Far-right Israeli individuals and groups appear on long Facebook blacklist

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A far-right Israeli activist and the racist organization he heads are both blacklisted as banned entities by Facebook’s social media platform, along with a wide range of terrorist and hate groups, according to a list published by The Intercept this week.

Among those on the list of people, organizations and groups sanctioned by the social media giant are far-right activist Bentzi Gopstein and the racist and homophobic organization Lehava he heads, both listed as banned for “hate. “.

Lehava opposes mixed marriages of Jews and non-Jews, as well as LGBT rights, and tries to stifle all public activity of non-Jews in Israel, including coexistence events.

There have been a number of efforts in Israel, including ongoing attempts, to have Lehava banned as a terrorist organization.

Gopstein has been arrested several times and investigated for statements he made against non-Jews, including an article in which he called Christians living in Israel “bloodsuckers.” “.

He was also arrested shortly after members of his group attempted to burn down an Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem in November 2014. Gopstein has not been charged with the attack, for which three Lehava members were charged. ultimately convicted.

Benzi Gopstein, member of Otzma Yehudit (with microphone), leader of anti-miscegenation group Lehava, leads a protest against the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on June 6, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

More recently, Gopstein tried to launch a political career in the extremist Otzma Yehudit party, but the Supreme Court banned him from running in 2019, for comments which proved “unequivocally” that he “systematically incites racism against the Arab audience ”.

The Israeli far-right organization Kahane Chai – which is considered a terrorist group in both Israel and the United States – is listed as being banned for “terrorism.” The Jewish Defense League, the US-based organization founded by extremist rabbi and former lawmaker Meir Kahane, is also blacklisted as a terrorist group, as is an unknown organization called “Jihad Media Jews “.

The Intercept said it looked at an overview of the list which is divided into reasons why groups or individuals are banned: hate, crime, terrorism, militarized social movements and violent non-state actors. He also published an 11-page document that details Facebook’s policies in this area.

Other groups included on the banned list are companies and personalities linked to Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic State, Boko Haram, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran and other terrorist organizations. , according to The Intercept. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar are both on the list.

The so-called blacklist also includes a wide range of neo-Nazi figures and associations in the United States and Europe. The banned list also includes a number of prominent Nazis, including Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Joseph Mengele and Klaus Barbie – to keep fan pages and discussion groups from focusing on them.

Illustration: Right-wing activists attend a ceremony honoring the late Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane in Jerusalem on November 17, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

Other deceased personalities named, included to prevent any talk about them, are Hamas founders Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi and Ahmed Yassin – both of whom were assassinated by Israel. Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini is also listed in alphabetical order, one place above Gopstein.

Facebook has in the past faced calls to reveal who was on the banned list under its so-called “dangerous individuals and organizations” policy against “organizations with a history of terrorist or violent criminal activity”. Such calls also come from Facebook’s own supervisory board, which says it is in the public interest for the information to be made available.

The list published by The Intercept includes more than 4,000 entries, including “politicians, writers, charities, hospitals, hundreds of musical acts and long-dead historical figures,” according to the report.

Experts assessed that “the list and associated rules appear to be a clear embodiment of US anxieties, political concerns, and foreign policy values ​​since September 11,” the Intercept reported.

A mural in Gaza City in 2012 shows (left)
Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, killed by Israel in a missile strike in March 2004, and PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who died of a mysterious illness in November of the same year. (Wissam Nassar / Flash90)

“Almost everyone and everything on the list is considered an enemy or a threat by America or its allies: more than half of them are suspected foreign terrorists, whose free discussion is subject to Facebook’s toughest censorship, ”the report says.

Experts also noted that there are fewer restrictions on commenting on anti-government white militias than on those listed as terrorists who are predominantly from the Middle East, South Asia or Muslims.

Brian Fishman, Facebook’s policy director for Counterterrorism and Dangerous Organizations, told The Intercept in a statement that “we try to be as transparent as possible, while putting security first, by limiting legal risks and preventing groups from bending our rules. “

“We don’t want terrorists, hate groups or criminal organizations on our platform, which is why we ban them and remove content that praises, represents or supports them,” Fishman said.

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