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YouTube becomes Israel’s new battleground against Palestinians

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Once it fell to politicians and diplomats to solve international conflicts. Now, according to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responsibility lies with social media.

Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, headed off to Silicon Valley to meet senior executives at Google and its subsidiary YouTube late last month. Her task was to persuade them that, for the sake of peace, they must censor the growing number of Palestinian videos posted on YouTube.

Netanyahu claims these videos spur other Palestinians to carry out attacks, exemplified by the weeks of stabbings and car rammings against Israeli soldiers and civilians.

After the meeting, the foreign ministry issued a press release claiming Google had joined Israel’s “war against incitement”, and would establish a “joint apparatus” to prevent the posting of “inflammatory” videos. Google denied last week that any agreement was reached.

On other fronts of this so-called war, the Israeli army has shut down three West Bank radio stations, accusing them of fomenting unrest. And inside Israel, officials have shut a newspaper and a separate website catering to Israel’s large Palestinian minority.

Meanwhile, Palestinians, including children, are being arrested over their Facebook posts. Others accused by Netanyahu of spreading terror-like incitement include Hamas, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian education system, Palestinian parties in Israel’s parliament and human rights organisations.

There is a deep cynicism at work here.

True, Palestinians are enraged by footage showing their compatriots shot or executed by Israelis, often after they have been disarmed or cornered, or – in the case of two teenage girls last month – badly injured.

But in many cases such videos are posted not by Palestinians but by ordinary Israelis or their government as proof of a supposed Palestinian “barbarism”.

Most Palestinian videos are simply a record of their bitter experiences of occupation at the hands of soldiers and settlers. It is these experiences, not the videos, that drive Palestinians to breaking point.

A “war on incitement” waged through YouTube and Facebook won’t change Palestinian suffering. But it may, Netanyahu presumably hopes, conceal Israel’s brutality from the eyes of the world.

Unrest has escalated of late not because of social media but because Palestinians, faced with an Israeli government implacably opposed to ending the occupation, are losing all hope.

Israel’s generals have warned Netanyahu that without a diplomatic process there will be no end to the attacks. Desperate to obscure this obvious truth, the Israeli right needs to blame everything apart from its own uncompromising ideology.

Israel’s battle against “incitement” is not just meant to deflect attention from the right’s failing policies. It is also a form of incitement itself, and it is no surprise the campaign is led by two masters of provocation: Netanyahu and Hotovely.

Israel has accused Palestinians of incitement for suggesting that Al Aqsa, the much-revered mosque in Jerusalem, is under threat, yet Hotovely recently said her “dream” was to see the Israeli flag flying at Al Aqsa.

There was a reminder, too, of Netanyahu’s own dismal record. An investigation was dropped last month against the prime minister over his warnings, using Israeli terminology for a military emergency, that Palestinian citizens were coming out “in droves” to vote in March’s general election.

A consequence of government-inspired incitement is an ever uglier climate. In many towns, crowds calling “death to the Arabs” barely raise an eyebrow any more.

The justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, has backed a bill to stigmatise Israeli human-rights groups that receive foreign, mostly European, funding. And the culture minister, Miri Regev, demanded that films showing in an Israeli festival about the Nakba, the Palestinians’ mass dispossession in 1948, be vetted for “incitement” and the cinemas showing them threatened with defunding.

Public meetings with groups such as Breaking the Silence, Israeli army veterans who want to shed light on the occupation, are being cancelled under police pressure.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, is giving a free hand to far right news sites as they make false and pernicious claims.

One, Newsdesk Israel, took a four-year-old video of Palestinians revelling at their acceptance into the United Nations and repackaged it as footage of Palestinians celebrating ISIL’s massacres in Paris. Another fabricated report suggested Palestinian citizens were proselytising for ISIL by blasting its songs on their car stereos.

In fact, no target seems too big to avoid the Israeli right’s defamation – not even Europe, Israel’s largest trading partner.

Israeli politicians have misrepresented as a full-blown boycott the EU’s recent tepid move to label products from illegal West Bank settlements and thereby deny them special customs exemptions reserved for Israeli products. The right argues Israel is being uniquely punished by Europe, when in truth the EU has enforced economic sanctions, not just labelling, against 36 countries.

Incitement does indeed pose a threat to the future of Israelis and Palestinians. But it is to be found in the falsehoods promoted by Netanyahu and his ministers, not the bitter truths being posted on YouTube.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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19 Responses

  1. Marnie on December 7, 2015, 2:06 pm

    It isn’t just youtube under attack, but well-known “Women in Black” who were harrassed by police under the guise of “endangering state security” for videoing a counter-protest that included a couple soldiers. Two were arrested and released and their cameras and memory cards eventually released (after lawyer intervened). As the Women in Black broke no laws (at least as of now there isn’t such law, but as the zionist state is moving at warp speed to eliminate any rights to freedom of speech, assembly, thought and freedom to video a protest) the 2 were released without charges. I’m sure Ms. Hotovely and Ms. Shaked will work towards restricting freedom of speech by the end of the week, just another Hannukah miracle in the only democracy in the middle east, right? As the police/military were caught looking their usual stupid selves, instead of stating the Women in Black were innocent of any wrong, stated “attempts to create provocations will not make police any less diligent in carrying out their duty on behalf of the public”, IOW, another WTF response to a situation that involved no provocation nor required any diligence of the police.

    By +972 Blog
    |Published December 6, 2015
    When filming a protest ‘endangers state security’

    Anti-occupation activists say that two soldiers threatened them, and when they called police, the cops detained them instead — on suspicion of endangering state security.

    By Michael Salisbury-Corech

    Like every week the past 26 years, a group called “Women in Black” held a demonstration against the occupation in Jerusalem’s Paris Square last Friday. Across the street, around five people held a counter protest, which two Israeli soldiers eventually joined.

    At some point, the soldiers decided to cross the street, and according to Women in Black activists threatened them and demanded that they stop filming — because they are soldiers.

    Feeling threatened, the protesters called police. Some 15 minutes later, several officers arrived. The officers also threatened the Women in Black protesters that if they didn’t stop filming and delete their video that they would be detained on suspicion of “harming state security.”

    There is no law in Israel that forbids photographing or filming in a public space, even of soldiers. There is no small amount of case law upholding that principle. The activists tried to explain that to the officers — to no avail.

    When the activists refused to stop filming and delete their footage, two of them were indeed detained and taken to a police station at which point police confiscated their cameras.

    The activists were not ever questioned about any suspected crime and were released about 30 minutes after arriving at the police station. Officers refused to return their camera equipment and memory cards. Only after an attorney intervened did officers return the cameras and memory cards.

    +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, sent the video to a police spokesperson along with a number of questions: Does Israel Police believe that it is illegal to film or photograph soldiers on a public street? Do such photographs or footage constitute harm to state security in its view? And did police transfer the activists complaints about being threatened by the soldiers’ to military police.

    The only response we received was that “the film shows only part of the full picture, in which after a call to police, [officers] conducted an normal examination, during which the complaint was checked comprehensively, including with the appropriate professional ranks within the police, at the end of which nobody was arrested and nothing was seized.”

    The police spokesperson also added that “attempts to create provocations will not make police any less diligent in carrying out their duty on behalf of the public.” It was unclear to which provocation they referred: the activists, the soldiers or the police officers.

  2. annie on December 7, 2015, 2:08 pm

    the idea of incitement, the accusation, is a propaganda tool by design. it didn’t just start, it’s been a long time in the making. it’s a talking point. as israel incites it accuses it’s enemies of incitement. it’s all just a distraction/diversion to throw us off base.

    • Citizen on December 7, 2015, 2:29 pm

      Is there anything Israel does that’s not chock full of hypocrisy? Irony has lost its meaning in the face of Zionism Implemented.

    • JWalters on December 7, 2015, 3:52 pm

      Everything underhanded thing the Israelis and the GOP do they accuse their opponents of doing. I think this is to innoculate the public mind against that charge when it is rightfully leveled against them. People will think “they all do it”. It’s sinister forethought.

  3. JWalters on December 7, 2015, 3:48 pm

    YouTube is a NECESSARY defense against the mainstream media, which is already being strangled by Israel. YouTube is a bastion of free speech today. I hope the Google executives will study this issue thoroughly before succumbing to Israel’s pressure. Freedom of speech and REAL democracy is at stake.

  4. Ian Berman on December 7, 2015, 4:28 pm

    Is it possible to be the “only Democracy in the Middle East” when the rules of Democracy do not apply to everyone?

    I didn’t think so.

    • lysias on December 7, 2015, 7:03 pm

      The only excuse they have for saying that it’s not true to say that Israel has democracy in the same sense that South Africa had democracy is that the oppressed group is only a minority. And that’s increasingly less clear.

      • JLewisDickerson on December 8, 2015, 5:54 am

        This is where the two-state pretense/charade comes into play. The occupation is just “temporary” (despite the massive sums of money being spent to build all those Israeli, Jewish-only settlements in “Judea and Samaria”) pending the eventual, magical, glorious realization of the two-state solution when everything will instantly become absolutely hunky-dory (i.e., 100% certified kosher by the standards of democracies in the West). The Israelis are very, very, very anxious for all of this to come to fruition. If they only had a “partner for peace”! ! !
        Meanwhile, the Israelis have this wonderful bridge in Brooklyn they would like to sell us.

      • JLewisDickerson on December 8, 2015, 3:47 pm

        P.S. RE: “If they only had a ‘partner for peace’! ! ! ~ my snarkasm, from above

        THE UNSPOKEN REALITY: If only the far right-wing, rejectionist settlers had not taken over the Knesset and decided that it is far more important for Israel to keep “Judea and Samaria” than it is for Israel to be a democracy (perhaps because, as Sheldon Adelson recently opined, “the Talmud doesn’t say Israel has to be a democracy”)! ! !

        MY SNARKASTIC WHINE CONTINUES: If only Israel could have found a “partner for peace” back when the enlightened, dovish Labo(u)r Party governed Israel, and was desperately seeking Susan peace! If only there had not been “the three (face-saving) NOs of Kartoum”* by the Arabs back in 1967 in the wake of their humiliating inability to defend themselves when they had not only been attacked/invaded by Israel during the Six-Day War but, to add insult to injury, had been further insulted and humiliated by Israel when it later laughingly/Orwellianingly decreed unilaterally that it had not actually initiated the war since in reality Israel’s attack/invasion had actually been an “unavoidable, defensive, pre-emptive strike” absolutely, positively and critically necessary to prevent an indisputably imminent, horrendous holocaust potentially far worse than the one that had been perpetrated just a few years earlier by Hitler and the Nazis while much of the world pretty much “looked the other way”**.
        What a shame those Arabs “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, as the ‘smoother than silk’, über-Azkenazi, Labourite Abba Eban famously declared. [Soon afterward, Eban would begin prattling on and on incessantly, with what appeared to be a straight face (outwardly, at least), about the need for Israel to establish “security settlements” in the occupied West Bank. “Security settlements”, my ass! More like colonial settlements with a bit of an IDF patina, at least until the IDF would decide it no longer had any use for a particular “security settlement”, and consequently it could be turned over to the settlers!

        BUT THEN the IDF would decide a “security settlement” was needed in another part of the West Bank (just coincidentally atop a valuable water aquifer) and confiscate the land there, pave roads and put in infrastructure – only to decide a few years later that the IDF no longer needed it, and it also might as well just be turned over to the settlers.

        BUT THEN the IDF would decide a “security settlement” was needed in yet another part of the West Bank. Coincidentally the IDF decideded that not far from the new “security settlement” it also needed a new “closed military area” to use “for training”.***
        Also coindentally, the IDFs Civil Administration had made a coincidentially timely announcement to the effect that an area coincidentally near both the new “security settlement” and the new “closed military area” was to be designated as a “nature preserve”.
        ONE LAST COINCIDENCE: It just so happened that the combination of the new “security settlement”, the new “closed military area” and the new “nature preserve” was virtually guaranteed to completely block any growth of a Palestinian villiage that had appeared to have considerably more growth potential than most Palestinian villages (that is, until the Palestinian villiage became virtually ‘hemmed in’ by the new “security settlement”, the new “closed military area” and the new “nature preserve”).
        Oh well, like it says on the Morton Salt container: “When It Rains It Pours™”

        * Khartoum Resolution –
        “Another Tack: Those three no’s – reworded” | by Likudnik Sarah Honig of the right-wing J. Post | February 28, 2014
        LINK –

        ** E.G., Britain, ever on the lookout for the welfare of its empire and any additional colonial opportunities, decided it was more important to first challenge the German forces in North Africa; and the U.S. decided it was too burdened by other aspects of the war to reallocate resources for the bombing of railroad tracks being used by the Nazis to transport millions of Jews to the camps where (it was at least feared/suspected that) they were being exterminated by the Nazis as part of (what was at least suspected at the time to have been) a diabolically agressive, well-planned, systemic campaign of genocide that had been officially sactioned, mandated and orchestrated by the very highest officials of the Nazi government and their subordinates.

        *** While the “training” seemingly would not be related to the new, nearby “security settlement”, the IDF was unwilling or unable to say why the new “closed military area” was needed “for training”, who would be “trained” there, what kind of “training” would be done there, when the “training” would begin, how long the area would be a closed military area making it impossible for the Palestinian owners of the land to harvest the olive trees and otherwise cultivate their land, or even whether the Palestinians would ever again be able to use their land at all.
        Furthermore, the IDF was unwilling or unable to say who, if anyone, had requested that the area be closed “for training”, who made the decision to close the area “for training”, why/how that particular area was chosen to be closed “for training” or whether any other areas were considered as being equally or perhaps even better suited to being closed “for training”.

      • JLewisDickerson on December 8, 2015, 4:14 pm

        RE: “the ‘smoother than silk’, über-Azkenazi, Labourite Abba Eban” ~ me (from above)


  5. JLewisDickerson on December 8, 2015, 3:57 am

    RE: “On other fronts of this so-called war, the Israeli army has shut down three West Bank radio stations, accusing them of fomenting unrest. And inside Israel, officials have shut a newspaper and a separate website catering to Israel’s large Palestinian minority. . . Public meetings with groups such as Breaking the Silence, Israeli army veterans who want to shed light on the occupation, are being cancelled under police pressure. Netanyahu, meanwhile, is giving a free hand to far right news sites as they make false and pernicious claims.” ~ Jonathan Cook

    SEE: “Who Will Save Israel” | by Uri Avnery | | May 23, 2015

    [EXCERPTS] The battle is over. The dust has settled. A new government – partly ridiculous, partly terrifying – has been installed. . .
    . . . Now the situation inside Israel proper is about to change drastically.
    Two facts attest to this.

    First of all, Ayelet Shaked has been appointed Minister of Justice. One of the most extreme right-wing Israelis, she has not made a secret of the fact that she wants to destroy the independence of the Supreme Court, the last bastion of human rights. . .
    . . . PERHAPS WORSE is Netanyahu’s decision to retain for himself the Ministry of Communication.
    This ministry has always been disdained as a low-level office, reserved for political lightweights. Netanyahu’s dogged insistence on retaining it for himself is ominous.
    The communication Ministry controls all TV stations, and indirectly newspapers and other media. Since all Israeli media are in very bad shape financially, this control may become deadly.
    Netanyahu’s patron – some say owner – Sheldon Adelson, the would-be dictator of the US Republican party, already publishes a give-away newspaper in Israel, which has only one sole aim: to support Netanyahu personally against all enemies, including his competitors in his own Likud party. The paper – “Israel Hayom” (Israel Today) – is already Israel’s widest-circulation newspaper, with the American casino king pouring into it untold millions.
    Netanyahu is determined to break all opposition in the electronic and written media. Opposition commentators are well advised to look for jobs elsewhere . . .
    . . . One cannot avoid an odious analogy. One of the key terms in the Nazi lexicon was the atrocious German word Gleichschaltung – meaning connecting all media to the same energy source [SEE: Gleichschaltung @ Wikipedia – J.L.D. ]. All newspapers and radio stations (TV did not yet exist) were staffed with Nazis. Every morning, a Propaganda Ministry official by the name of Dr. Dietrich convened the editors and told them what tomorrow’s headlines, editorials etc. were to be.
    Netanyahu has already dismissed the chief of the TV department. We don’t yet know the name of our own Dr. Dietrich. . .


  6. Boomer on December 8, 2015, 6:15 am

    It isn’t just Israel. This morning (Tuesday) I heard a report on NPR about calls for American tech companies to do more to censor Islamic terrorists. They played a bit of Mrs. Clinton’s demands in that regard. Her demands are problematic in several ways. First, it would be technically problematic to do. But more importantly, it would have U.S. companies making judgments (under political pressure) about what speech is appropriate. They do this now to some extent, but evidently politicians will be pressing for more. Different countries have different ideas about what is appropriate, but Israel’s agenda and U.S. politicians’ agendas will blur together . . . no wait, that is already the case.

  7. Ossinev on December 8, 2015, 6:25 am

    “Israeli politicians have misrepresented as a full-blown boycott the EU’s recent tepid move to label products from illegal West Bank settlements and thereby deny them special customs exemptions reserved for Israeli products. The right argues Israel is being uniquely punished by Europe, when in truth the EU has enforced economic sanctions, not just labelling, against 36 countries”

    Nothing quite like witnessing narcissistic Fascists in panic mode. No cautious retreat,regroup,rethink of tactics and back to the Kampf . These Zionists have become so wrapped up in their Hasbara that they cannot separate it from reality and just keep plodding on with the same old themes of victimisation,being unfairly singled out and the other side be it the Palestinians,Europeans,Swedes,Danes you name it being guilty of incitement and falsehoods.

    Despite all the lies and bluster about European bias , double standards and interference,Europe really is their achilles heel because Zionist Israelis really do see themselves as “European” and they desperately want to be accepted as “European”. Thus they wet themselves whenever there is a threat to their hosting of European cultural and particularly sporting events.

    BDS IMHO should focus on the latter with a campaign to highlight the disgusting treatment of Palestinian individual sportsmen and women and Palestinian teams and the daily disruption to the sports development of Palestinian children – all paralleling Apartheid South Africa. If enough European sports people and sports teams can be persuaded to shun and boycott their Israeli counterparts then the reality of the consequences of their words and deeds may finally sink in. The naysayers will no doubt complain that it is wrong to conflate sport and politics – but the same was said in the case of South Africa.

    The knee jerk reaction to even the mildest European criticisms ref the occupation will soon I hope lead to a point where a high level European leader will break cover and simply state the obvious – if you hate us so much the pack your bags please and get the hell out of our free tariff zones , our science and cultural conventions and most of all our sports competitions and tournaments.


    • John O on December 8, 2015, 11:23 am

      There was a motion before FIFA a few months ago to have Israel kicked out, but it was scuppered by the initial raid by the Swiss police just as the delegates were assembling for their conference.

  8. SonofDaffyDuck on December 8, 2015, 9:37 am

    It is not enough to release this story. Someone must follow up to see if this silencing of inconvenient voices occurs and how widely spread it becomes.

    As we know, sources like the NYT and CBS either heavily censor themselves to eliminate the smell of Apartheid coming out of the Midle East. Both of them have deep ties to Zionism.

    To what extent and using what means Isreal is able to silence free speech in the case of other sources is a critical kind of information that the public must have.

  9. Ossinev on December 8, 2015, 12:48 pm

    @John O
    On the face of it the FIFA corruption probe did not affect the decision not to kick Israel out.
    As reported in Haaretz:
    “At the Congress, Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub announced that the Palestinians had decided to drop the bid. Then, the Congress passed an amended version of the Palestinian proposal, which called for the formation of a committee to look into freedom of movement of Palestinian soccer players. The committee would also look at Israeli racism and the status of Israeli league teams based in the West Bank”

    American financial pressure behind the scenes ? Who knows. Nitay a talented right winger of course trumpeted the decision as a victory for the Land of Creative football. It is only a matter of time of course before the issue surfaces again particularly if BDS and its supporters press the right buttons. Leaving aside the fact that restrictions on the movement of Palestinians including footballers and athletes are getting progressively worse the real chink in the Zionist armour is the status of Israeli league teams based in illegal settlements. The EU has already legislated that goods produced and manufactured in the occupied territories not be labeled as “Israeli”. Can`t be long before EU sporting associations follow suit and make it clear that illegal squatter individuals and teams cannot be labeled as “Israeli” in order to qualify for European competition. Nitay and his bunker brigade will no doubt hiss and rant as usual about victimisation and double standards but the cat will be out of the bag. The reason that this scenario has not arisen forcefully before is that the PA leadership at this stage of the conflict are still only making gestures of defiance and threats of legal challenge but in the background are ultimately driven by self interest ie their own personal self interest and do not wish to risk their comfortable salaried and 5 star hotel expenses lifestyle.Ergo Erekat has popped regularly in the last decade suggesting that the PA has reached the point where they will “hand back the keys” to Israel but it is just ongoing Nitay standard bluff.
    The PA are rapidly becoming an irrelevant embarassment in the conflict. What matters is growing outside awareness of the clinical oppression of the Palestinians and the deprivation of their rights to develop and participate in sport. Pressure from the likes of BDS and similar groups on sporting bodies in Europe will go a long way towards ostracizing their Israeli counterparts. Follow the example of Apartheid South Africa

  10. Tchoupitoulas on December 8, 2015, 2:59 pm

    Ugh. I hate to say it, but after reading this article the first thing I did was visit Wikipedia to review backgrounds of Google execs. The CEO is a Tamil. Larry Page’s mother is Jewish, but he does not readily self-identify as Jewish.

    Sergei Brin on the other hand is Russian and Jewish, and apparently experienced a good deal of anti-Semitism in Russia.

    Does anyone know what Brin’s political leanings are?

    So we will see.

    • Keith on December 8, 2015, 6:44 pm

      TCHOUPITOULAS- “I hate to say it, but after reading this article the first thing I did was visit Wikipedia to review backgrounds of Google execs.”

      Google became so big and powerful that they created a holding company (Alphabet) to manage the entire business. Eric Schmidt, who was the Google chairman is now the Alphabet chairman. Alphabet/Google is immensely powerful with upper level executives on the Council of Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, etc. Schmidt is a Democrat and worked for Obama. Alphabet/Google are shakers and movers in the global empire. You may be interested in reading “When Google Met Wikileaks,” by Julian Assange.

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