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Honest Reporting, the Jerusalem-based media watchdog which campaigns on behalf of Israel, has claimed success in its drive to force Facebook to allow users in the Golan to list themselves as living in Israel.
The social networking Web site, one of the most popular on the Internet, allows its members to set up a personal page on which a hometown field allows users to list where they come from. It is this feature which has angered Israeli Facebook users, who have been unable to enter details as they would like.
Previously Facebook only allowed residents of towns such as Katzrin, Hispin and Ramat Magshimim to be listed as living in Syrian territory. When an Israeli Facebook user expressed his dissatisfaction with this falsehood, Honest Reporting acted quickly to set up a pressure group to protest.
The group set up, entitled "Facebook, Golan Residents Live in Israel, not Syria," includes the call, "It is not for Facebook to decide the national origin of Golan residents. At the very least, Facebook must include the option of writing 'Israel' in the hometown section, as it has done with Jewish residents of the West Bank."
The group has consequently attracted over 3,000 members in under two weeks supporting Honest Reporting's appeal to Facebook, with many leaving messages of support on the group's pages.
One member, Alex Schindler, claimed that "It's [Facebook's limitation] utterly irrational - the Golan law annexed the Golan and gave citizenship to all its residents. It was conquered from a rogue regime in a defensive war" before adding that the Golan "was even marked for partition before there was a state of Israel!"
Another user, Juan Palafen, left the remark: "I've been there. It is definitely Israel. Believe me, Facebook."
Alex Margolin, Honest Reporting's social media editor and creator of the pressure group, explained to The Jerusalem Post that the group's stance was apolitical and driven by a sense of frustration.
"Putting all political considerations aside, Golan residents consider themselves Israeli citizens. It's not for Facebook to say that they live in Syria," he said.
Asked about Facebook's reasons for having listed Golan villages and towns as being in Syria, Margolin explained that "I don't feel that it is a political statement, and I don't want to speculate."
"We're happy with the change that Facebook made - but not ecstatic. It's an improvement. It's still factually incorrect as they now give Golan residents the option to list themselves as living in Israel or Syria, and the latter option is simply not true. Ultimately though, my interest is that Facebook recognizes Israeli residents, so I do want to give Facebook some credit for the fact that they responded in a positive way," Margolin told the Post.