Hamas slams Facebook over blocking dozens of its supporting accounts

Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) on Saturday slammed Facebook’s administration after the social media giant blocked dozens of accounts and pages in support of the movement following the launch of a social media campaign by the group promoting the actions of Hamas’ first bomb manufacturer.

Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesman, said in a statement that Facebook had closed more than 90 pages supporting Hamas, in addition to 30 personal accounts affiliated with the movement.

“This vicious campaign came after the launching of the 21st anniversary of the assassination of the first engineer of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’ armed wing), Yahya Ayyash,” Badran said in the statement.

Yahya Ayyash was assassinated in 1996 during the administration of Shimon Peres after Israeli authorities suspected him of being behind a number of suicide attacks against Israelis. He is known among Hamas supporters as “The Engineer,” as the group has said he was the first member to manufacture a bomb for the movement.

As part of the anniversary, Hamas supporters launched a campaign promoting the actions of Ayyash, and adopted the slogan “Be Like Ayyash,” prompting Facebook to shut down more than a hundred pages and accounts.

Badran described the closure of Hamas’ support pages as a “persistent collusion of the Facebook administration with Israeli occupation policies,” and urged Palestinian Facebook users to look for other, more efficient, alternatives.

Palestinians have often pointed out the double standard they believe exists among Israeli authorities’ demands that Facebook remove scores of content that have been deemed “incitement,” as the Israeli Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has advanced the so-called “Facebook bill,” which would allow Israeli officials to force the social media giant to remove certain content through a court order if there are suspicions of “incitement.”

Meanwhile, ultra-right Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who proposed the bill alongside Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, has herself used Facebook in the past to advocate for the killing of the mothers of slain Palestinians, referring to them as “snakes.”

However, despite routine claims of Israelis, including senior-level Israeli officials, inciting violence against Palestinians over social media, Israel has continued to blame Facebook for not doing more to censor posts by Palestinians seen as promoting “terrorism” against Israelis.

In July, an Israeli lawyer filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Facebook Inc., claiming that the social media platform allowed members of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas to plan and carry out attacks against Americans and Israelis.

These allegations came despite Facebook complying with 95 percent of the Israeli government’s removal requests in recent months.

In September, Erdan and Shaked met with Facebook executives to discuss the matter, reportedly looking to having the terms “Intifada” (uprising), “Nazis,” “stabbings,” “shahid” (martyr), and “death to Jews,” censored as incitement against the state of Israel.

Shaked and Erdan also allegedly included the phrase “death to Arabs” — a slogan often heard in protests and mobs of extremist Israelis — saying that it too, led to incitement in general. However, the overwhleming majority of those charged with incitement have been Palestinians, with many critics accusing Israeli authorities of using dubious reasoning as to what constitutes incitement during the widespread detention of Palestinians.

Over the past year, Israel has detained scores of Palestinians for social media activity, alleging that a wave of unrest that first swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October 2015 was encouraged largely by incitement. The violence has left 247 Palestinians killed by Israelis, as well as some 34 Israelis killed by Palestinians.

However, critics have pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel’s decades-long military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon as reasons for the rise of unrest.

Others have accused the Israeli government of utilizing “anti-terrorism” discourse in order to justify and further entrench the Israeli military’s half-century occupation of the West Bank and near decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip.