Sheikh Jarrah Evictions Posts Being Censored by Instagram, Say Palestinians

Palestinian activists and their supporters accused Instagram of taking down content decrying the threatened evictions of Palestinians in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Several Palestinian families residing in Sheikh Jarrah have been involved in lengthy legal battles with Israeli settlers attempting to acquire property in the neighborhood, according to The Associated Press. The issue has led to recent unrest in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

The hashtags #SheikhJarrah and #SaveSheikhJarrah spread on social media over the past week after a video purporting to show a confrontation between a Palestinian woman and an Israeli settler went viral.

Instagram has been removing Palestine content and Twitter is suspending people talking about what’s happening in #SheikhJarrah. This is censorship on a mass scale — these are the only outlets we have because western media outlets are not covering what’s happening in Jerusalem

— Jennine | Save Sheikh Jarrah From Evictions (@jennineak) May 7, 2021

In the video of the English-language exchange, the woman who posted the video, Muna Al-Kurd, can be heard telling what appears to be an unidentified settler "Jacob, you know this is not your house," to which he responds: "Yes, but if I go, you don't go back, so what's the problem? Why are you yelling at me? I didn't do this."

"You are stealing my house," Al-Kurd said. He answered: "And if I don't steal it, someone else is gonna steal it," prompting the woman to exclaim: "No! No one is allowed to steal it!"

In a post accompanying the video, Al-Kurd writes that it shows "the settler who stole my house and stayed in it since 2009."

As the viral video prompted widespread outrage on social media, Palestinian activists and their allies accused Instagram of removing posts, limiting accounts and outright deactivating profiles.

The platform also allegedly disabled Al-Kurd's Instagram profile at one point, though her account appears to currently be active.

Once again, Palestinian activists and residents are sharing live updates from #SheikhJarrah while facing ethnic cleansing and police brutality, and Instagram is blocking their accounts and deleting their content.@instagram get your fucking act together.

— Marwa Fatafta #SaveSheikhJarrah (@marwasf) May 6, 2021

A spokeswoman for Facebook, which owns Instagram, referred Newsweek to Thursday tweets by Instagram reporting a "widespread global technical issue not related to any particular topic."

"We're sorry to all impacted, especially those raising awareness for important causes globally," Instagram tweeted after announcing the issue had been fixed.

Advocacy groups 7amleh and the Jewish Voice For Peace jointly launched social media call-outs for testimonies by users who were allegedly penalized by Instagram while posting about the events in Sheikh Jarrah.

Dani Noble, campaign organizer at Jewish Voice For Peace, told Newsweek the coalition received "hundreds of emails in 12 hours."

"We have examples of people being told they were 'violating community guidelines' for sharing videos of the Israeli police attacking Palestinian protesters in Sheikh Jarrah," Noble said. "We have other examples of users' content literally disappearing from their stories or feed."

"And we have heard about organizations and individuals being warned that their accounts would be permanently disabled if they continued to post about the violence committed by Israeli police and Israeli settlers against Palestinians in Jerusalem."

In 2018, Israel published a list of activist organizations—including Jewish Voice for Peace—whose members would be barred from entering the country due to their support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

We've now fixed this issue. It impacted many Stories containing re-shared posts created yesterday and early this morning, plus Highlights + Archive more broadly. We're sorry to all impacted, especially those raising awareness for important causes globally.

— Instagram Comms (@InstagramComms) May 7, 2021

As controversy swells over the possibility of evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, some Democratic U.S. lawmakers have also weighed in on the issue.

"I know what it's like to be brutalized for simply advocating for my own humanity," Missouri Rep. Cori Bush tweeted. "I stand in strong solidarity with our Palestinian siblings mobilizing to #SaveSheikhJarrah."

Bush urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to "condemn these attacks immediately."

Illinois Rep. Marie Newman similarly called on the State Department to "immediately condemn these violations of international law as Palestinians are forcibly being removed from their homes in East Jerusalem."

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) tweeted: "The violence and forced displacement of Palestinians in #SheikhJarrah is deeply disturbing and morally wrong. We must ensure any US involvement in the region continues efforts toward lasting peace – including the protection of human rights."

Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and views the entire city as its capital.

The Palestinians view east Jerusalem—which includes some of the holiest sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims—as their capital, and its fate is one of the most sensitive issues in the Mideast conflict.

Palestinian families have every right to live in #SheikhJarrah.

I'm calling on the @StateDept to immediately condemn these violations of international law as Palestinians are forcibly being removed from their homes in East

— Congresswoman Marie Newman (@RepMarieNewman) May 5, 2021
Activists protest in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem
Palestinian and Israeli activists gather in front of Israeli settlers' house during a demonstration against the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem on April 16, 2021. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images