Saturday, September 26, 2009

On Facebook Golan Heights is either part of Syria or Israel, you choose!

If social networks truly reflect societies, then they will get caught up in the debates and controversies that we experience everyday.

The most recent example has been Facebook’s struggle to sort out the “Home Country” of users logging in from the Golan Heights. Should they select Syria or Israel?

Up until recently, The Golan Heights was considered part of Syria on Facebook, until a pro-Israeli lobby group which goes by the conspicuous name of “” started a group called "Facebook, Golan residents live in Israel, not Syria."

The group attracted 2,500 members in the first week. Shortly afterwards Facebook policy changed.

A CNN reporter got comments from a Facebook spokesperson about this, who said “We have enabled users in Golan Heights to choose either Syria or Israel in the listings. We currently have the same dual-listing options for the West Bank settlement, which is listed in both Palestine and Israel. We deal with the listings for disputed territories on a case-by-case basis, and with Golan Heights we decided a dual listing made sense in this instance."

Well, it seems Facebook has found it’s own solution to the 60-year long Arab Israeli conflict, and has adopted an approach of ‘let every person chose what he/she likes, and let’s all get along together on Facebook regardless of international law ...”
And the result? Delighted Israeli settlers such as Ofri Bazaz who says "It's very important on the Internet when somebody comes to my profile on Facebook they will see Israel and not Syria. I'm not Syrian."


Maybe Facebook should offer a profile entry that says “I’m an Israeli living in occupied Syrian territory.” You know, just to clear up this person’s problem!

What do the Syrians think of this story? Well, maybe they would be able to do something about it if Facebook was not blocked in Syria! According to the CNN report, this is due to it being ‘very popular with Syrian activists’.

It is dissappointing that Syrians who should be countering this pro-Israeli group can’t.

So, Facebook has officially gone against United Nations resolutions which clearly state that the Golan Heights are “occupied Arab territory”. Simply, due to some pressure from a pro-Israeli group. It seems Facebook and other social networks will unwisely accommodate the wishes of some of their users who are seeking to make political statements beyond the confines of these social networks. Well, then they will have to take the heat of these decisions.

Stay tuned for a follow-up story on ‘Arabs start Facebook group to keep the Golan Heights in Syria!”, or even better “Arabs decide Facebook management is either nave or simply pro-Israeli.”


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