No Facebook Revolution for Palestine

Mar 31, 2011| By Alan Kurtz  | AllVoices


Six weeks after the world celebrated Google executive Wael Ghonim’s Facebook page that, proclaimed Newsweek, “played a crucial role in inspiring the uprising in Cairo,” Facebook has removed a page calling for a Palestinian uprising against Israel.

The term “Facebook Revolution” applies to the social networking site’s role in 2009-10 Iranian election protests, Kashmir disturbances during the so-called Bloody Summer of 2010, and most recently the 2011 Egyptian revolution that overthrew President Mubarak.

What differentiates the now-suppressed Third Palestinian Intifada page from those earlier Facebook Revolutions are the TPI’s exhortations to violence. The page, which attracted 350,000 friends, urged a regional protest following Muslim prayers on Friday, May 15, 2011, under the banner of an Arabic word that means “shaking off” and was attached to Palestinian rebellions against Israeli rule from 1987-93 and 2000-05.

The issue came to a head on March 23 when Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, who is charged with combating anti-Semitism, dispatched a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The Third Palestinian Intifada page, wrote Edelstein, carried “many remarks and movie clips which call for the killing of Israelis and Jews and the ‘liberating’ of Jerusalem and of Palestine through acts of violence.”

Noting “there is a difference between freedom of expression and incitement,” Minister Edelstein beseeched Zuckerberg to take down that page.

Initially Facebook balked. “While some kinds of comments and content may be upsetting for someone, that alone is not a reason to remove the discussion,” said spokeswoman Debbie Frost. “We strongly believe that Facebook users have the ability to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.”

But on March 29, Facebook did an about-face and pulled the disputed page. Explaining their decision, a Facebook spokesman released the following statement:

“The Third Palestinian Intifada began as a call for peaceful protest, even though it used a term that has been associated with violence. In addition, the administrators initially removed comments that promoted violence. However, after the publicity of the page, more comments deteriorated to direct calls for violence. Eventually the administrators also participated in these calls. After the administrators received repeated warnings about posts that violated our policies, we removed the page.”

This latest development only muddles the debate about social networking media’s vaunted “crucial role” in fomenting revolutionary change. Already scholars such as Evgeny Morozov have debunked the importance of Facebook in Facebook Revolutions. And now Facebook itself pulls the plug on what loomed as the next big Facebook Revolution.

Of course it remains to be seen what will happen in the Palestinian territories following Muslim prayers on Friday, May 15. Is it possible, we wonder, in this day and age, for a revolution to go on without Facebook?

Alan Kurtz is based in Redwood City, California, United States of America, and is Anchor for Allvoices





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