GMT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on January 10, 2016. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on January 10, 2016. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)

The Israelis are fine with anything to do with freedom of speech. That is, as long as it does not involve them or their activities in the Occupied Territories. If something was to emerge that reflected the sordid realities of Israeli brutality against the Palestinian people, the Zionist entity’s collective howls of anti-Semitism would make anyone brave enough to bring up their cruel subjugation of a people cower.

A case in point is the recently outrageous comments by the right-wing Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, who went on record as saying that Swedish officials were no longer welcome in the country.

This was in response to a statement by Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom who called for ‘credible’ investigations into the increasing number of killings of Palestinians on dubious grounds.

Speaking to the Swedish parliament, Wallstrom said: “It is essential that thorough and credible investigations be conducted concerning these deaths with the aim of providing clarity and bringing about possible accountability.”

She was referring to the targeted killings of innocent Palestinians, many of which had been captured on video and aired on social media.

But it is not just government-sponsored outbursts against foreign politicians that the Israelis employ in their quest to bury the truth.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been actively engaging with social media giants such as Facebook and Google to fight the wave of questions arising over Israel’s apartheid activities. Just a couple of months ago, Hotovely met with representatives of YouTube and Google to discuss ways to cooperate in what she termed the fight against “inciting violence and terrorism”. What it really meant was the fight to suppress the truth.

Israeli policy in recent times — to shoot and kill without any apparent justification — has led to an escalation of violence between Palestinians and Israeli security services, much of which began last October.

Since then, many people have posted videos depicting Israeli aggression towards Palestinians, highlighting the Palestinian perspective of the conflict.

Hotovely’s meeting with Google and YouTube was to “establish a joint working mechanism to monitor and prevent the publication of inflammatory material originating in the Palestinian territories”.

This was a clear case of Israeli interference and censoring of what was initially a politically free social media venue.

But alas, such was not the case with Facebook, which apparently succumbed to Israeli demands. Mondoweiss, an independent website devoted to informing readers about developments in Israel, Palestine and related US foreign policy, recently disclosed that the Palestine Information Centre (PIC), a Palestinian news website and network, had its Facebook page temporarily shut down for posting a cartoon by Brazilian political cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

The 2009 illustration depicted a woman walking and carrying a wounded child in front of an Israeli flag with one of the blue banners of the flag covering her mouth, with the text script: “SHHHHHHHHHH!!! Denouncing Israeli War Crimes Is Anti-Semitism” issued as a warning.

Speaking to Mondoweiss, Rami Salaam, PIC’s English Facebook page administrator, said: “Cartoons are usually targeted by Facebook more than anything else. Maybe because they appeal to people everywhere. Latuff’s cartoons are widely shared on our page and maybe that is why it was removed.”

Fickle and meaningless

There was no warning as Salaam recalls. “It just disappeared. When we tried to log in we got a message saying that the cartoon was removed because it violated Facebook policies and that our account that posted the cartoon was suspended for three days. The reason for the deletion and suspension is fickle and meaningless because the cartoon is not graphic nor does it incite any kind of violence. The reason given by Facebook is ‘we removed the post below because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards.’ They also threatened to delete the whole page.

“We were also suspended and got a couple of videos removed over a month ago. The new thing we have noticed is that pictures/videos can now be removed by Facebook even if they follow the so-called community standards. This is scary because soon we will not be able to post anything, it seems. So yes, we do believe Facebook’s pro-Israel policy is tightening the noose around our freedom of speech.”

It is indeed disturbing that the truth gets muzzled by Israelis who employ any tactic in order to suppress the facts from reaching the general public.

Regardless of such tactics, Israel’s misadventures and brutality against the hapless Palestinians is not something that can be easily disguised or ignored. Thanks to other venues of social media, the world is a front-seat witness to the ruthless and cold-blooded policy of extermination that Israel has been employing as of late, be their victims children, pregnant women or infants.

In their books it counts as one less Palestinian left in this world. Let Facebook be damned.

By Tariq A. Al Maeena

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