Facebook, Twitter close Hezbollah pages in blow to speech freedom

Alwaght – Recently, the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter suspended the accounts of the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, a measure drew welcome of the Israeli media.

The Hebrew language Yedioth Ahronoth has reported that the suspension came after a warning against the continuation of activity of these accounts issued by the Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Arden to Twitter officials. He threatened that if the account remains active, Twitter will face criminal charges in the Israeli regime.

The two social networks’ approach to the Palestinian cause and the Resistance forces has been a showcase of bias. While the extremist Israeli pages, majorly encouraging repressing and massacring of the Palestinians, are open, individuals and organizations in relation to Palestine and Axis of Resistance as a whole have seen their pages blocked by the host networks.

In 2012, for example, Facebook blocked without notice the English section of Hezbollah page following a speech of Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayed Hasan Nasrallah condemning a Western film ridiculing Prophet Muhammad. Inclined to silence voices critical of the US and Israeli policies, Facebook has shown that it has positively responded to Tel Aviv call to add Hezbollah to its terrorism blacklist.

The 2012 blockade came 24 hours after Sayed Nasrallah said the page subscribers increased more than twice. Simultaneously, a Facebook account created by fans of Hezbollah, with 1.5 million subscribers, was blocked.

Since 2016, the Israeli media and security apparatus launched a pressure campaign to press for elimination of anti-Israeli material on the social media. Pressed by the Israeli sides, the Facebook officials finally announced they will remove anti-Israeli material from the pages.

The announcement came after a Facebook delegation traveled to the occupied Palestinian territories at the request of the Israeli authorities. It met with Arden and also Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked. The two sides signed a deal according to which Facebook agreed to take measures against pro-Palestine and Hezbollah and anti-Tel Aviv pages. The agreement ushered in a crackdown campaign against pro-Resistance accounts.

Such a repressive approach by Twitter and Facebook signals the popular sites’ compliance with the Israeli and American policy pathways. Biased dealing with the pro-Resistance outlets is a blatant violation of the freedom of speech and information circulation, especially when the US and the Israeli regime dominate the wide-audience global media.

The social media are the only window to the outside world for Palestinians who are suffering under plight as a result of inhumane policies of the Israelis. Without arms, financial support, and mainstream media coverage, the Palestinians resort to the social media to exhibit to the world the repression and cruelty against them. The wide spread of the images of the Israeli forces’ iron fist in dealing with the Palestinians protesting the American embassy relocation to al-Quds (Jerusalem) showed that free information circulation can make a difference in regional politics. The outcome was pressure by global, and especially Western, public who no longer get their news only from Western and Israeli-dominated mainstream media.

The social media expansion very well set off the louder alarm bells to the Israeli leaders. The world, on the one hand, blasted Trump administration’s relocation of the embassy and, on the other hand, reacted angrily to the Israeli regime’s slaughter of Palestinians on Gaza Strip border. While the Israelis are still in the stage of fixing a place in the occupied Palestinian lands, the social media, as a game-changer tool, give the Palestinians and their supporters an instrument to expose the American plots and Israeli crimes. Social media not only helped foil the “deal of the century” on al-Quds but also set the Israeli regime into a road to collapse.

Since creation, the Israeli regime used media power to unite the global public under an umbrella of support for Tel Aviv. But it is facing a new tool, much more influential than the mainstream outlets and allowing every Palestinian to launch their own outlet. A fear from that pressed Israeli Knesset to react, last week passing a law criminalizing filming the Israeli soldiers and security forces facing the Palestinians. The bill, described as a violation of the freedom of speech, very clearly tells of Tel Aviv’s extreme fear of the social media and break of media monopoly.

Being under pressure of the Israelis, Twitter and Facebook officials so far spared no efforts to silence opposition voices. Their bowing largely stems from their interests in compliance with the US government rules and the pressures coming from the pro-Israeli lobbies. Not to mention that there are pro-Tel Aviv figures serving in these social sites’ management body. In 2012, David Fischer, son of the former Israeli central bank governor Stanley Fischer, became Vice President of Business and Marketing Partnerships at Facebook. Before that, he was one of the top five figures at Google. Fischer Facebook entry was meant to expand the company’s presence in the occupied territories and bring the company into compliance with Tel Aviv’s policies. His entry to the social site marked a start of the massive blockade of pro-Hezbollah and Palestine accounts.

The wave of page closures continued to date. Recently a page calling for the third intifada was closed by Facebook. Before that, pages backing the pro-democracy protests in Bahrain were closed. Facebook and Twitter became a platform for organizing protests and unrest by the opposition following Iran 2009 and Russia 2011 elections, but the Facebook officials declined to recognize the opposition pages as spreading violence and hate.

This behavior is expressive of the American and Israeli inclination to cover up anti-Palestinian crimes, hence exposing Washington and Tel Aviv’s double standards in dealing with freedom of speech and information. As long as their interests are served, they allow the social media to be free speech platforms. But if the sites offer platforms to the heavily-repressed Palestinians, they should be restricted. The two in the past took pro-Resistance camp TV stations off satellites. Firmly proceeding with Al-Quds Judaization policy, the Israeli regime is expected to step up its crackdown on the opponent voices on social networks.