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October 20, 2015 0

This Intifada is in Your Social Media Feed

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Times of Israel Blog

The knife, bran­dished in the air and drip­ping with blood, is the icon of the cur­rent wave of Pales­tin­ian vio­lence against Israelis. This visual is the new sym­bol cel­e­brat­ing the seem­ingly non-stop pro­lif­er­a­tion of attacks by Pales­tini­ans against Israelis – many of them stab­bings – and incites more hate, more ter­ror, more vio­lence to an audi­ence primed to act on it.

“The Social Media Intifada” is the title being used for the cur­rent spate of ter­ror attacks, fea­tured on Face­book and other social media plat­forms, where Pales­tin­ian attack­ers are cel­e­brated as mar­tyrs, heroes and even as vic­tims of Israeli bru­tal­ity. On Twit­ter, poten­tial ter­ror­ists are exhorted to stab and kill Jews. Videos of Mus­lim preach­ers call­ing for attacks on Jews (one while hold­ing a knife),even instruc­tional videos on how to stab effec­tively, go viral. Pro­lif­er­at­ing on social media are car­toons of attacks on Israelis and alle­ga­tions of a Jewish/Israeli con­spir­acy to take over the Al Aqsa mosque.

Pales­tin­ian incite­ment to vio­lence isn’t new, but the medium and the method is. Dur­ing pre­vi­ous peri­ods of Pales­tin­ian vio­lence – such as the Sec­ond Intifada – we saw calls for vio­lence and wide­spread anti-Israel and anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries. Pub­lic squares, parks and schools were named in honor of those who per­pe­trated ter­ror­ist attacks against Israeli civil­ians. Pop­u­lar songs cel­e­brated the attack­ers. But behind most of the prior vio­lent chap­ters of the con­flict, it was the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship – the PLO, Hamas, Fatah, the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity, and oth­ers – who were pro­mot­ing and enabling the hate-filled mes­sages and the vio­lent action. Last Autumn, while social media emerged as a means of cel­e­brat­ing and encour­ag­ing vio­lence against Israelis, its impact was limited.

To be sure, in this cur­rent period, PA Pres­i­dent Abbas and other lead­er­ship are poi­son­ing the atmos­phere with incen­di­ary rhetoric. His fan­tas­ti­cal alle­ga­tion last week that Israel had “exe­cuted” a Pales­tin­ian boy – who was in real­ity being treated in an Israeli hos­pi­tal after stab­bing a 13-year-old rid­ing his bicy­cle near his Jerusalem home – is only the most recent example.

How­ever, at present, Israeli secu­rity experts say social media – not Pales­tin­ian lead­ers – is the pri­mary force dri­ving the vio­lence. The incite­ment, the mis­in­for­ma­tion, and the hate that inspire the stab­bings, shoot­ings, rock throw­ing and car ram­ming attacks are spread­ing via smart phone — and con­stantly. Ter­ror­ists who were killed mid-attack are upheld as heroes and mar­tyrs, their deadly actions ignored.

And, yes, there are also Israelis who are post­ing hate-filled incen­di­ary mes­sages, includ­ing calls for “death to Arabs” and a “sec­ond Nakba.” While there have been only a hand­ful of vio­lent attacks by Israelis against Arabs in recent weeks, the risk of more Israeli vio­lence increases as this cri­sis goes on.

Social media can mobi­lize for good and for evil. Demo­c­ra­tic forces in the Jas­mine Rev­o­lu­tion and Tahrir Square used Twit­ter and Face­book to orga­nize against author­i­tar­ian rule in the Arab Spring. Viral videos of peo­ple dump­ing ice water on their heads raised mil­lions to find a cure for ALS. Social media has raised pub­lic aware­ness of a plethora of social jus­tice issues – from #Bring­Back­Our­Girls to #Black­Lives­Mat­ter. But social media has also enabled ISIS and other extrem­ist ter­ror­ist groups and their sup­port­ers to recruit youth from around the world to join their vio­lent cause. And on this side of the ledger, we can add the cur­rent wave of violence.

ADL pro­motes two approaches to address this prob­lem: remov­ing incen­di­ary speech and chal­leng­ing hate speech with good speech. For years, we have been work­ing with social media com­pa­nies to improve poli­cies and pro­to­cols for the removal of con­tent that incites vio­lence or big­otry, con­tent that is con­trary to the com­pa­nies’ terms of ser­vice. But we also pro­mote counter-speech, where activists and all con­cerned peo­ple use social media to con­demn vio­lence, to urge mod­er­a­tion, and even to try to dis­suade poten­tial ter­ror­ists before they move to action.

The real­ity is, what hap­pens online reflects what’s going on in soci­ety. In order for counter-speech to be an effec­tive tool address­ing the “social media Intifada,” those with influ­ence, whether in the online world or in world capi­tols, need to con­demn Pales­tin­ian incite­ment and ter­ror­ism clearly and unequiv­o­cally. Inter­net users who come across calls for vio­lence online, should report it imme­di­ately to the inter­net provider (see our guide to learn how). In many cases, such con­tent vio­lates their terms of ser­vice and the page will be removed.

The social media com­pa­nies we work with are mak­ing good faith efforts to enforce their poli­cies, but the con­tent that appears online can­not be divorced from real-world hate. It is still too early to know how this cur­rent chap­ter in the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict will develop. Let’s hope respon­si­ble voices and action prevail.

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June 9, 2014 3

Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal Raises Many Questions

On Mon­day June 2nd, a tran­si­tional Pales­tin­ian unity gov­ern­ment was sworn in based on an agree­ment reached between Fatah and Hamas. The gov­ern­ment, which is headed by Pales­tin­ian Author­ity Prime Min­is­ter Rami Ham­dal­lah, con­sists of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Fatah and so-called inde­pen­dent “tech­nocrats” who appear to be not directly affil­i­ated with Hamas. The agree­ment requires elec­tions to be held within six months.

Although the US admin­is­tra­tion rushed to pub­licly say it “would work with” the new gov­ern­ment, even they have acknowl­edged there are many ques­tions regard­ing the prac­ti­cal impli­ca­tions and via­bil­ity of this unity gov­ern­ment. After all, sim­i­lar past rec­on­cil­i­a­tions, includ­ing the 2011 Cairo Accord and 2012 Doha Dec­la­ra­tion, both of which are cited as a basis for parts of the cur­rent agree­ment, quickly fell apart.

Hamas Flag

Hamas Flag

At this very early stage, it is fool­ish to pre­dict how the arrange­ment will work in prac­tice, and espe­cially whether free and fair Pales­tin­ian elec­tions will indeed be held in six months. In fact, in the days since the agree­ment was signed, there have been pub­lic dis­putes over finan­cial issues between Hamas and Fatah, and secu­rity forces of both par­ties have detained and arrested offi­cials from the other. Hamas retains its con­trol over a highly trained and well-armed ter­ror­ist para­mil­i­tary force, and an arse­nal of rock­ets and mis­siles which it has used to tar­get Israeli civil­ians. Will the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity secu­rity forces be deployed in Gaza and will Hamas lay down its weapons? If not, how can the pledge by Pres­i­dent Abbas to adhere to the Quar­tet con­di­tions be taken seriously?

Mid­dle East ana­lyst Ehud Yaari argues that by enter­ing into the unity agree­ment, Hamas is fol­low­ing the so-called Hezbol­lah model. Sim­i­lar to Hezbol­lah in Lebanon, Hamas gets polit­i­cal legit­i­macy and main­tains its intim­i­dat­ing and bru­tally effec­tive mil­i­tary force through their Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade. Indeed, Hamas’s secu­rity forces are larger and bet­ter equipped than the Pales­tin­ian Authority’s, and the unity agree­ment makes no men­tion of Hamas dis­arm­ing the al-Qassam Brigade.

Other dif­fi­cult ques­tions about the unity agree­ment that remain murky include what role the so-called tech­nocrats will play in set­ting pol­icy for the new gov­ern­ment, how much influ­ence Hamas’s lead­er­ship will actu­ally have in the Pales­tin­ian Authority’s pol­icy mak­ing, and if or how finan­cial sup­port to the PA from the US and other inter­na­tional donors will be applied in Hamas’s strong­hold over Gaza.

Regard­ing the inde­pen­dent tech­nocrats, there are likely two rea­sons why Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Abbas decided to include them as opposed to actual Hamas offi­cials. First, Abbas cal­cu­lated that the US and oth­ers in the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity would almost cer­tainly reject a Pales­tin­ian gov­ern­ment which included Hamas, a State Depart­ment des­ig­nated For­eign Ter­ror­ist Orga­ni­za­tion. And sec­ond, there are inter­nal Fatah con­cerns about grant­ing Hamas sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence within the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity, and how it could under­mine Abbas and Fatah’s stand­ing among Palestinians.

Yet even with­out its direct par­tic­i­pa­tion, Hamas’s back­ing of the new gov­ern­ment raises seri­ous ques­tions about Pres­i­dent Abbas’s desire and abil­ity to pur­sue a peace­ful end to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. Despite Pales­tin­ian Author­ity claims that Hamas’s acqui­es­cence to the unity gov­ern­ment is suf­fi­cient to estab­lish its accep­tance of the inter­na­tional community’s cri­te­ria for engage­ment – which includes renounc­ing ter­ror against Israel, acknowl­edg­ing Israel’s right to exist and accept­ing exist­ing Israeli-Palestinian agree­ments – no senior Hamas offi­cial has ever made such a pub­lic pro­nounce­ment. In fact, when asked recently about the unity deal, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh stated emphat­i­cally that Hamas would con­tinue its “resis­tance” efforts against Israel, even in the face of an agreement.

Thus far, the US admin­is­tra­tion has lit­tle or noth­ing to say about all of these open questions.

One last big ques­tion remains — what if new elec­tions are held in the next six months and Hamas wins again, just as it did in 2006?

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May 2, 2014 1

Iran Weekly: Selected News & Developments

The fol­low­ing is a selec­tion of news reports and com­men­tary from Iran­ian media and main­stream pub­li­ca­tions on devel­op­ments per­tain­ing to Iran. This weekly update includes a sam­pling of pub­lished reports from Iran’s Farsi-language media* as well as rel­e­vant arti­cles from the inter­na­tional press.

Iran­ian Media

The IRGC’s mis­siles are in desir­able readi­ness*
(Fars News Agency – April 30, 2014)

In a meet­ing Wednes­day with the IRGC Coun­cil of Ashura Com­man­ders, IRGC Com­man­der Moham­mad Jafari said, “In terms of mil­i­tary and secu­rity readi­ness, our mis­siles are in very good shape; how­ever, the IRGC’s pri­mary objec­tive is to be pre­pared in faith, and this fac­tor makes the IRGC the supe­rior among the world’s armies.”

P5+1 nego­ti­a­tions with Iran have been breath­less*
(Fars News Agency – April 30, 2014)

Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Has­san Qashqavi said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on the sta­tus of the nuclear nego­ti­a­tions that, “The future of the nego­ti­a­tions at present are head­ing toward the direc­tion of a com­pre­hen­sive [set­tle­ment], and talks are sen­si­tive, because the pri­mary issues have not yet been resolved. For now, we can­not directly assess the final out­come of the talks.”

Iran is not after cre­at­ing ten­sions in the region*
(Fars News Agency – April 30, 2014)

Speaker of Par­lia­ment Ali Lar­i­jani said dur­ing a speech mark­ing National Per­sian Gulf Day, “The Per­sian Gulf is a very impor­tant issue, and if we and our neigh­bor­ing coun­tries have the cor­rect approach, we could earn a lot of inter­est from it… Today, the pres­ence of for­eign ships [in the Gulf] have cre­ated impli­ca­tions.” Lar­i­jani added that Iran has “not been after any ten­sions in the region and we will not be. The secu­rity and calm of the region is of ben­e­fit for all, espe­cially for Iran.”


Aya­tol­lah Noori Hamadani

Amer­ica does not dare attack Iran due to its fear of the IRGC*
(Basij News Agency – April 30, 2014)

Aya­tol­lah Noori Hamadani, a senior cleric from the city of Qom, said dur­ing a meet­ing with com­man­ders and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Supreme Leader, that, “The poli­cies of the IRGC have fright­ened Amer­ica and the world, and we must pro­mote the spirit of jihad and martyrdom-seeking in soci­ety, espe­cially among the youth.”

Sep­tem­ber 11 was an excuse for Amer­ica to get closer to the region*
(Mehr News Agency – April 30, 2014)

Nader Tale­bzadeh, sec­re­tary of Iran’s annual Inter­na­tional Resis­tance Film Fes­ti­val, praised the 2012 film “Oper­a­tion Ter­ror” by for­mer Cal­i­for­nia mayor Art Olivier, as pre­sent­ing the “truth” about the 9/11 attacks. Dur­ing a review panel of the film, Tale­bzadeh said, “In the first sequence of this film, the Sep­tem­ber 11th events [orches­trated] by the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment are disclosed…”

Iran wel­comes Fatah-Hamas Deal
(Fars News Agency – April 26, 2014)

For­eign Min­istry Spokes­woman Marziyeh Afkham released the fol­low­ing state­ment on recent Pales­tin­ian rec­on­cil­i­a­tion efforts: “The Islamic Repub­lic of Iran wel­comes the Pales­tin­ian groups’ sol­i­dar­ity against the Zion­ist regime and any national rec­on­cil­i­a­tion which leads to Pales­tin­ian unity and adop­tion of deci­sions in line with the mate­ri­al­iza­tion of that nation’s valu­able causes against the expan­sion­ism and aggres­sions of the Quds Occu­py­ing Regime (Israel).”

Inter­na­tional Media

A bold move
(The Econ­o­mist – April 30, 2014)

The long awaited sec­ond round of cuts to sub­si­dies on gaso­line and elec­tric­ity have been imple­mented by Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani. Gaso­line prices were raised by 75%, from $0.16 to $0.28 per liter.

U.S. tar­gets Chi­nese busi­ness­man, says he sup­plied parts for Iran­ian mis­siles
(CNN – April 29, 2014)

New sanc­tions and crim­i­nal charges were announced by the U.S. against a Chi­nese busi­ness­man accused of sup­ply­ing the Iran­ian mil­i­tary with parts for bal­lis­tic missiles.

Tehran book fair to fea­ture works by anti-Semites, Holo­caust deniers
(Access ADL – April 29, 2014)

An annual book fair in Tehran will include domes­tic and foreign-published anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying books avail­able to the public.

Iran to tar­get decoy US air­craft in drills
(The Wash­ing­ton Post – April 27, 2014)

Admi­ral Ali Fadavi of the IRGC’s Naval Forces announced that Iran­ian forces should “tar­get the [mock-up U.S. air­craft] car­rier” in upcom­ing war games train­ing. Fadavi added that the exer­cise will allow the IRGC to “learn about weak­nesses and strengths of our enemy.”

Mean­ing­ful progress with Iran
(The New York Times, Edi­to­r­ial Board – April 26, 2014)

A look into the suc­cesses, and short­com­ings, of the nuclear nego­ti­a­tions between Iran and the West as the July dead­line for a final agree­ment approaches.

Iran gen­eral urges Tehran to make new UN pick
(The Wash­ing­ton Post – April 19, 2014)

Offi­cials from the Iran­ian mil­i­tary have urged the for­eign min­istry to name a new envoy to the United Nations after the U.S. block grant­ing a visa to the Islamic Republic’s orig­i­nal ambas­sador over alleged ties to the 1979 U.S. Embassy hostage crisis.

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