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.
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 realises 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.