Palestine Action: Crime or Reason?

Nov 20, 2020

Facebook (and other social media platforms) have recently been removing Palestine Action’s posts displaying Israeli arms firm Elbit Systems being targeted by activists. Facebook says the posts were removed because ‘direct action’ against violent companies ‘violates their rules of conduct by coordinating harm and promoting crime’. Let’s write that a different way: according to Facebook, direct action “promotes crime” against a perpetrator of extreme violence committing some of the worst crimes against humanity that this last seven decades has ever witnessed. There’s something clearly wrong here.

We first have to define what constitutes an act of ‘vandalism’. Interestingly, the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus names “vandalism” as ‘any activity that damages or destroys something that is good’: Facebook’s conducts and rules become very ‘unstuck’ here, because now we have the phrase “destroying something that is good”. Is Elbit good?

Elbit is one of Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer producing the most heinous of weapons, including, as it has recently been proved by Amnesty International, cluster bombs — highly illegal under international law and plainly one of the most barbaric weapons ever created. The list continues, from flechettes — pointed steel projectiles that fly archways, indiscriminately killing anyone within range, to white phosphorous, which literally strips the flesh off its victims inflicting the most agonising level of pain that most of us will, thankfully, never comprehend. From Palestine to Kashmir, this has been a well-documented cause of death and those unlucky enough to survive such an attack, suffer life-lasting excruciating pain in which the skin never fully heals but remains open to infection and secondary disease.

Unlike Palestine Action, Elbit has a free platform to markets its weapons of death, with multiple Facebook accounts, Twitter and other forms of social media, including several websites, hundreds of tags for search engines and of course, as a company, it is responsible for years of war crimes. Some may argue this, but they would most likely be either heavily-invested in munitions companies, pro-war, gun fanatics or, in pro-Israel circles, anti-Palestinian. If being any one of those things is not advocating violence, then what is? Is it possible to vandalise an arms company that produces this extreme level of suffering? Quite frankly, no. Preventing the designing and manufacture of such hideous, evil munitions, however this is done and whatever the method, is a moral duty. Red paint is hardly comparable to the rivers of human blood this company spills. 

It’s unlikely, therefore, that behind Facebook’s mass deletion of legitimate accounts is its pre-written code of conducts, but more likely Emi Palmor. Former General Director of the Israeli Ministry of Justice, she was recently appointed to Facebook’s Oversight Board. Under her direction, hundreds of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian accounts have been deleted, not because they violate rules, but to censor legitimate speech of human rights defenders and journalists whose honest content was deemed by Israel as politically undesirable — in other words, they exposed Israel’s ongoing war crimes and reported on its brutal apartheid policies to an extraordinarily large audience, and made “israel look bad”. 

The recent removal of Palestinian accounts is not an isolated attempt to restrict Palestinian rights and freedom of expression online. Instead, it is all part and parcel of a widespread and systematic campaign by the Israeli government to silence Palestinians and those who speak out or act on their behalf. The campaign to remove social media content critical of Israel’s violations of international law is simply a ways to a means to delegitimise human rights defenders, activists, organisations and direct action groups trying to challenge its human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

Direct action against Israel’s arms industry might look a little smash-and-daub to the faint-hearted, but in the big scheme of things, if it disables just one of Israel’s arms factories for 72 hours, that’s more than one life saved — maybe even a hundred. One must truly ask oneself, what is vandalism? Indeed, what is crime? — the killing, shooting, maiming, blinding, or rifle butting of human beings and the dehumanising of an entire population for being the wrong “ethnicity” or the actions that take a stand to defend those yet-to-be victims. 

Nothing will deter Palestine Action. The necessity of saving human life, ending the UK’s complicity and destroying Israel’s ability to continue making weapons of mass destruction is paramount. We are not vandalising something “that is good”; we are targeting an industry that is bad — unquestionably evil. 

“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” – Nelson Mandela

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