By David Wainer
Israel’s police minister accused Facebook Inc. of complicity in Palestinian violence against his country after back-to-back attacks claimed the lives of a 13-year-old stabbed to death in her bed and a father of 10 killed in a drive-by shooting.
Many young Palestinians incite against Israelis on Facebook and the social network fails to take down such posts, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said. Facebook also sabotages police efforts and turns down requests for collaboration, he said.
“The victims’ blood is partially on Facebook’s hands,” Erdan told Channel 2 late Saturday. “Facebook has turned into a monster. The younger generation in the Palestinian Authority runs its entire discourse of incitement and lies and finally goes out to commit murderous acts on Facebook’s platform.”
A Facebook spokeswoman said the company works “regularly with safety organizations and policy makers around the world, including Israel, to ensure that people know how to make a safe use of Facebook. There is no room for content that promotes violence, direct threats, terrorist or hate speeches on our platform.”
Israel’s claims against Facebook are another sign of the complicated role now played by social-media giants in global affairs as their platforms become center stage for everything from political activism to promoting terror. Facebook has struggled to police images posted by terrorist groups and online weapons bazaars.
Just last month, a French Jewish youth group sued the company, along with Twitter Inc. and Google Inc., over how they monitor hate speech on the Web. At the same time, governments from around the world are calling on all three companies to help in the fight against terrorism. And Facebook has won praise for its “Safety Check” feature allowing users to tell friends and family that they are safe after bombings and natural disasters.
A wave of “lone wolf” attacks by Palestinians on Israelis that began last fall is being encouraged by posts on social media that call for murder and glorify attacks, the Israeli government says. The violence, which had appeared to lull in recent months before a June 8 shooting at a Tel Aviv retail and food market, has intensified more than two years since peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians last collapsed.
In all, about three dozen Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians — most of them attackers or people involved in clashes with Israeli troops — have been killed since October.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a former high-tech entrepreneur, told Israel Radio on Sunday that by using a simple algorithm, Facebook could block videos inciting to murder from being posted. Israel’s inner security cabinet discussed blocking social networks in the Hebron area where the two deadly attacks took place last week, within the space of just over 24 hours.
The violence was the most serious in a week that began with clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at a contested Jerusalem shrine sacred to Muslims as the al-Aqsa mosque compound and to Jews as Temple Mount. There were also Palestinian stabbing attacks, rocket fire at Israel by Gaza Strip militants and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes.
Over the weekend, Israel locked down hundreds of thousands of people in Hebron and surrounding areas, the largest such action since it went after the killers of three Jewish youths in 2014, according to the military.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to withhold some of the taxes and fees it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority on the ground some of the money is transferred to families of attackers. He and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also approved the renewal of a tender to build 42 apartments in the Jewish settlement outside Hebron where the teenager was killed.
On Friday, the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators said Israeli settlement construction and expansion, and denial of Palestinian development is “steadily eroding” the viability of a two-state solution. The group, representing the U.S., European Union, Russia and United Nations, also called on the Palestinian Authority to take steps to reduce incitement to violence.