An evangelical Christian group in the United States has filed a petition calling for Twitter and the US government to “ban Hamas from Twitter”.
The group argues that Hamas, the hardline Palestinian group currently ruling the Gaza Strip, is listed as a “Foreign Terrorist Organisation” by the US government, and federal law prohibits providing “material support” to such groups.
The group, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), says that “when it comes to Israel’s military campaign, there is little that we here in America can do to help. But when it comes to this second conflict – the so-called ‘twitter war’ – there is something important we can do.”
This follows a letter sent by seven Republican congressmen in September, calling on the FBI to order Twitter disable accounts affiliated with Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Shabaab, which operates in Somalia.
The recent conflict in Gaza led Congressman Ted Poe, who represents a district in eastern Texas, to claim the congressman’s request had been vindicated, according to The Hill, a political newspaper focusing on the US Congress. “Allowing foreign terrorist organisations like Hamas to operate on Twitter is enabling the enemy,” he wrote in an email on Wednesday.
Both Hamas and the Israeli military were highly active on Twitter during the recent conflict in Gaza. The Israeli military used Twitter to explain their operations, even tweeting a link to a video showing its assassination of Ahmed Jabari, Hamas’ military chief.
Although Hamas does not have an official Twitter feed, its military wing, Al Qassam Brigades, does. “We told you #IDF that our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are, ‘You opened the Gates of Hell on Yourselves'”, reads one such tweet.
David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University’s law school, suspects that CUFI may have a strong legal case. In an article for the Daily Beast, he wrote that “the ‘material support’ law is written so broadly that it makes virtually anything one does to or for a designated group a crime, even if it has no link to terrorist activity of any kind.”
Cole, who frequently writes on civil liberties issues, argues that “the more appropriate campaign should be directed at Congress, to amend the ‘material support’ law to limit its draconian reach”.