Daily Israel Report

Facebook Makes an About-Face

Popular social networking internet site Facebook has reversed its decision to delete “Israel” as home country for residents of Judea and Samaria.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 3/18/2008, 9:14 AM

The popular international social networking website “Facebook” announced late Monday it has returned to its former policy of listing Israel as the home country of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria (Yesha).

Thousands of Israeli Facebook users living in Yesha protested vehemently last week when their home country listing was switched to “Palestine.” Facebook employees explained that the change had been made after consultations with United Nations personnel.
 
The change took place a scant few days after a Palestinian Authority Arab resident of the Jabel Mukabar suburb of the capital slaughtered eight young yeshiva students at the Merkaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Legal Action was Threatened
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, National Vice President of the Coalition of Jewish Concerns (Amcha) in Washington D.C. expressed outrage at the change and said his group would look into the possibility of taking legal action.

“This contradictory policy strikes me as a clear sign of bias, defamation and improper conduct,” he said, adding that his group was exploring legal options on the matter.

“We are very concerned that Facebook has brought its wrongheaded political views into its vibrant internet community,” he told Arutz-7.

“On the one hand, they are allowing a murderer of students studying in a library to have a platform for his horrific act by means of a Facebook group praising him as a martyr. On the other hand, they are making a radical political statement and operating with explicit bias by not allowing residents of Judea and Samaria to identify themselves as living in Israel,” he pointed out.

“This is hypocritical and very possibly exposes them to legal liability,” he added.

Herzfeld began to explore the option of a class action lawsuit against the internet site to pressure it to return to its former policy. “Our attorney, first amendment expert Steve Lieberman, as well as a team of lawyers looking into this matter,” he said. “We hope to move forward with formal legal pressure within a month.”

It didn’t take a month. 

Facebook announced late Monday that it will now allow users in Judea and Samaria to select either “Israel” or “Palestine” as their home country. The second option remained after thousands of Arab users threatened to close their accounts if “Palestine” was removed.

Israeli Membership Figures Skyrocketing
In February, the site reported an 80 percent increase in its Israeli membership over the prior three months.

More than 382,000 Israelis had joined the site since November, when data showed only 210,000 Israeli users. The figure represents more than 5 percent of Israel’s entire population.

More than 57 million users access Facebook worldwide.