Facebook’s barely concealed anti-Semitism

I hold no grudge against Facebook for suspending me for 24 hours after I called anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour a “sewer rat”. That was fair. The punishment was not too harsh, and no one should use such dehumanizing language on Facebook, even though Sarsour is considered by many to be an anti-Semite and even an anti-Semitic terrorist.

But does that mean that Facebook forbids all hateful language? Far from it, unfortunately. While insulting someone that many consider an anti-Semite is unacceptable, Facebook chooses to allow widespread anti-Semitic speech.

Cartoon kindly provided by Seth Johnston

Facebook accepts hatred against the whole Jewish nation, and it accepts Holocaust denial without batting an eye. It appears to have made a small effort to remove blatant pro-terrorist content, but hatred against the one and only Jewish state is widespread. Facebook groups and pages that promote hatred against Israel are many, even if they lack imagination since 27 groups are simply called “I hate Israel”.

Facebook does not concern itself with the fact that this wholesale hatred against the Jewish state is thinly disguised anti-Semitism, but even when the disguise falls off, Facebook often accepts blatant anti-Semitism. One example is a cartoon of two Arabs hanging a Jew, which Facebook refused to take down. Another example is the anti-Semitic page “Jewish Ritual Murder” which Facebook refused for years to take down, despite many complaints, including by the Anti-Defamation League, until January 2018 when it finally took it down.

Clearly for Facebook, dehumanizing an individual, even a controversial public figure, is less acceptable than dehumanizing the whole Jewish nation composed of millions of people. Perhaps Facebook executives should go to Israel or even look at pictures of Israeli cities, such as this photo of Tel Aviv at night. Is hatred against a whole nation composed of many different individuals truly more acceptable than hatred against one public figure?

If Facebook were to address its failure to block blatant anti-Semitic content, as it has timidly started to do by removing the “Jewish Ritual Murder” page, Facebook would still be nowhere close to addressing anti-Semitic content. This is because it does not see the most common form of anti-Semitism today – hatred of the Jewish state – as contrary to its “community standards”.

One might think that Facebook’s behavior is the result of poorly written “community standards”, but this is not the case. Facebook’s standards on hate speech are reasonably comprehensive, and they state, “We do not allow hate speech on Facebook […]. We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.”

Based on Facebook’s own standard, hate speech against Israel should not be allowed because it is hate speech against all people of a specific “religious affiliation”, as Israel is the one and only nation-state of the Jews. But even if Facebook does not accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, hate speech should not be allowed when directed against all people of a specific “ethnicity”. And even if Facebook does not accept that Israelis are an ethnicity, hate speech should not be allowed when directed against all people of a specific “national origin”.

Facebook is either incapable of understanding its own standards on hate speech, or it has convinced itself that Israelis are neither a religious group, nor an ethnic group, nor even a national group. Facebook is therefore either dumb or very dumb.

Which leads me to wonder whether there is a far simpler explanation for Facebook’s behavior, an explanation that is as old as Judaism itself – maybe Facebook is simply anti-Semitic.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere. Fred Maroun writes for Gatestone Institute.
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