Ali Abunimah – Electronic Intifada Dec 10, 2018
Palestinian media released images of the Israeli commando unit discovered in Gaza. Israel’s military censor has banned Israeli media from showing these images.
The Electronic Intifada was forced by Twitter to delete a tweet linking to a story that has been subject to Israeli military censorship.
In recent days, other publications and individuals have faced the same demand, indicating that the social media firm has agreed to become an enforcement arm for Israel’s efforts to control information about potential war crimes and abuses of Palestinian rights.
It is another ominous sign of how monopolistic Silicon Valley corporations – especially Facebook and Google – that control what are in effect the public commons are colluding with governments to reassert control of information previously lost due to the freedom provided by the internet.
On Sunday, The Electronic Intifada was ordered by Twitter to delete a tweet linking to a story about Israel’s commando raid into Gaza last month that was foiled by the resistance group Hamas.
Like other media and individuals reporting on this story that was subject to Israeli military censorship, The Electronic Intifada is now apparently facing direct censorship by @Twitter. We were forced to remove this tweet. pic.twitter.com/XfFJkx2V56
— Electronic Intifada (@intifada) December 9, 2018
Seven Hamas fighters and one Israeli officer were killed after Palestinians confronted the raiding party, and the Israeli incursion provoked days of intense violence that teetered on the brink of full-scale war.
Days after foiling the Israeli raid, Hamas published photos from recovered identity documents it said were of the Israelis who took part in the attack.
The Israelis had reportedly entered Gaza disguised as humanitarian workers – potentially a war crime.
The Israeli military censor then issued a “rare statement in which it asked not to publish the information distributed by Hamas,” according to the newspaper Haaretz.
Israeli media, subject to mandatory censorship, have only published the photos with the faces of the suspected Israeli agents blurred out.
But other media not subject to Israeli censorship, including The Electronic Intifada, published the photos or circulated them on social media.
Twitter then began its campaign to suppress the images – almost certainly at the behest of Israel.
In its notice to The Electronic Intifada, Twitter asserted that The Electronic Intifada’s tweet violated the “Twitter Rules” but provided no specific explanation of how it did so.
The Electronic Intifada had no intention of violating any rules, but like other outlets, was simply reporting news as free and independent media are supposed to do.
The Palestinian outlet Quds News Network had its account temporarily locked by Twitter after publishing what it called “reports on the botched Israeli clandestine operation” in Gaza.
In response to Israeli demands, Twitter just removed the Arabic account of Quds News Network after QNN published reports on the botched Israeli clandestine operation in Khan Younes last month. pic.twitter.com/1CCtjPXrhG
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) December 5, 2018
Dr. Basem Naim, a former health minister in Gaza, told The Electronic Intifada on Sunday that he also had his Twitter account locked “because of a tweet with the photos of the special Israeli force” that raided Gaza. He said access to his account was restored after he removed the tweet.
Twitter user @ThisGaza was also forced by Twitter to remove several tweets containing images of the Israeli agents:
At the request of the Israeli enemy occupier, @Twitter stoops lower than Facebook to please Israel by deleting tweets from three weeks ago. This happened to several Palestinian accounts and came with suspension. #TwitterCensorsPalestine pic.twitter.com/OquCoWkED4
— Refaatesque (@ThisGaza) December 9, 2018
Writing in Arabic, Twitter user @Shejae3a also stated that their account had been temporarily suspended for posting images published by Palestinian resistance:
تويتر ينضم للفيسبوك بمحاربة المحتوى الفلسطيني، اليوم تم حظر حسابي من النشر لمدة ١٢ ساعة بسبب صورة للمقاومة الفلسطينية، تويتر من ايام بحذف وبحظر وهي المرة الاولى للموقع، يعني يبدو تويتر خضع لضغط الاحتلال كما الفيسبوك. pic.twitter.com/YOMpWyqjrj
— شجاعية (@shejae3a) December 7, 2018
Israel has been putting intense pressure on social media companies to comply with its censorship.
In March, Israeli justice minister Ayelet Shaked praised the “fruitful cooperation between Israel and Facebook, compared to the lack of cooperation by Twitter.”
But whatever resistance Twitter had been putting up to censorship by Israel, the company now appears to be as eager as Facebook to suppress information on behalf of an apartheid regime and military occupier.
A request for comment has been sent to Twitter.