The Role of Facebook in the Third Palestinian Intifada

Recently, a Facebook group calling for a third Palestinian intifada was created. In response, a counter-group entitled “Join the effort to delete the group ‘Third Palestinian Intifada,’” whose followers appear to be strong supporters of the Israeli state, has also manifested. After the Third Palestinian Intifada group reached over 350,000 members, it disappeared. It has reappeared again with fewer members, and Facebook continues to pull it down, while users continue creating new ones of the same title.   

While these are typical formats for Facebook groups of all themes, what can we expect of Palestinians as other countries in the region protest against their governments? And is this call for “intifada” non-violent as was the spirit of the Tunisian and Egyptian protests? 

The Arabic word “intifada,” which means “uprising” or “rebellion,” implies the overturning of occupation or of an occupier. It does not imply that the means should be violent, although public consciousness sometimes attaches this meaning to intifada as it relates to Palestine.

In Egypt, Facebook proved to be an essential tool for activists to easily and efficiently assemble in the movements leading up to the revolution, as well as during the revolution itself. Its growing popularity as a platform for activists in the region has introduced the term “Facebook Revolution” for this period of uprising.

As Internet activism has swept through the region in correspondence with political upheaval on the streets, the question of which Facebook groups to watch has been raised.

A look at the Palestinian Facebook group itself may not say much, especially as many Facebook groups are to be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, this group explicitly calls for the so-called third intifada to take place on 15 May 2011.

Palestine is unique in contrast with other countries in the region that have been calling for the dismantling of repressive regimes. At least through this Facebook group, Palestinians are calling for the end of occupation.

The history and the current situation in the Palestinian territories should seriously be taken into account when considering whether this might be a feasible movement. Whether Facebook’s role in Palestine at the moment is as important as it was for the April 6th movement in Egypt can be examined through some questions this group raises, such as why the administrators of Facebook have chosen to repeatedly pull this group off the site when activists from other countries in the region have incited peaceful movements via Facebook.

While it is impossible to predict whether an uprising of Palestinians will become violent, the group itself does not call for violence or use of arms. Those who “like” the group or comment on it, however, may have differing views of how this movement should be carried out. It remains unclear why Facebook has become involved in taking down this group while also turning a blind eye toward anti-Islam pages or groups calling for the burning of the Quran, or—what is more relevant to this case—comments of an extreme nature on groups that have been created to unite those of a particular opinion.

The question of whether a call to violence trumps freedom of speech in this special case is based on a false premise because of this presumption of violence associated with the idea of a particularly Palestinian “intifada.” If Palestinian civilians are serious about organizing a peaceful public uprising on 15 May, their use of Facebook as an instrument for this cause should not be inhibited.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons