Facebook Israel accused of aiding and abetting Fatah’s incitement to terror.
The Israel Police has opened an official investigation into Facebook Israel and its CEO for aiding and abetting Fatah’s incitement to terror, following a complaint filed by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) in May.
Under Israel’s Terror Act, anyone convicted of publishing “direct calls to commit acts of terror” can be sentenced to up to five years’ imprisonment.
In April and May, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah were actively inciting violence on several Facebook pages against Jewish Israelis as a tactic to divert anger on the Palestinian streets over the recently canceled PA elections and as a strategy to bolster their support.
On April 23, the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture used Facebook to publicize a call by PA leader Mahmud Abbas, who used the religious theme of defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a call for violence, knowing that he was about to cancel the elections and that it would be an unpopular move.
“They [Jews] have come, and they must not come to the Sanctuary (i.e., Temple Mount). We have to prevent them, in any way whatsoever from entering the sanctuary,” the post read.
Two days later, Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi posted a statement on his Facebook page calling the violence a “holy battle,” adding that engaging in the violence was an “obligatory personal commandment, and whoever shirks this is a mute devil who, with his silence and passivity, allows the occupation to tyrannically rule the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, the holy city, and the holy sites.”
On April 26, 2021, Fatah published another post on Facebook that encouraged Palestinian minors to participate in acts of terror with the words: “Do not look at my young age.” The images showed children involved in violence.
On May 8, with Arab violence causing death, injuries, and vast property damage throughout Israel, Fatah posted a statement to its official Facebook account calling for even more violence. “The Fatah Movement with all its elements and leadership calls to continue this uprising… Fatah calls on everyone to raise the level of confrontation in the coming days and hours in the Palestinian lands, the points of friction, and the settlers’ roads.”
The post inciting violence was posted on eight additional Fatah and PA Facebook accounts, including that of Fatah Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Al-Aloul, Fatah Central Committee member Rawhi Fattouh and the PA Presidential Guard, as well as regional Fatah accounts in Syria and Hebron, the northern Gaza strip, and Khan El-Sheikh.
Fatah’s Shabiba student movement also circulated the post on Facebook, inciting Arabs to engage in a “heroic battle” in Jerusalem.
The statement further called for “a comprehensive confrontation in all the Palestinian lands” while urging Arabs to take to the streets for a “day of action” two days later.
During that “day of action”, an Israeli driver was almost lynched by a rock-throwing mob who caused him to lose control of his car, running it off the road, while in a separate incident a seven-month-old baby girl was hit by a rock.
That same day, Fatah called on the masses through Facebook, “to escalate the resistance… Let us set the ground on fire under the occupation’s feet.”
Following the widely disseminated May 8 post by Fatah, PMW wrote to Facebook Israel CEO Adi Soffer Teeni, citing that post as clear evidence of incitement, and demanding Facebook do the responsible thing and permanently shut down Fatah’s Facebook pages, and stop the platform’s use as a terror promotion tool.
In the letter dated May 9, PMW warned Facebook that “if you fail to act as the violence [in Jerusalem] rages and as Fatah and its leaders continue to abuse the Facebook platform to spread violence, we will have no choice but to submit an official complaint to the Israeli police against Facebook in general and key personnel in particular, for the aiding and abetting the violence. We expect your quick and decisive response.”
Despite the warning, Facebook chose to allow Fatah to continue using its platform as a terror tool by publishing direct calls to engage in violence, intensifying terror in Jerusalem and Israel throughout the IDF’s Operation Guardian of the Walls against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Consequently, PMW submitted a complaint on May 23 to the police against Facebook and Teeni for incitement to terror.
“Under these circumstances, there cannot be a shadow of a doubt, that at a time when Jerusalem is burning and the level of violence is rising, the only goal of publishing Fatah’s call ‘to raise the level of confrontation’ is incitement to commit acts of terror,” the letter read.
“What is more, during the wave of violence Facebook provided Fatah with a convenient platform to continue spreading additional incitement and calls for violence,” PMW charged.
PMW was recently notified that the police have launched an investigation into the complaint.
PMW Founder Itamar Marcus stated Thursday that “PMW has been warning Facebook for years that it is a fundamental part of Fatah’s terror promotion, and has supplied Facebook with hundreds of examples of hate and terror promotion on Fatah’s Facebook platform as documented in numerous PMW reports.”
“Facebook claims to be very strict about eliminating hate speech and promoting violence and closing other hate disseminating Facebook accounts. However, Facebook has made a decision to keep open the official Fatah page, thus allowing Fatah to disseminate hate speech against Israel, glorify terrorists who murder Israelis and even be a platform for Fatah’s calls to violence and terror,” he noted.
He expressed hope that “given the clear evidence, we hope that the police will act swiftly against Facebook to determine if prosecution is warranted against the Israeli Facebook officials who made the decision to enable Fatah to use Facebook to promote terror. In addition, we hope the police will demand the closure of the Fatah’s Facebook pages that, as PMW has shown, have been actively fanning.”