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Facebook’s COO Responds After Nearly 130 NGOs Put Platform On Notice For Unchecked Jew-Hatred

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Nearly 130 Nongovernmental organizations signed onto a letter sent Friday to chiding Facebook’s Board of Directors and requesting that the platform adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and include it in its hate speech policy.

The letter comes amid a rise in antisemitism in America and across the globe. It often rears its ugly head on social media, where users have the freedom and audience to spew hatred. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse as antisemites seize a global crisis to promote conspiracies blaming Jews for a virus that emanated from Wuhan, China.

Friday’s letter, signed by prominent advocacy groups like StopAntisemitism.org, Students Supporting Israel, and Foundation for Defense of Democracies, pointed to Facebook’s Director of Content Policy Stakeholder Engagement Peter Stern, who recently “admitted that Facebook does not have a policy aimed at combatting online antisemitism”…. and “that Facebook does not embrace the full adoption of the IHRA working definition because the definition recognizes that modern manifestations of antisemitism relate to Israel.”

Facebook did not respond to this reporter’s request for comment. However, the platform did respond to the signatories of the letter who asked the platform, “Will Facebook join the ranks of the historians, advocates, activists, lawmakers, and leaders who compiled the IHRA working definition? Will Facebook take responsibility and move toward removing the scourge of antisemitism from today’s most important online public square?”

On Tuesday, the letter gained the attention of Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg who wrote a response to Liora Rez of StopAntisemitism.org ensuring that the platform recognizes the IHRA definition’s value and will “continue to refine our policy lines as speech and society evolve – and appreciate your help and expertise identifying how attacks change over time.”

Copied on the response were Facebook’s Monika Bickert, Vice President of Content Policy, and Peter Stern, Director of Public Policy. In a response letter that followed, Bickert wrote to the signatories of Friday’s letter that “we address the scourge of anti-semitism through our Community Standards.”

“The holistic view of battling anti-Semitism ensures that we don’t look a series of posts or individual actors, but that we understand online and offline trends to ensure that our teams are continually on top of new and evolving threats to Jews around the world,” she wrote.

“Jewish organizations are among the stakeholders we engage in writing an updated policy to remove more implicit hate speech, including stereotypes about Jewish people as a collective controlling the media, economy, or government. The decision to remove this content draws on the spirit – and the text – of the IHRA in ways we found helpful and appropriate to protect against hate and anti-Semitic content.”

It still remains unclear if Facebook will use the IHRA definition in its official content policy. “The policy reflects both our commitment to engage and learn from the best sources of knowledge and our readiness to update our policies in line with our values,” Bickert wrote.

Bickert added that the social media site will continue working with “experts and effected communities” to continue to better understand an ever-changing form of hate. Facebook, she said, has a broad hate speech policy that covers hate against “race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.”

The United States, along with 30 other countries, adopted the working definition of antisemitism on May 26, 2016, while taking part in the IHRA’s bi-annual Plenary meeting in Bucharest, Romania. Since then, the number of countries to implement the definition has grown to nearly 40 countries.

Moreover, the Trump administration included IHRA’s definition in a December 2019 Executive Order on combatting antisemitism.

IHRA definition:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Trump appointee explains an ‘America First Strategy’ in the ME

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Photo: Israeli Government

The author interviewed Ellie Cohanim, one of the authors of the new book: “An America First Approach to US National Security.” Ellie is the former U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum focusing on Iran, Israel, and global antisemitism, and is a national security contributor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. In 2021, Ellie launched and hosted for Jewish News Syndicate 30 plus episodes of the show “Global Perspectives with Ellie Cohanim.” Ellie spent 15 years in media and NGO management before serving in the public sector. How would you define an “America First” strategy in the Middle East?

Cohanim: An America First strategy in the Middle East would seek to advance American national security interests in that region, while maintaining our status as THE global superpower. To do that, the US would ensure that our principal allies in the region, countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel, are economically and militarily strong, and that our adversaries in the region are deterred.

Postal: How has the United States’ standing in the Middle East differed between the Trump and Biden administrations?

Cohanim: Under President Trump, for four years we had peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Under President Biden, in just three tumultuous years there has been war in the region, which holds the potential for becoming a regional conflict and even a nuclear confrontation. Meanwhile, the US’ status in the region and the world has diminished due to Biden’s disastrous mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, his emboldening of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his weak response to Iranian attacks on our personnel and assets in the region. 

 

Postal: Do you think the United States and Israel are/were in a stronger position to deter Iran’s nuclear and territorial ambitions in Biden or Trump’s administration?

Cohanim: America’s position of strength has not changed under either administration vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. What has changed is our Iran policy. Under President Trump’s administration, the US contained and constrained Tehran. Trump applied a “Maximum Pressure” sanctions campaign which left the Iranian Regime with only $4 billion in accessible foreign currency reserves by the end of his term, giving the Iranians less cash and less ability to fund their terror proxies and their nuclear program, and Trump eliminated Qassem Soleimani. While all President Biden needed to do was to continue implementing such successful policies, his administration instead did the exact opposite.  Under the Biden administration, Israel, our leading ally in the region, was attacked for the first time directly from Iranian soil. This was an unprecedented escalatory attack by the Iranian regime, and could only happen under the Biden administration.

Postal: In your chapter of the book, you discuss the weakening of US relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia under the Biden administration. How has the Biden administration affected the likelihood of future normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and deals between Israel and other Muslim countries (i.e., new Abraham Accords)?

Cohanim: The good news is that the Abraham Accords have withstood the test of multiple Hamas provocations against Israel, and now the current war. Despite numerous claims from the Biden administration regarding “successful” efforts to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, I do not think that the Biden administration will be able to clinch such a deal. In the Middle East, people have a long memory. Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has not forgotten President Biden’s snub when he first came into office, and Biden’s incredibly poorly advised behavior towards the Crown Prince when he made his first visit to the Kingdom as president. The last thing the Crown Prince wants is to hand Biden his first foreign policy success with a Rose Garden peace deal ceremony. So, I do not believe President Biden can broker Saudi/Israeli normalization.

However, I am also convinced that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” such a peace deal will happen between those two countries, as it serves both of their interests to make such a deal. The Saudis understand better than anyone that it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the Kingdom’s security and stability, not Israel.

Postal: What do you think of the Biden administration’s latest statements withholding arms to Israel?

Cohanim: President Biden will go down in history for his abject moral failure in not standing by Israel while she fights a five-front war. Biden has shown his despicable personality for trying to keep his anti-Israel arms embargo concealed until he could first deliver a speech on the Holocaust. Biden’s behavior is despicable on so many levels.

Ultimately, Biden is betraying the American people. He came into office presenting himself as a “centrist Democrat,” but has proven repeatedly to be beholden to the radical, extremist, pro-Hamas wing of his party.

Postal: How does the Biden administration’s support of a Palestinian state differ from the Trump administration’s support of a Palestinian state under its Peace to Prosperity framework?

Cohanim: The Biden administration stated that they will “unilaterally recognize” a Palestinian state. What the borders of that state are and who would lead it, nobody knows. 

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” was a detailed plan that was premised on the realities on the ground in Israel. The plan required that the Palestinians reach benchmarks proving a real desire to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors. It included over $50 billion in investment in the region, which would have been a road to prosperity for all. Perhaps most significantly, the Palestinian state envisioned under the Trump plan would have been demilitarized, the wisdom of which could not be more clear following the October 7 massacre and attack.

The author would like to thank Ellie Cohanim for participating in this interview.

 

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