An Israeli watchdog group has submitted a request to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to close down Fatah’s official Facebook page.
In the letter, sent Thursday – and reviewed first by The Jerusalem Post – Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) CEO Itamar Marcus and head of legal strategies Maurice Hirsch claim that Palestinian terrorists carried out attacks in 2018 “influenced by Fatah’s glorification of murder and its promotion of violence” on its Facebook page.“We strongly request that Facebook immediately close and delete Fatah’s Facebook page and ensure that no similar page is reopened,” the letter reads.
Fatah’s page has 146,221 likes and 154,804 followers. PMW penned the letter after completing a 45-page report (including addenda) that tracked Fatah’s Facebook activity last year. The report shows how Fatah’s posts glorified mass murderers and other terrorists who were responsible for hundreds of murders, which include not only Israelis but Americans and others.Similarly, according to the report, the glorification also included terrorist acts carried out in Europe, such as the Munich Olympics massacre.“These posts breached both Facebook’s Counter-Terrorism Policy and Facebook’s Community Standards,” wrote PMW in its letter, noting that Facebook standards state that the company does not allow any organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on Facebook. This includes those involved in terrorist activity, organized hate, mass or serial murder, human trafficking or organized violence or criminal activity.“Whereas raising the social status of any terrorist murderer can have a negative impact especially on youth, by repeatedly honoring terrorists through Facebook while the terror attack is still headline news, Fatah is sending the worst possible message to all Palestinians – that murdering Israelis is not only desirable, but is also the fastest path to honor and fame for the terrorist and his or her entire family,” said Marcus, who co-authored the report.A spokeswoman for Facebook in Israel said that to the organization’s knowledge, the company in Israel had not yet received PMW’s letter. But she told the Post that “praise and support for terrorism is not allowed on Facebook and we remove this type of content when it is reported to us.”“In this case, some of the content had already been reported and removed,” she continued. “We will continue to review any reports we receive and remove any content that violates our community standards.”The PMW report relies wholly on screenshots of posts from 2018, as opposed to links to the posts, which makes it difficult to verify if the posts have in fact been removed. For Facebook to go back and check each of the images that PMW refers to in its report, it would have to wade through 30,000 photos.The report’s screenshots show that PMW was tracking the page throughout the year and captured the shots within a few hours of the posts being uploaded. Facebook takes down posts that go against its community policy when they are reported. According to its policy, the average turnaround time is 24 hours between report and response.Posts are responded to in order of urgency.Facebook has reported that it is working closely with the Israeli government’s cybercrime unit to track community violations. It is also working on artificial intelligence tools to help catch these posts in real time. For now, however, the social media giant relies heavily on its community members.The Fatah page, administered by Munir al-Jaghoub, was shut down once in June 2015. However, at that time, Facebook said it was closed due to a technical error and not based on violations. The page was reopened in less than two weeks.The PMW report explained that the Palestinian terror that Fatah glorified on Facebook can be divided into three categories by periods: pre-Oslo terror, post-Oslo terror and contemporary terror. Fatah uses Facebook to glorify terrorists and attacks from all these periods.The report then provides several case studies. For example, immediately after Ashraf Na’alwa murdered Israeli colleagues Kim Levengrond-Yehezkel, 29, and Ziv Hajbi, 35, in the Barkan industrial zone, Fatah glorified his work immediately and intensely.First, while the terrorist hid for six weeks, Fatah used Facebook to express its prayers to Allah for his safety:“The wanted one, Ashraf Na’alwa, Allah is protecting you and taking care of you. He will not abandon you or harm you” (November 28).After Na’alwa was killed in a shootout on December 13, Fatah used Facebook to immediately glorify him again, publishing seven posts within 24 hours, praising him as “hero,” “martyr,” and “legend,” and declaring he had achieved “eternity and glory,” among them:“Eternity and praise to our righteous martyrs, may Allah have mercy on you and let you dwell in the open spaces of Paradise” (December 13).Nan Jacques Zilberdik, senior analyst at PMW and co-author of the report with Marcus, says posts like these show Fatah’s support for terrorism.“When Fatah honors a terrorist, who murdered two of his Israeli colleagues in cold blood, by publicizing on Facebook that he is a ‘hero,’ a ‘martyr,’ and a ‘legend,’ it tells Palestinians that Fatah continues to support violence and terror against Israelis,” she said.Throughout the year, Fatah honored eight terrorists, including four suicide bombers, who in total murdered 142 Israelis. The terrorists who were glorified were not limited to members of Fatah, but also included members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. All these groups are internationally designated terrorist organizations.Some further examples include Ahmed Jarrar, who murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a father of six, in a drive-by shooting in January 2018; Khalil al-Wazir, known as “Abu Jihad” – responsible for the murder of 125 people; Dalal Mughrabi – responsible for the murder of 37 people, including 12 children; Ali Hassan Salameh – responsible for the murder of 11 at the Munich Olympics; and Kozo Okamoto – responsible for the murder of 24 people, most of them Puerto Rican tourists in the Lod Airport massacre.When the terrorist who murdered Shevach was killed in a shootout, Fatah posted a picture of him on its Facebook page: “Martyr Nasr Jarrar, martyr Ahmed Nasr Jarrar” (February 6, 2018).
Fatah also as honored as “heroic” the terrorist Muhannad Halabi, who stabbed two Israelis to death and wounded a woman and her two-year old son, one of the first acts of the “knife intifada.”“Today is the third anniversary of the death as a martyr of heroic martyr Muhannad Halabi. Honor and eternal glory to our pure martyrs” (October 3).The Facebook page throughout the year showed images of Fatah members wearing mock suicide belts. It included images of rifles and masked men carrying weapons, and promoted rock throwing, calling for “revenge,” and on Palestinians to “rise up.”In one image, a masked Palestinian is seen using a slingshot. The text and image were uploaded in response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On the image it says, “Rise up for revolution and revenge, rise up like a hurricane #Jerusalem_the_capital_of_Palestine” (January 6, 2018).A Fatah spokesperson pushed back against the report.“We hope Facebook will not surrender to the continued Israeli campaign of intimidation against public freedoms, especially freedom of expression,” he said. “In the past, unfortunately, Facebook did succumb to threats and pressure and removed Palestinian content. We see this campaign as part of the conspiracy to silence and intimidate our people and prevent the world from learning about Israeli crimes.”Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.