Following PMW’s complaint, Police open criminal investigation against Facebook Israel for terror incitement
Palestinian Media Watch submitted a complaint on May 23, 2021 to Israeli police against Facebook Israel and its CEO for aiding and abetting Fatah incitement to terror, under clause 24(b)(1) of the Anti-Terror Law.
PMW has now been informed by Israeli police that it has opened an official investigation pursuant to our complaint. Conviction for someone who “publishes direct calls to commit acts of terror” is up to 5 years of imprisonment.
Background: In April and early May, Mahmoud Abbas' PA and Fatah were actively inciting violence and terror. The Palestinian population was furious that Abbas had cancelled elections to prevent a Hamas victory, and Abbas was trying to distract them with a terror wave in defense of Jerusalem. With over a quarter of a million followers, the avenue of choice for the PA and Fatah to promote violence and terror was Fatah’s Facebook pages.
On May 9, 2021, PMW alerted Facebook, writing to the CEO of Facebook Israel Adi Soffer Teeni, that Fatah was using its many Facebook pages to publish calls to commit acts of terror. PMW demanded that Facebook close Fatah’s Facebook pages.
PMW warned Facebook: “If you fail to act as the violence [in Jerusalem] rages and as Fatah and its leaders continue to abuse the Facebook platform to spread violence, we will have no choice but to submit an official complaint to the Israeli police against Facebook in general and key personnel in particular, for the aiding and abetting the violence. We expect your quick and decisive response.” [PMW letter, May 9, 2021]
However, Facebook continued its policy of allowing Fatah to post incitement to hate and terror, and to publish direct calls to commit acts of terror, thus fanning the terror in Jerusalem and the rest of Israel throughout the Gaza war with Hamas.
PMW submitted the complaint to Israeli police against Facebook Israel and its CEO for incitement to terror on May 23 and recently was notified by the police that a formal investigation of PMW’s complaint was opened. Given the clear evidence (see below), we hope that the police will act swiftly against Facebook to determine if prosecution is warranted against the Israeli Facebook staff who made the decision to enable Fatah to use Facebook to promote terror. In addition, we hope the police will demand the closure of the Fatah’s Facebook pages that, as PMW has shown, have been actively fanning the flames of terror for many years.
Palestinian Media Watch submitted a complaint to Israeli police against Facebook Israel and its CEO Adi Soffer Teeni on May 23, 2021 for incitement to terror under clause 24(b)(1) of the Anti-Terror Law. PMW has been warning Facebook for years that it is a fundamental part of Fatah’s terror promotion, and has supplied Facebook with hundreds of examples of hate and terror promotion on Fatah’s Facebook platform as documented in numerous PMW reports. Facebook claims to be very strict about eliminating hate speech and promoting violence and closing other hate disseminating Facebook accounts. However, Facebook has made a decision to keep open the official Fatah page, thus allowing Fatah to disseminate hate speech against Israel, glorify terrorists who murder Israelis and even be a platform for Fatah’s calls to violence and terror. Given the importance of social media as a disseminator of incitement to violence, Facebook’s behavior has been life-threatening and places them as a central cog in Fatah’s terror infrastructure.
In PMW’s complaint to the police against Facebook Israel, we noted that on May 8, with Arab violence raging in Jerusalem including attacks on police and on Jews walking in the streets of Jerusalem, Fatah used 9 different Facebook pages, including its official Facebook page with 234,305 followers, to disseminate its call for violence, including:
“The Fatah Movement with all its elements and leadership calls to continue this uprising… Fatah calls on everyone to raise the level of confrontation in the coming days and hours.”
[Official Fatah Facebook page, May 8, 2021, accessed Oct. 19, 2021]
Facebook page, Fatah Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Al-Aloul
Facebook page, PA Presidential Guard
Facebook page, Fatah Central Committee member Rawhi Fattouh
Facebook page, Fatah Movement – Hebron Branch
Facebook page, Fatah Shabiba Youth and Student Movement
Facebook page, Fatah Movement – Northern Gaza Branch
Facebook page, Fatah Movement – Khan Al-Sheikh Refugee Camp Branch Facebook page, Fatah Movement – Syria Branch]
Most significantly, Facebook also played a central role for Fatah in disseminating the calls to start the violence. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in anticipation of his imminent canceling of the Palestinian elections needed violence to distract the Palestinian population’s likely anger. As Abbas and Fatah have done in the past, they used the religious theme of defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a call for violence. Fatah posted on Facebook an old video of Abbas from 2014 calling for violence “in defense of Jerusalem.” However, the post did not mention it was from 2014, and made it seem like the call for violence was current. A Palestinian watching the video would think Abbas made the speech that very day, introducing it with these words in the present tense: “The message of [PA] President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas to our people in Jerusalem – we will defend Jerusalem with our lives. Long live Fatah, the defender of our land, our holy sites, and our people.” [Facebook page of the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture, April 23, 2021]
In that speech, Abbas defined Jews' presence on the Temple Mount as “defiling” the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque and its plazas and told Palestinians that “They [Jews] have come, and they must not come to the Sanctuary (i.e., Temple Mount). We have to prevent them, in any way whatsoever from entering the sanctuary.” [Facebook page of the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture, April 23, 2021, accessed Oct. 19, 2021] Fatah publicized this call on its Facebook page, knowing that Abbas was about to cancel elections.
Only two days later with violence and terror growing in Jerusalem, Facebook was used to promote more terror by Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi. Tirawi said that “resistance” - i.e., terror and violence against Israel - was an “obligatory personal commandment” - an Islamic commandment imperative for individuals, the primary commandment in Islam for an individual, and literally cursed anyone who did not participate in the violence as a “mute devil”:
“Fatah Movement Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi... said that the resistance of the residents of Jerusalem to the occupation (i.e., attacks on Israeli police and Jews) is a holy battle that they are fighting alone, and he considered supporting them, coming to them, and participating with them in the battle to defend Jerusalem and the holy sites an obligatory personal commandment (fard ayn), and whoever shirks this is a mute devil who, with his silence and passivity, allows the occupation to tyrannically rule the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, the holy city, and the holy sites.”
[Facebook page of Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi, April 25, 2021, accessed Oct. 19, 2021]
On April 26, 2021, Fatah published another post on Facebook that encouraged Palestinian minors to participate in acts of terror with the words: “Do not look at my young age.” The images showed children involved in violence.
Posted text: “Do not look at my young age. Look at the size of the homeland in my heart
[Fatah] Commission of Information and Culture”
[Official Fatah Facebook page, April 26, 2021, accessed Oct. 19, 2021]
On May 10, Fatah called on the masses of Nablus, through Facebook, “to escalate the resistance… Let us set the ground on fire under the occupation’s feet.” [Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Nablus Branch, May 10, 2021]
On May 12, 2021, with terror and violence raging in the mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli cities, Fatah again used Facebook to incite the Arab masses in Israel to violence and terror. It posted a video celebrating “The fire has ignited and the rifle has sung,” showing footage of Arabs rioting together. The song specifically focused on the rioters within Israel “from Acre to Tira” – two Israeli cities - calling them “self-sacrificing fighters.” To assure that everyone understood they were calling for terror on the Facebook page, the video included the words “The dawn of freedom is painted with blood”:
Lyrics: “The fire has ignited and the rifle has sung
O homeland, ask for the young people and have hope
The fire has ignited from Acre to Tira (i.e., Israeli cities)…
[The children] have grown older and not forgotten the land
Who could forget the Paradise of Palestine? …
The fire has ignited, Karameh, Karameh
The Palestinians, together with all the heroes
Self-sacrificing fighters have appeared, and woe to those who ignore it:
The dawn of freedom is painted with blood”
[Facebook page of the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture, May 12, 2021, accessed Oct. 19, 2021]
Palestinian and Israeli Arabs responded to the PA/Fatah calls for terror. Within Israel fires were set in 112 Jewish homes, 386 Jewish homes were plundered and 673 were damaged; 849 cars were set ablaze; and there were 5,018 rock-throwing attacks; and 10 synagogues were wholly or partly burned down. In response, a small number of Jews attacked Arabs and their properties on a minor scale. No mosques were burned; 13 Arab homes were damaged; 13 Arab-owned cars were burned; and there were 41 rock-throwing attacks by Jews. [Walla, Israeli new site, May 16, 2021]
Given this and other evidence of terror promotion on Facebook and the destruction that accompanied the incitement, PMW hopes that the police will act swiftly to investigate the responsible Facebook’s officers in Israel.
In addition, PMW again calls on Facebook to stop being a platform for PA/Fatah terror glorification and promotion, and close these Fatah Facebook pages that, as PMW has shown, have been promoting terror for many years.
In addition, PMW will be turning to our friends in the US Congress to see if Congress will investigate and determine to what extent US Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have been involved in the decision to allow Facebook to be a platform for Fatah to incite violence and terror against Israelis and Jews.
A translation to English of PMW’s full complaint to the police with additional evidence, which shows Fatah using Facebook to incite violence and terror, follows below:
May 23, 2021
Commissioner Kobi Shabtai
By fax: 02-5428118
Re: Submission of a complaint against Facebook Israel
and its CEO for incitement to terror
1. We hereby submit a complaint against the Facebook Israel and its CEO, Ms. Adi Soffer-Teeni, for the crime of aiding in incitement to terror, according to clause 24(b)(1) of the Anti-Terror Law.
2. While violence was again flaring in Jerusalem, Fatah – the organization and its leadership – was again misusing the Facebook platform to fan the flames and incite to violence and terror.
3. After days of violence and terror in Jerusalem against Jews and against Israeli Police, Fatah used 9 different Facebook pages, starting with its official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/officialfateh1965/) to disseminate its call “to continue this uprising… to raise the level of confrontation.” In other words, a direct and explicit call for terror:
“The Fatah Movement with all its elements and leadership calls to continue this uprising… Fatah calls on everyone to raise the level of confrontation in the coming days and hours in the Palestinian lands, the points of friction, and the settlers’ roads.”
[Official Fatah Facebook page, May 8, 2021]
The original post can be seen in the following link:
The full text of the inciting post is attached to this letter as Appendix A.
4. Fatah’s post inciting to terror was shared on at least 8 more Facebook pages, including:
- The Facebook page of Fatah Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Al-Aloul
- The Facebook page of the PA Presidential Guard
- The Facebook page of Fatah Central Committee member Rawhi Fattouh
- The Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Hebron Branch
- The Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Syria Branch
- The Facebook page of the Fatah Shabiba Youth and Student Movement
- The Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Northern Gaza Branch
- The Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Khan Al-Sheikh Refugee Camp Branch
5. Given that the usage of Facebook’s platform to spread incitement and direct calls to violence is not just a violation of the Anti-Terror Law but also a clear violation of Facebook’s Community Guidelines, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported the posts to Facebook, and demanded that Facebook immediately close all the Fatah pages that incite to terror. PMW’s letter to Facebook is attached as Appendix B. Facebook chose to ignore the demand, and during all the days of violence and terror that are continuing to this day, Facebook is continuing to publish the calls to terror for Fatah. Thus, Facebook is an effective and central mechanism for publishing calls to violence and terror to the 234,305 followers, on just its official page alone.
6. Clause 24(b)(1) of the Anti-Terror Law determines that whoever “publishes direct calls to commit acts of terror” is liable to 5 years of imprisonment.
7. It should be noted that shortly before Fatah disseminated its call to violence via Facebook, and even before the outbreak of the violent incidents at the Temple Mount, Facebook allowed it to broadcast a hateful video in which Palestinian Authority and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas urges Palestinians to prevent “in any way whatsoever” the entry of Jews to the Temple Mount (in Abbas’ words the entire Temple Mount compound is “the Al-Aqsa Mosque”). According to Abbas, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre belong to the Palestinians only, and the Jews “have no right to defile it.”
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas: “It's not enough for us to say: ‘There are those carrying out Ribat’ (i.e., religious conflict over land claimed to be Islamic). We must all carry out Ribat in the Al-Aqsa [Mosque]. It's not enough for us to say: ‘The settlers have arrived [at the Mosque].’ They have come, and they must not come to the Sanctuary (i.e., Temple Mount). We have to prevent them, in any way whatsoever, from entering the Sanctuary. This is our Sanctuary, our Al-Aqsa and our Church [of the Holy Sepulchre]. They have no right to enter it. They have no right to defile it. We must prevent them. Let us stand before them with chests bared to protect our holy places.”
Note, that in Abbas’ words all Jews who want to express their religious beliefs on the Temple Mount are “settlers”. This video, which comes from official PA TV, was broadcast on the official Facebook page of the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture on April 23, 2021.
The video can be watched at the following link:
8. Only two days later, on April 25, 2021, Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi published a post in which he expressed his appreciation for the young terrorists who clashed with Israeli Police. Tirawi added:
“The occupation government is sponsoring the invasions of the settlers into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, organizing them, and providing them with defense and protection to enable their acts of aggression, which are expressed by defiling the Al-Aqsa Mosque and providing legal authorization for the entry of the settlers into the Al-Aqsa Mosque plazas, as preparation for its division and for full control over its management, and in order to enable the Jewish religious extremists to begin carrying out their plans that seek to expropriate [the Al-Aqsa Mosque] and build the alleged Temple in its place, while exploiting the world’s preoccupation with its affairs, in the shadow of the fracture in the Arab position…”
This incitement was also published on Facebook:
9. On April 26, 2021, Fatah published another post on Facebook that encouraged Palestinian minors to participate in acts of terror through an image in which minors, one of them masked, are seen throwing objects.
Posted text: “Do not look at my young age. Look at the size of the homeland in my heart
[Fatah] Commission of Information and Culture”
The words “Do not look at my young age. Look at the size of the homeland in my heart” were repeated in the image itself.
10. Under these circumstances, there cannot be a shadow of a doubt, that at a time when Jerusalem is burning and the level of violence is rising, the only goal of publishing Fatah’s call “to raise the level of confrontation” is incitement to commit acts of terror.
11. In fact, Fatah’s Facebook post that called to raise the level of confrontation was published on May 8 and two days later, May 10, – was the day on which the level of violence rose significantly.
12. May 10 was specifically chosen by Fatah as the day for increasing violence since that was the day on which Israel celebrated the historic unification of Jerusalem.
13. Needless to say the acts that were committed by the terrorists, including serious acts of violence at the Temple Mount, the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, and the Old City of Jerusalem, meet the definition of the term “act of terror,” as determined by clause 2 of the Anti-Terror Law.
14. What is more, during the wave of violence Facebook provided Fatah with a convenient platform to continue spreading additional incitement and calls for violence.
15. On May 10, 2021, Fatah called on the masses of Nablus, through Facebook, to go out and participate in clashes against Israeli Army forces – “Let us set the ground on fire under the occupation’s feet”:
“As a sign of support for the rebelling residents of Jerusalem and for the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and as a sign of resistance to the [Israeli] break-ins into it and its desecration by the extremist settlers, the national action factions in the Nablus district call on you to escalate the resistance on the seam lines with the occupation and with the settlements. We call on the masses of Nablus to come to the Hawara military checkpoint tonight [May 10, 2021] at precisely 9:30 p.m. so that the occupation will be made to hear the voice of the resistance, and in order to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and to support its rebelling young people. The gathering will be in front of the Kia [car] company.
Let us set the ground on fire under the occupation’s feet.”
The call to violence can be seen in the following link:
16. On May 12, 2021, Fatah published a video on Facebook glorifying and inciting to violence. Under the title “The fire has ignited and the rifle has sung; O homeland, ask for the young people and hope,” on a background of images of clashes with Israeli Security Forces, and amid a volatile situation on the ground, Fatah incited the masses by saying:
“The fire has ignited from Acre to Tira (i.e., Israeli cities)
A handful of children who were raised on a mat
And they have grown older and not forgotten the homeland
Who could forget the Paradise of Palestine?
The fire has ignited, honor, honor,
The Palestinians, together with all the heroes
Self-sacrificing fighters have appeared, and woe to those who ignore it
The dawn of freedom is painted with blood.”
The video can be viewed at the following link:
17. On May 14, 2021, Fatah published an update on Facebook as follows:
“Fatah emphasized that mass processions are now coming out from all the Palestinian cities in order to wage confrontations with the occupation at all the friction points at the call of all the Fatah branches…”
The update can be seen at the following link:
At the same time, Fatah published a song on Facebook praising dead terrorists going up to Jerusalem:
“Millions of Martyrs are marching to Jerusalem
Allahu Akbar (i.e., “Allah is greatest”), Allahu Akbar
Millions of Martyrs are marching to Jerusalem
Happy are you, O mother of the Martyr
If only my mother was in your place.”
The song can be watched on the following link:
18. On May 15, 2021, Fatah published more incitement on Facebook and an additional call to violence. In the post, which was also directed at Israeli Arabs, Fatah called:
“To come out in processions of rage in all the cities, villages, and refugee camps, to continue the preparedness and confrontation on the seam lines and bypass roads with all possible means.”
This call to violence can be seen at the following link:
19. To complete the picture, we would note, that this is not the only crime that the Facebook and its CEO are helping Fatah to commit. Fatah’s various Facebook pages are full of posts containing praise for various terrorists, including (just from the beginning of April 2021):
- 10 different posts praising terrorist Khalil Al-Wazir (known by his nickname “Abu Jihad”), who (according to the Palestinians) was responsible for the murder of 125 Israeli citizens in terror attacks. See here:
- One post praising terrorist Muhammad Oudeh (known by his nickname “Abu Daoud”) who took part in planning and committing the murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics:
- 4 posts praising terrorist Marwan Zalum who was responsible for many terror attacks in the Hebron area: He sent the terrorist who in a shooting attack murdered the infant Shalhevet Pass in her stroller on March 26, 2001; provided the explosive device used in a suicide attack at the entrance to Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda open market on April 12, 2002, in which 6 Israelis were murdered and 80 wounded; organized the planting of a bomb in Adorai'im, south of Hebron, which murdered Israeli soldier Shai Cohen on July 9, 2001; and initiated a shooting attack at the entrance to Kiryat Arba on July 12, 2001, in which 1 person was murdered.
20. Beyond everything mentioned above, Facebook even helped Fatah’s attempts to obstruct the investigation of a terror attack. Shortly after the shooting attack on May 2, 2021, in which three people were wounded – one of whom, Yehuda Guetta, later died of his wounds - one of Fatah’s Facebook pages published a call to residents of the area in which it urged them to destroy evidence:
“Our lauded people, honored members of our people, we call on you to get rid of the contents that were stored in the [security] cameras of your homes or your businesses today, and not to transfer any media content among yourselves that the occupation (i.e., Israel) is spreading.”
This call to obstruct the criminal investigation was published at the following link:
21. Given that Facebook and Ms. Soffer-Teeni have decided to continue serving as a platform for the Fatah organization to publish calls to violence and terror, and are even refusing to remove the Fatah organization’s posts inciting to terror and violence, despite the fact that the content of the posts was brought to their attention, it must be assumed that this was done as a conscious decision and as partnership with the Fatah organization to spread incitement to terror.
22. And given that Facebook is not closing the Fatah pages and is refusing to remove Fatah’s posts praising and glorifying terrorist murderers, and is even aiding Fatah in disrupting the investigation of a terror attack, it must be assumed that this was done as a conscious decision and as partnership between the Facebook and Fatah.
23. Based on the aforementioned, we demand that an investigation be launched against the Facebook and its CEO.
Itamar Marcus Maurice Hirsch
Director Director of Legal Strategies
Palestinian Media Watch Palestinian Media Watch