Israel’s government wants Facebook to do its dirty work

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan wants Facebook to help run his police state, the army punishes an entire village for the actions of one person, and the interior minister thinks revoking citizenship is the solution to violence. Three comments on collective punishment.

By Noam Rotem

1. Facebook at the Shin Bet’s disposal

In an interview with Channel 2’s Meet the Press, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that the blood of victims of Palestinian violence “is on Facebook’s hands.” That’s it. We found the newest culprit responsible for the security situation in Israel and Palestine. Forget the fact that over a million of people are living under the boot of the Israeli military lacking rights or freedom for nearly 50 years. The problem is Facebook.

In the past we have written about the ways in which the Israeli army monitors Facebook, and over the past year Israeli authorities have made hundreds of arrests due to posts published on the social network. Erdan’s claim that “Facebook sabotages the work done by Israel Police, because even when the police turns to Facebook, it does not cooperate and has a very high standard for removing content and posts.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Yotam Ronen/
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Yotam Ronen/

Since 2013 Israeli legal authorities have submitted hundreds of requests to Facebook to reveal information on users and to remove content. However, as opposed to Israeli companies, which do as they are told by the Shin Bet, Facebook is in no hurry to cooperate. The company has responded to only 52 percent of the over one thousand requests to reveal information on users that were submitted between January 2013 and December 2015. This is what angers Erdan.

Erdan wants Facebook to do the dirty work of the police state he seeks to build. He wants the company to report users who speak out against the regime, to censor those things that don’t sound good to the average Israeli ear. This is not a legitimate request to make of any company, and it is certainly not legitimate in any democratic regime. If Erdan wants to build a police state, he should do the honors himself, rather than ask an American company for help.

2. This is what collective punishment looks like

On Saturday Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that they would revoke thousands of work permits given to the residents of the village Bani Na’im, home to the Palestinian who stabbed Hallel Ariel to death in her bed. Beyond the legal problem of punishing innocents for the acts of an individual, there is a message here: there are bad guys, and there are good guys. There are terrorists who stab girls in their sleep, and there are all the rest. You all — the residents of Bani Na’im — are the bad guys. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your opinions are, or whether you support or oppose killing young girls. You are the bad guys, and you must be punished.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and newly appointed defense minister Avigdor Liberman sign new coalition agreement, May 25, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and newly appointed defense minister Avigdor Liberman sign new coalition agreement, May 25, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Drawing a direct line between good and bad on the basis of ethnicity is dangerous. It turns people into enemies, even they weren’t enemies before. Instead of dealing with specific people or groups in society, it paints the entire society as criminals. And there is no point in talking to criminals.

Netanyahu, Erdan, Bennett, and their ilk complain about “incitement,” yet collective punishment, turning innocents into enemies who must be wiped out based on their ethnicity, is the very definition of incitement.

3. Conditional citizenship

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who claimed to represent the “invisible” citizens, is trying, it seems, to broaden his electorate. Over the past few months he is working to turn Israeli citizens and residents into far more invisible — by revoking their citizenship.

Aryeh Deri during Shas' 2015 election convention. (photo: Oren Ziv/
Aryeh Deri during Shas’ 2015 election convention. (photo: Oren Ziv/

A month ago Deri announced that he would revoke Khalil Khalil’s citizenship. Khalil, a 26-year-old Palestinian resident of Jerusalem, was sentenced to two years in prison after he left the country for Syria in order to join Islamic State. He returned three weeks later. The same thing happened with Loqman Atun, 24, also from Jerusalem. MK Anat Berko claims that following her requests, Deri will also revoke the citizenship of former Balad leader Azmi Bishara, who now lives in Qatar. Furthermore Deri wants to revoke Alaa Ziad’s citizenship, after the Umm al-Fahm resident rammed his car into an Israeli soldier at a bus stop in Gan Shmuel. The interior minister also declared his intentions to revoke the residency of BDS movement leader Omar Barghouti, since he lives in Ramallah, and generally says things Deri doesn’t like hearing.

The fact that a politician turns the citizenship of an entire ethnic group, which unsurprisingly is not the same ethnic group to which the minister blonds, to “conditional” is a thick, red line. Democracy is not the tyranny of the majority. The majority cannot oppress the minority because it can — it just doesn’t work like that. The majority cannot decide to expel the minority, made up of citizens who deserve equal rights, simply because it is the majority. The majority cannot silence the minority or take away its rights in order to establish its rule. This isn’t democracy.

Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and blogger at Local Call, where this article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

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