After a number of controversial posts on Facebook and other websites in recent months, the Israeli military has ordered its commanders to cut off access to the internet for nearly every computer accessed by soldiers.The move comes after the Israeli Attorney General ordered the investigation of several Israeli Facebook Groups for racist, anti-Arab incitement in January. A number of incidents involving Israeli soldiers posting photos and videos of themselves humiliating and abusing Palestinians while serving in the West Bank and Gaza Strip also surfaced in the last few months.
In one offending video, Israeli soldiers staged a ‘dance video’ while on patrol in downtown Hebron, an area rife with tensions and violence between the indigenous Palestinians and a group of Israeli settlers who took over a number of Palestinian homes in the middle of the city over the last fifteen years.
The Israeli military has also charged soldiers with posting classified information, or sharing information with reporters, on several occasions.
Israeli officials have dubbed the internet shutdown operation “Global Village”, and say that by shutting down soldiers’ access to the internet they will improve security and save money.
One of the Facebook groups investigated in January was called “Death to all Arabs”, and was founded by Israeli soldiers. The group’s profile included the statement, ‘We need to kill them one by one…. Dead Arab= Good Arab.’
The Israeli police, however, continue to have full access to the internet on duty – despite recent controversy surrounding their failure to delete racist, offensive comments from their official Facebook page. Some of the comments include death threats against specific detainees, or anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric, such as ‘They have to be sprayed like cockroaches;’ ‘Every stinking SOB Muslim who dies is a holiday for me.’
A border police officer recently charged with abusing Palestinian teenagers had posted racist comments against Arabs and offensive photos on her facebook page, calling for attacks against Arabs just before she badly beat a Palestinian youth.
The issue of Facebook has been a contentious one in Israel for years – settlers complained to the company two years ago when their location was listed as ‘Palestine’ and not ‘Israel’, but Facebook quickly conceded to the complaints, and Brandee Barker, Facebook’s director of communications, told settlers that Facebook would be happy to let them list ‘Israel’ as their location.
Lieutenant-Colonal Gadi [no first name given] was quoted by the Israeli daily Ha’aretz as saying that the soldiers needed to have their internet access cut because “The IDF must protect its information in light of the growing threat”. The semi-anonymous officer added that Facebook is a strategic resource for Israeli intelligence services, who use it to monitor and infiltrate Palestinian support groups.