During the unrest that has rocked the Middle East for the past several months, social networking websites haven taken center stage as venues for a thorny moral dilemma between free speech and incitement. Recently, Facebook removed a page called “Third Palestinian Intifada,” which had more than 350,000 fans.
At first glance, it seems odd, to say the least, that Facebook should make such a political move. What happened to free speech, and since when did Facebook partake in censorship?
Surely Facebook is guilty of interfering in political expression. Yet as benign as it may seem, I think it is criminal that Facebook allowed this page to exist for as long as it did. Hold the phone, you say, what are we talking about here, and who really cares?
Let’s zoom out. In today’s political climate, technology — specifically social networking — needs to be taken seriously.
We must not confuse Facebook’s ubiquity with its harmlessness. Analysts across the spectrum have pointed to the fact that revolutionaries in Egypt utilized Facebook as one of their major tools to organize and mount an opposition against Mubarak’s dictatorship.
In the Middle East, Facebook is not just for posts, pokes and tags, but for toppling governments and inciting revolutions, and not necessarily peaceful ones. We should consider Facebook as what it is: a social networking site, but also a 21st-century weapon of war.
Facebook’s terms and conditions prohibit posting any content that is hateful or malicious, including material that is threatening or promotes violence.
With that in mind, what was the “Third Palestinian Intifada” page about? To begin with, “Intifada” is an Arabic word for popular uprising or resistance. The First Intifada was an organized violent Arab uprising against Israel between 1987 and 1993. Seven years later, the Second Intifada claimed the lives of more than 6,000 Palestinians and more than 1,100 Israelis. These numbers may not mean much, but when you take the Israeli population into account, it translates into about 43,000 Americans proportionately. It was during and because of this terror campaign that Israel constructed the security fence for its protection.
The Facebook Intifada page was a call for national terrorism against Israel, masquerading itself under political and social clothes. On the page, Palestinians were urged to take to the streets on May 15 to initiate upheaval in the vain of the first and second Intifadas.
The page, which 350,000 people clicked to “like” read: “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews,” and also included the classic Palestinian call to martyrdom, “Paradise beckons you.” That’s bad, really bad.
Let’s zoom out again. Two weeks ago, a heinous crime was committed in the Israeli town of Itamar, when a Palestinian terrorist murdered five members of the Fogel family. Tamar Fogel, the family’s 12-year-old daughter, returned home from hanging out with friends to find her parents stabbed to death and her 3-month-old sister murdered with a slit throat.
There are videos on YouTube of the residents of Gaza celebrating the beastly atrocity of the massacre of the Fogel family.
In the last week, over 70 missiles have been fired from Gaza into neighboring villages in Israel. Last Wednesday, a bomb exploded outside the Central Jerusalem Bus Station, killing one and injuring more than 50 innocent Israeli civilians.
Free speech has its limits. In the current climate, it is indisputably clear what the intention of a “Third Intifada” would be. Broadcasting for a Third Intifada on Facebook beats shouting fire in a crowded theater tenfold.
Facebook acted in accordance with its own terms and conditions and did the right thing in taking down the “Third Palestinian Intifada” page. If only Palestinian extremists could as easily take down their dreams for an Intifada.
Unfortunately, a new “Third Palestinian Intifada” page went up last week. As of 4 p.m. on April 3, this page already has more than 4,100 “likes.”