After I Declared That ‘Palestinian Lives Matter,’ Facebook Immediately Closed My Page

The latest round of war between the Palestinian people and Israel has been raging for days with no end in sight. Although the common belief is that this round began after Israel tried to evict 12 Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which was indeed an important factor in raising the tension between the two people, the root cause of the problem is the apartheid-like system that Israel has set up in East Jerusalem and the West Bank for the Palestinian people, whereby they are mistreated and discriminated by Israel and its security forces, evicted from their homes, farms, and orchards, and their drinking water resources are used for consumption within Israel.

Indeed, the first spark for current war had its root in the same. In the evening of April 13, the first night in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin was delivering a speech at the "Western Wall" below the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest place, in honor of Israel’s "Memorial Day," the day people of Israel pay their respect to those who lost their lives for their country’s independence. As he was speaking, Muslim were also saying their evening prayers in the Mosque. Fearing that Rivlin’s speech would be drown out by the Palestinians’ prayers, "a squad of Israeli police officers entered the [Al]-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, brushed the Palestinian attendants aside and strode across its vast limestone courtyard. Then they cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful from four medieval minarets," as the New York Times reported, That angered the Palestinians and provided the first impetus for the Palestinians’ protests and the present cycle of violence.

As of the time of writing this article, at least 200 Palestinians, including 59 children and 35 women, most if not all of them mothers of the same children, have been killed and more than 1300 injured in the Gaza strip by Israel bombings, in retaliation for rocket attacks by Hamas, the Palestinian group that runs Gaza. Another 13 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied territories in the West Bank. Ten Israeli, including two children, have also lost their lives. Bombing by Israel is destroying Gaza, which was already suffering from a grave state of economy, and the surge Corona Virus. The fear is that Israel’s bombing will make the already very difficult task of caring for the Covid-19 patients in Gaza practically impossible, when everyone is running for their lives, trying to escape Israel’s bombing.

Naturally, the plights of the Palestinians and their suffering under Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the blockade and bombing of Gaza, the "world’s largest open-air prison" with its 2.05 million people by Israel, have generated huge sympathies around the world for them. Large-scale demonstrations have been held in the United States and around the world to protest Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians and its indiscriminate bombing of Gaza.

I, a practicing Muslim, am no different. I have the deepest sympathies for the Palestinian people and their struggle. I had hoped for a long time that the "two-state solution" would materialize, whereby the peoples of Israel and Palestine can live side-by-side in peace in their own independent states. Not only are my hopes have been evaporating, and despair has been overtaking me, I am afraid that the situation will become worse, much worse, without any hope for it to eventually get better.

Given that the vast majority of the mainstream U.S. media are pro-Israel, the only place that people like me can express their sympathies for the Palestinians is social networks. Thus, I turned to my Facebook page to write about the situations. In the first two posts I emphasized that,

"I am completely opposed to Hamas attacking Israel with rockets. One has to have a long view of this problem. Such attacks will not help the cause of peace and the Palestinians’ aspirations for their independent country; will give Israel’s hard right more excuse to try to wipe out the Palestinians, and will cause only more bloodsheds. Hamas must refrain from any military attacks, which only "justifies" the tired claim that "Israel has a right to defend itself." Let the struggle be peaceful, so that the world can watch and understand with laser focus the true root cause of the current war and the previous ones, namely, Israel’s attempt to evict the Palestinians from their homes, their occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and mistreating and discriminating against the Palestinians in their own land. This is not about Hamas and Israel, but about the plights of the Palestinian people living under military occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem."

My Facebook page has a relatively large number of readers, and after I wrote the above in my first two posts about the war, a large number of them protested, with some even accusing me of becoming "too Westernized." Despite this, I repeated the same in my next post about the war, and wrote in my last post,

"Just as "Black Lives Matter" has become the symbol of the struggle against discrimination and police brutality against black people in the United States, let us make "Palestinian Lives Matter" the global symbol and unifying theme for worldwide support for the Palestinian people."

Almost immediately after I posted this, Facebook closed my page. The excuse? Facebook supposedly does not allow posts that are tantamount to "hate speech" and encourage violence, discrimination, and xenophobia. But none of my posts had a single word encouraging any of these, even indirectly. In fact, I emphasized emphatically that I am opposed to violence being used by Palestinian people, even in the face of their brutal treatment by Israel. I support peaceful struggle by the Palestinian people. In fact, if anything, I believe use of violence harms Palestinians’ struggle for self-determination and having an independent state of their own.

I am not alone in this. Facebook has been deleting posts that support the Palestinian people and, like my own page, has been closing their supporters’ pages. The Intercept has reported that since 2019 Facebook has had a secret rule regarding the word "Zionism," by which it deletes posts using the word in support of the Palestinians, or at the very least limits access to such posts. Instagram, a subsidiary of Facebook, and Twitter have also been deleting posts that are pro-Palestinians. Although both claimed that "system error" caused the deletions, critics believe that their censorship is continuing.

But the struggle will continue. A Persian proverb says, "When one door shuts, another opens." Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can close pages and channels of supporters of the rights of the Palestinian people. The US mainstream media can try to distort the present struggle as "Hamas versus Israel." The Biden administration, like its predecessors, can continue giving Israel $3.8 billion annually in military aid, and Israel can bomb the headquarters of Al-Jazeera and the Associated Press in Gaza in order to prevent accurate reporting. But cell phones can still instantly send pictures of the horror in Gaza and the Occupied Territories, the demolished homes and schools in the refugee camps, and the world is increasingly aware of what is being done to the Palestinian people. No one can prevent their struggle from moving forward.

Palestinian lives matter.

Muhammad Sahimi, a Professor at the University of Southern California, analyzes the political developments in Iran and the Middle East.

Author: Muhammad Sahimi

Muhammad Sahimi, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and the NIOC Chair in Petroleum Engineering at the University of Southern California, is co-founder and editor of the website, Iran News & Middle East Reports.