Israeli military reportedly seeks to censor private Facebook pages commenting on national security

This unbelievable news has just come out today on the Hebrew site Haayin Hashviit (“The Seventh Eye”), and is being translated hereby in full:


Change of approach in the military censorship; No more monitoring of Facebook texts following their publication: from now on account holders are required to pass on to the censorship any text regarding the security establishment; Blogger Yossi Gurvitz: I will not comply with the decree, I will apply to the court system.

By Oren Farsiko / 4th February 2016


The military censorship, under the command of the new military censor Col. Ariela Ben-Avraham, has initiated a motion entailing preliminary monitoring of publications on selected Facebook pages.

At least two Facebook accounts received a message last Thursday, which included a decree instructing them to pass on, from now on, the texts which they publish concerning the security establishment for early monitoring for censorship. The message, which was sent via the internal messaging system of the social network, has also reached the Facebook account of “George’s friends”, a blog operated by Yossi Gurvitz, as well as the Facebook account of an alternative news site. A third Facebook account, of a social democratic publication which ceased activity a year ago, had received a similar message a few weeks ago.

Until now the military censorship had been monitoring Facebook account posts only after their publication. “The censorship cannot control the internet through prevention” said the previous censor Sima Vaknin-Gil on an interview from last summer on this site [Haayin Hashviit]. “If the censorship will require that each journalist who just opened a Twitter would provide it everything in advance, we would be stopping their processes. One of the changes we have inserted was the decision to simply tail them”.

The former censorship had defined the monitoring on social media as “post-facto surveillance”, explaining: “With Facebook and Twitter, as bodies, we have no communication. We address the users directly – the moment you pass a certain threshold, we identify you, initiate contact with you, explain to you the censorship and learn to work with you”.

Currently, it seems that the censorship has changed its approach and decided to shift from post-facto surveillance to early monitoring, before the publishing, of texts concerning the security establishment published on Facebook.

Gurvitz, a veteran blogger, tells that last Thursday he noticed that a message; the head censor’s Facebook page had sent his blog’s Facebook page a message, demanding that he read the attached decree and confirm having gotten it.

“I entered the Facebook account of the head censor and found it to be empty”, Gurvitz tells. “Only her photo and a headline stating that she is the head censor. That raised a few suspicions in me. First I thought it was a rightist trolling”.

According to Gurvitz, after he was informed that a similar message had reached another site’s Facebook account, he sent a mail to the eonsorship with a request to validate the demand. Yesterday afternoon he got a confirmation that the message was indeed official and that he is required to to fulfill the instructions of the decree. Furthermore, Gurvitz claimed that in the confirmation mail received from the censorship, it was also mentioned that they have begun operating on Facebook.

He says that the decree demands in very general fashion to pass on to the censorship, in advance, any item which regards the security establishment in any way. The decree regards the Facebook account that Gurvitz operates, and not directly the blog in which he publishes his central texts.

Gurvitz, who holds clear leftist views, is concerned that the last motion of the censorship is infected with political motives. “If it will transpire that all the people who got this decree are leftists in one way or another, then I think this is a story”, he says. “I want to know that when the “Shadow” [rightist-nationalist rapper] congratulates IDF soldiers, he first sends all of his publications to the censorship”.

[Interviewer] Why don’t you see this as a compliment? The former censorship informed us that they only handle substantial media instruments, and not all sorts of negligible sites which anyway lack substantial information.

[Gurvitz] “First of all, I don’t need compliments from the Israeli military establishment. Second, after what we’ve experienced here in the last month, I’m sorry if I feel a touch pressed and persecuted. The mole campaign, what went on in the ‘Uvda’ coverage [of the pro-Palestinian Taayush organisation, where a clandestine rightist group filmed secretly for three years], the fact that Ezra Nawi [from Taayush] was detained without access to a lawyer for ten days, the fact that suddenly you find people [moles] within the organisations.

[interviewer] You’re afraid of the implications.

[Gurvitz] “I think this is a move of delegitimization which has the goal of stating, ‘these people are suspicious, they need to inform in advance about everything they write’”.

Shortly after receiving the message from the censorship confirming the demand’s authenticity, Gurvitz published a Facebook status where he informed that he would not comply with the instructions of the decree.

“The meaning of this demand is an extermination of the new media in Israel, the spirit of which is in the speed of response”, he wrote. “I am surveying the legal procedures available for me”.

In one of the responses to Gurvitz’s post, Elad Hen, editor of “Society, a Social-Democratic Journal”, wrote that he too had been approached with a similar demand. “This is a journal which has no relation to security issues”, Hen says in a conversation with “Haayin Hashviit”. “I suppose they sent something generic to anyone whom they had the impression was related to the left in any way”.

Gurvitz, in any case, does not intend to comply with the decree he received. “I don’t intend to provide them with anything” he announces. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m taking this to court”.

[Interviewer] The law is in their favor.

“The law is in their favor, I’m aware of that, and I am going to say that with all due respect, it is impossible to judge the social media of 2016 with a decree from 1948. It may be that the court will rule otherwise, and in such case I will resepct the decision and cease from writing about the IDF, period. There is no way I will submit the texts to them. I have no sources in IDF, I have no sources in the security establishment, everything I publish is based upon open sources. If I have anything that comes from IDF, it reaches me due to a formal request for comment which I have submitted”.

[Interviewer] You are speaking about open sources, but open sources are not necessarily ones that have passed censorship.

“I would quote for you what they wrote to me about it in the letter I received, but I have been prohibited from quoting it”.

No comment was received from the military censorship.”

Gurvitz wrote the following on his Facebook page yesterday:

I was served today with an order by the military censorship, demanding I submit any statuses or posts relating to the IDF or the defense ministry to pre-publication vetting. I do not intend to comply with the demand.

The meaning of pre-publication vetting is killing new media, whose essence is speed, in Israel. I am checking what legal steps are available to me.

Tell me more about the only democracy in the Middle East.

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