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Opinion: Israel’s Facebook Panic | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Facebook logo is pictured at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California January 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

About a decade ago, the well-known Israeli novelist David Grossman described Israeli society as being in a perpetual fit of panic. Behind all of the manifestations of oppression and force Israel is employing against the Palestinians—from evictions and killings to arrests—it appears that the policy of justifying such practices under the pretext of the fear of another Holocaust has created a panicky Israeli state that is reproducing the past by excessively repeating some of the practices of the Nazis.

A recent source of panic for Israel has come from Palestinians posting on Facebook. There have been several cases of Palestinians being arrested or convicted for posting comments on social networking sites. This is what happened to a young Palestinian man who was arrested for posting that he wished to become a martyr. Despite evidence he was not involved in any militant acts and that he was just expressing his frustration, the young Palestinian was taken into preventive custody for five months.

After the recent Jerusalem synagogue attack and the subsequent sporadic tit-for-tat attacks by Israeli settlers and Palestinians, Israel has succumbed to another of its fits of panic, chasing a Facebook comment here and a Tweet there on the pretext that they amount to acts of incitement. Meanwhile, the state continues to ignore several Facebook pages run by Israeli hardliners publicly demanding the killing of Palestinians. The draft of Israel’s new anti-terrorism law is nothing but a continuation of the systematic discrimination against, and targeting of, Palestinians.

The last bout of Israeli panic has emerged in the form of the bill to declare Israel a Jewish state, which has been proposed to the Knesset. It directly targets the Arab minority, which accounts for one quarter of the Israeli population, undermining its identity and what remains of its rights. This racist proposal is not an isolated phenomenon; the Jewishness of the state of Israel is at the heart of the Zionist philosophy. Its proposal today is as a response to the growing Arab role in Israel, whether in terms of demography or political activism. Therefore, the draft law has been compared to the citizenship laws proposed in Europe in the 1930s, when Jews were racially discriminated against. The only difference today is that Israel is the one discriminating against others.

One hundred and eighteen years into Theodore Herzl’s dream, today the debate returns to its founding idea: the Jewishness of the state of Israel. If passed, the law will put Israel in a position comparable to that of Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic, namely a nationalistic state with a military tendency. Since the state cannot be exclusively Jewish and democratic at the same time, Israel would become a racist, colonial entity. The same country that is calling on the world to ensure its security is asking the international community to excuse its actions on the grounds of the injustice and oppression it suffered in the past.

Facebook is once again a mirror of Israel’s state of mind. But this time Israel is practicing what some of its citizens and their ancestors were victims of; Many Israeli intellectuals have summarized, albeit late in the day, the points of similarity between their state and the very worst of anti-Semites, the Nazis.