Palestinian and pro-Palestine advocates have launched a petition calling Facebook to not expand its hate speech policies to include speech critical of “‘Israel’ and Zionism.”
“Facebook should refuse to cooperate with those who seek to build more walls to keep us apart. We call on Facebook to not add “Zionist” as a protected category in its hate speech policy.”
The petition has been signed by notable human rights activists and cultural figures such as Hanan Ashrawi, Norita Cortiñas, Wallace Shawn and Peter Gabriel.
The petition says that if Facebook restricts the usage of the word “Zionist,” it would prevent Palestinians from talking about their daily lives, shield the Israeli occupation government from accountability for human rights violations, and do nothing to make Jewish people safer from anti-Semitism.
“We are deeply concerned about Facebook’s proposed revision of its hate speech policy to consider “Zionist” as a proxy for “Jew” or “Jewish”,” the petition read.
It continued, “The proposed policy would too easily mischaracterize conversations about Zionists – and by extension, Zionism – as inherently antisemitic, would harm Facebook users, and would undermine efforts to dismantle real antisemitism and all forms of racism, extremism, and oppression.”
“We cannot dismantle antisemitism if we are blocked from voicing our opinions and sharing our experiences with each other. We can discuss, debate, and even disagree, as long as we share the belief that all of us deserve safety, freedom and dignity. We ask Facebook to not erect barriers impeding users from connecting with each other as we engage in this work.”
The activists said that this move will prohibit Palestinians from sharing their daily experiences and histories with the world, be it a photo of the keys to their grandparent’s house lost when attacked by Zionist militias in 1948, or a livestream of Zionist settlers attacking their olive trees in 2021. And it would prevent Jewish users from discussing their relationships to Zionist political ideology.
“Facebook scrutinizing specific words won’t keep any of us safe, but it will prevent us from connecting on the political issues important to all of us and block us from holding people and governments accountable for their policies and actions.”
Facebook has been stifling the Palestinian voices by deactivating the accounts of Palestinians in coordination with the Israeli occupation government, on the pretext of preventing Palestinian “incitement”.
Palestinians are no strangers to such restrictions on social media. On May 2020, Facebook deleted the accounts of more than 50 Palestinian journalists and activists, saying their accounts had been deactivated for “not following our Community Standards.”