Bentzi Gopshtain's campaign against Facebook (Image credit: YouTube screenshot)
For a while now voices on the right have complained of Facebook's seemingly slanted censorship policies, but after being blacklisted by the social media platform, one leading Israeli nationalist activist has decided it's time to fight back for free speech on both sides of the aisle.
Bentzi Gopshtain, director of the Lehava anti-assimilation organization, reports that not only has Facebook banned him from opening any new accounts in his name - it also has blacklisted his name such that mentions of him or his organization result in blocking. "They have crossed every line… Today it’s me, but tomorrow? It will be forbidden to mention your name on Facebook too. They want to educate us, they want to tell us what to think," warns Gopshtain.
In response, the Lehava head has launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund his legal battle and public awareness campaign, which aims to sue Facebook and force it to publish its list of “banned words,” thereby providing a modicum of transparency and the means to enable free speech on its massively popular platform. With 32 days to go, his campaign has already reached 40% of its 120,000 shekel goal; to donate to the campaign click here.
“The time has come to fight the dictatorship’s thought police with experts,” said Gopshtain, noting that in order to take the social media giant to court he has acquired the services of Attorney Guy Ophir, who is the only attorney in Israel “who has succeeded in defeating Facebook in court in the ‘Tweeting Statuses' case.”
The activist highlighted the challenges in his legal battle “against a huge monopoly with an endless budget,” and emphasized that he needs the support of the public in order to fight “for the freedom of speech of us all.”
Indicating future plans for the campaign following the court case seeking Facebook transparency and Gopshtain’s restored access to the platform, he added: “We also intend to continue afterwards and submit a class action lawsuit of all those who were harmed by Facebook’s exclusion and banning.”
Gopshtain has been outspoken in his fight against assimilation in Israel for many years, seeking to prevent the downfall of the Jewish people via intermarriage, which is forbidden by Jewish law. The overwhelming majority of such cases in Israel involve young Jewish women being wooed by Arab men and taken to Arab villages, where a future of verbal and physical abuse awaits them.
Such was the case of Noy Sheetrit, who Gopshtain temporarily returned to the Jewish people last September after she sent shock waves through the nation by converting to Islam on the Temple Mount – in Sheetrit’s case, she went back to her polygamous and abusive Bedouin husband shortly after Gopshtain’s intervention, but not before the heightened awareness brought many new cases to Lehava and led to the rescue of many more Jewish girls.
Facebook is the not the only organization that has tried to limit Gopshtain's speech and action; he wrote an exclusive article published by The Jerusalem Herald last October detailing his sudden arrest, which was part of a state crackdown aimed against the Kiryat Arba resident and spurred on by a highly funded campaign by the Reform Movement.
But the nationalist activist has taken all the backlash in stride, saying at the time, "I will continue to fight assimilation, and the prosecutor’s office needs to know that a struggle for the [Jewish] girls is not racism, and freedom of speech needs to also be for right-wingers."
To support Gopshtain's campaign for free speech on Facebook click here.