YouTube restores rabbi's channel after censorship accusations

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu's YouTube channel restored. Decision to remove his videos aroused suspicions of anti-right wing bias.

Tzvi Lev ,

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
Flash 90

Google Israel has decided to restore the YouTube channel of Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu a day after removing his 900 Torah lessons from the popular video-sharing site.

Rabbi Eliyahu's YouTube channel had suddenly been removed on Wednesday without explanation and the rabbi's followers accused YouTube of punishing him for his controversial views regarding women's integration in the IDF.

Rabbi Eliyahu has been one of the most prominent critics of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot over his efforts to expand mixed-gender combat units. Rabbi Eliyahu was recently banned from IDF bases after calling for Eizenkot to be fired.

“We hope this isn’t another step in the attempt to shut the mouths from the side of those who have already harassed the rabbi in the past and attempted to fire him several times without success," a source close to the rabbi told the Religious Zionist Srugim website.

On Thursday, Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich penned a letter to Google Israel CEO Meir Brand demanding to know why Rabbi Eliyahu's videos had been removed from the site.

"It has come to my attention that the YouTube channel of the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, has been suspended, and I am addressing you in order to understand why the page on which the rabbi's Torah lessons are removed has been removed and why the content has been blocked," wrote Smotrich.

"As someone who understands the importance of freedom of expression in a democratic country, I can not imagine that there was a deliberate censorship here, and I will be happy to see that this is a mistake and that the channel will be returned."

YouTube and other social media giants have come under increasingly harsh criticism over alleged censorship of right-wing personalities. In October, prominent conservative commentator Dennis Prager sued YouTube for restricting many videos from his popular Prager University channel.

On Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lambasted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a Congressional hearing with the social media giant's founder. Cruz listed a number of examples he said was evidence of Facebook's bias, including the recent removal of the right-wing African American duo 'Diamond and Silk' . “To a great many Americans, that appears to be a pervasive pattern of political bias,” Cruz said.