Facebook to consider adding “Zionist” to hate speech policy

Lina B.

Date published: Thu, 28 January 21

Facebook is considering a plan that to add the word “Zionist” to its hate speech policy. The Israeli government is demanding Facebook to add the word, claiming that this will fight anti-Semitism. Facebook has stated they will be making a decision by the end of February of 2021 on whether “Zionist” will be included in the hate speech policy. 

Many activists and organizations around the world are protesting this change. MPower Change has stated that, “Shutting down conversations online that use the word “Zionist” as hate speech is an enormous risk for anyone fighting for Palestinian liberation — not to mention a move that would block the ability of Palestinians living under apartheid to communicate with each other and the world.”

In order to take action, please sign the petition here urging Facebook to review the decision, and to not include “Zionist” under hate speech. This campaign is titled “Facebook, We Need to Talk,” organized by human rights activists around the world. It includes an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, explaining the implications of the proposed decision.

Zionist is not a synonym for Jew or Jewish, many activists are stating. The policy would shut down conversations about Zionists and Zionism as anti-Semitic, undermining efforts to dismantle real antisemitism. A statement included in the petition says, “many antisemites, especially among white supremacists and evangelical Christian Zionists, explicitly support Zionism and Israel, while engaging in speech and actions that dehumanize, insult and isolate Jewish people. Importantly, this move will prohibit Palestinians from sharing their daily experiences and histories with the world, be it a photo of the keys to their grandparent’s house lost when attacked by Zionist militias in 1948, or a livestream of Zionist settlers attacking their olive trees in 2021. And it would prevent Jewish users from discussing their relationships to Zionist political ideology.”

The Jewish Voice for Peace has describes Zionism as a political ideology and movement, emphasizing that Zionist is not a proxy word for Jew. Criticism of Zionist ideology and policies is not anti-Semitic, and the decision by Facebook would inherently symbolize siding against Palestinians. Under this new restriction, many Palestinians will not be able to speak about their family history, current situation, or their identity without being deemed anti-Semitic. Many people have also stressed that Facebook should instead start imposing stricter restrictions on white supremacist groups rather than Palestinians living under apartheid. 

The human rights groups state eloquently, “We cannot dismantle antisemitism if we are blocked from voicing our opinions and sharing our experiences with each other,” the groups concluded. “We can discuss, debate, and even disagree, as long as we share the belief that all of us deserve safety, freedom, and dignity. We ask Facebook to not erect barriers impeding users from connecting with each other as we engage in this work.”