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Amid Anti-BDS Pressure, Facebook Israel Appoints Long-Time Netanyahu Advisor To Policy Post

The move comes amid calls for Israel’s legislature, the Knesset, to criminalize criticism of Israel on Facebook.

JERUSALEM — An advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking a top post at Facebook amid calls for increased censorship on the social network.

Facebook recently announced that Jordana Cutler would head policy and communications at the social media giant’s Israel office. Cutler currently works as the chief of staff for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and is a long-time advisor to the prime minister.

“The appointment comes amidst growing Israeli government frenzy concerning incitement allegations and BDS, the global non-violent movement against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, whose often viral presence online exposes Israeli human rights violations,” wrote Dorgham Abusalim, a foreign policy analyst at Mondoweiss, on Monday.

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The international success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has led to increased efforts to ban the movement by the Israeli government and its allies. Abusalim reported that Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of public security, strategic affairs and information, linked Cutler’s new job title to legislative efforts to ban BDS during a recent policy discussion at IDC Herzliya, an Israeli think tank.

“There will now be real price to pay for someone working against their own country in order to isolate it from the rest of the world,” Erdan said during a speech opening the panel, “Combatting Boycott Initiatives Against Israel,” Abusalim reported. In the speech, Erdan also noted that he’d formed “a legal team, together with the Ministry of Justice, that will promote governmental legislation on the matter.”

Erdan praised Cutler’s new position as “an advance in dialogue between the State of Israel and Facebook.”

Remarks by Erdan and other Israeli officials have attempted to link criticism of Israel on social media to a series of knife attacks against Israeli soldiers and residents of illegal settlements in the West Bank, in part because videos of the disproportionate response to some of these attacks have gone viral.
“Facebook realizes that it has a responsibility to monitor its platform and remove content. I hope it will be regulated for good. If not – they will face legislation, and not only in Israel … anyone who harms the State of Israel must understand that there will be consequences,” Erdan said.

Israel continues to expand its settlements into Palestinian territory despite international condemnation, and Israeli settlers are linked to an epidemic of violence against the indigenous population of the region.

The International Middle East Media Center reported last week that “[o]ver 150 Palestinians have been arrested and accused of ‘incitement’ for posting on social media, most commonly for posts in support of Palestinian resistance or with praise or mourning for Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces.”

New regulations like those being proposed by Erdan could allow authorities to crack down on Israelis supporting BDS or other Palestinian liberation movements.

Abusalim concluded that the Israeli government sees Cutler’s new job as a way to block BDS without resorting to new laws — an effort that Abusalim believes will ultimately prove fruitless.

“Hiring Cutler is yet another attempt at stemming an inevitable wave of change, simply because social networks are neither a cause of BDS’ success nor Israel’s concerns,” he wrote.

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Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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