Facebook gets caught in Golan Heights dispute

(CNN)   Logging onto Facebook as a resident in the Golan Heights, should you enter Syria or Israel as your home country?

Decades of war and occupation have not provided an answer to that question — but the social networking Web site now permits both options, sparking fears about an anti-Facebook cyber-war.

The Golan Heights is Syrian territory that was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. Since then it has been internationally classified as Israeli-occupied territory.

Up until recently, Facebook fans in the Golan Heights could only choose Syria as their country of origin or else leave it blank. Pro-Israel Web site honestreporting.com sought to change that, starting a group called “Facebook, Golan residents live in Israel, not Syria.”

Alex Margolin says the campaign was never political. “It was never a question of the future of Golan… it’s totally possible that at some time in the future the Golan will change hands and go to Syria.”

The group welcomed 2,500 members in the first week. Shortly afterwards Facebook policy changed. Do you think Facebook was right to change policy?

“We have enabled users in Golan Heights to choose either Syria or Israel in the listings,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN. “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.”

Eighteen-year old Ofri Bazaz is delighted she can finally change her profile to Israel, squealing with delight as she tries it for the first time. She said: “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.”

But a 20-minute drive away in the Druze town of Majdal Shams, the reaction is very different. Facebook users here consider themselves Syrian and refuse to accept the change, as they fear it undermines their peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Shopkeeper Sakar abu Sabit said: “Even if it’s just on the computer, I want people to always recognize me in the Golan Heights as a Syrian citizen.”

Reaction from Syria is likely to be muted according to Syrian scholar, Ammar Abdulhamid. He told CNN that Facebook and other social networking sites have already been banned in Syria. “The Syrian government has really taken a strong stance on Internet activism and social networking sites,” he said.

“The real reason is nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict, it’s because these sites are very popular with Syrian activists.”

But with 300 million users worldwide and an estimated 120 million logging in every single day according to Facebook, there will inevitably be fears about a backlash against the site that now finds itself at the center of a 40-year-old conflict.


15 Responses to Facebook gets caught in Golan Heights dispute

  • After 42 years it’s Israel. To think otherwise is ridiculous.

  • Facebook is absolutely right to do this. Although, since it is a “disputed” territory and is recognized as “occupied” it must, necessarily, be the land of someone other than Israel, or else it would not be “occupied”. Therefore, it is Syria and not Israel, who rightfully owns the land. It is simply being temporarily occupied by a country who would wish it theirs but who does not actually own it. Much like the country of Israel itself which was placed upon the Canaanites who owned it before them. So much for their “right to exist”.

  • its really absurd and ridiculous that facts get revolved 180 degrees!!! its an occupied land and that fact is known to everyone, yet so balantly they want to claim it to Israel!!How come everybody (rightfully) was against Saddam when he invaded Kuwait and lcaimed it belonged to Iraq and now everybody is ok with Israel claiming Golan Heights!! despite living in a civilized society, i feel that we are still living in the middle ages when the powerful side survives, not the rightful side.

  • If there were one choice for country of origin for the Golan Heights, it should be “Israel,” so Facebook’s initial policy of offering only “Syria” as the country doesn’t make sense. But giving site users a choice is a good compromise.

  • Well if you say that the Golan is syria then you on facebook they shouldnt have US it should be Cherokee or Apache!!!

  • Its Israeli land moron, its annexed. Fuck the Arabs. The Canaanites disappeared from history, so that argument is a non-starter – from over 3000 years ago retard.

  • you should watch your language here. different opinions do not make people morons, ok.
    its interesting that you guys consider what Israelis doing to the people in the occupied lands is similar to what was done to native Americans by foreign settlers ( which everybody is ashamed of now after so many years). thank you very much for proving what i was talking about. That shows that deep inside, you know that this is not an israeli land! wow. have a good night everybody

  • oh, by the way, Palestinians are the Canaanites. they just converted to Islam and Christianity and became modern Palestinians. Same thing as Pharoes converted to Islam and Christianity, Babylonians to modern Iraqis. Palestinians just don’t brag about it like others do. Saying that they disappeared is just like saying Jews disappeared, which is racist.

  • give the US “occupied lands” back to the indians!!!

  • Excuse me. Let’s not turn history on its head! “How come everybody (rightfully) was against Saddam when he invaded Kuwait………” Excuse me… Israel DID NOT invade Syria. Syria invaded Israel!! Unbelievably, and against all odds, Israel beat the Syrians back… and instead of capturing Damascus as they could have, they stopped at the Golan, a highlands used by Syrians to shell civilians (a war crime). When a country attacks another and then loses territory, the territory is lost to the other country. The only reason Israel would need to give it back is if it served their interest in some way. Let’s not be completely ignorant here and fall for the revisionist Arab narrative.

  • and Kal, Syria was the powerful side… and they lost…twice.. after twice trying to destroy a sovereign nation Israel. Israel wasn’t attacking them in any way… But in 1967 and 1973 (not to mention 48) the Syrians tried to wipe out Israel (they worked on Jordan too don’t forget)… so let’s not call them the victims here. Funny that they aren’t protesting.. because they won’t let their citizens use Facebook. How is it that Israel is painted as the victimizer…and not this repressive, totalitarian regime that attacks its neighbors, represses its citizens, and kills its own citizens by the thousands. Don’t forget, they have been helping the insurgents in Iraq kill Americans.

  • Face book should go by what is listed by every map in the world currently. If not California should be Mexico, Mexico should be Spain, Spain should be the Moor’s or Roman Empire etc…

  • When people call it occupied they’re being silly. Israel was attacted in 1967 and won the war. See when you win a war that’s it, you won, the land, people, ruling power, it’s yours. That’s kinda how the planet and every country on it has worked for oh I don’t know…ALL OF TIME! I mean if you think about it, there isn’t one single country that wasn’t something else, maybe we should go back to being mesopotamia? The truth is people only call it occupied becuase its JEWS who have it. You know, those people responsible for 90% of our medicinal discoveries, scientific discoveries, etc. Those evil, evil Jews who are so bad they actually HELP the world unlike oh some other billion people who’s religion isn’t that old and only destroy. Yeah THAT makes sense!

  • Golan Heights is Israel territory. Syria lost it in war. Just like Britian lost the US and every other nation in history that has lost territory because of a war. I’m tired of the idiots in the world who have not figured it out. Hate them or like them I don’t care. You attack a country and lose, you suffer the consequences.

  • thats pathetic, talking about Israel does not mean criticizing Judaism or Jews. Israel is a country not a religion. Why do we always mix religion with politics?! this is why we get fanatics because they use religion to have political gains. It was not Islam or muslims who mistreated Jews and caused Holocaust, it was some nazi christian party while many Jews were living safely in the Middle East. The Inquisition was caused by spanish christians against the Moors ( muslims) and Jews of Spain. why no one is blaming the whole christian religion for all those atrocities? Religions are made to make people good to each other, no matter what religion it is. Disrespecting other people’s religion is racist as much as disrespecting Jews is antisemetic. So please guys, we should not talk badly about Judaism or Islam or races.
    The argument about land gained by war can be claimed is a clear invitation to those defeated people to continue making war and forget about peace because it won’t get them back their land!! is this the world we want to live in? I really thought Jews want peace not war. Its ok to negotiate to give back that land to obtain peace, but not to claim its their land! Israel reurned Sinai to Egypt, why the double standard then?
    also its really funny that you say Israel is weaker than Syria although Israel have won all the wars against the arabs and is supported by the US. this is actually hurting Israel’s cause alot because forcing unfair peace treaties will just lead to more bitterness, dispair and fanaticism. Israel got to learn that fair peace will be the only way that makes arabs accept living with Israel. If this happens, then the whole Middle East will be prosperous and safe because Islam, Christianity andn Judaism CAN live together in peace.

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