Inside the Middle East
September 21, 2009
Posted: 1957 GMT

Paula Hancocks

From Connect the World with Becky Anderson

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

Facebook now has 300 million users -- almost as many as the population of the United States.
Facebook now has 300 million users - almost as many as the population of the United States.

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 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.

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University rector   September 22nd, 2009 6:35 am ET

how important this matter is, W O W !

there are much more important issues that hancocks chooses to ignore, for example the Palestinian schoolbooks, the eduction of the Palestinian children to be suicide bombers, the inciting antisemitic cartoons in the Arab press.

but hancocks choses to report on an insignificant ridiculous matter which has no consequence whatsoever on anything

Filipe   September 22nd, 2009 12:23 pm ET

Since the users who live in the Golan live by the rules and regulations of of Israel, why would they be forced to identify themselves as living in Syria??

As it said in the article-Syria has banned Facebook and other social networking sites, so they must not be living in Syria.

Jeff in Va   September 23rd, 2009 4:19 pm ET

New alert – Gadhafi raises world wide debate – No more boxers or briefs, now wide or college rule

valkyrie22   September 24th, 2009 5:51 pm ET

The most disturbing is that Foreign Agents of MOSSAD operating within the US are manipulating you tube and facebook to censor any "anti-semitic" content. In other words, anything critical of Israeli policy, such as Gaza Concentration Camp, the 200 plus nuclear weapons they possess ,academic freedom regarding historical research,etc. Right now these agents are trying to force new "hate crimes bills" through Congress to make it a felony to criticize Isreal or its agents. This is most dangerous attack on our 1st Amendment ever. Call your Representative to protest (sen. Bill 909 ).

Filipe   September 25th, 2009 7:04 pm ET


It's all a conspiracy !!!!

Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!

miriam   September 26th, 2009 7:45 pm ET


Your claims are more disturbing than any supposed Mossad operations.
Representatives are going to pay no attention to such anti-semitic/zionist/Israel conspiracies.

Freedom of speech is right but hate-speech is a crime.

Ali Dahmash   September 28th, 2009 2:01 pm ET

The Golan Heights is Syrian land occuppied by Israel for one reason, WATER. The Golan has the most water resources in that region, without it Israel would have a serious water crisis like Jordan and the West Bank. Listing Golan where is not important, what I know that it is occuppied land and occupation in the 21st century should end, shame on Israel. This debate is like others regarding occuppied East Jerusalem and wither it should be listed in the West Bank or Israel. For me this is not important, what is is to end the illegal occuppation of Arab land.


miriam   October 1st, 2009 7:05 pm ET


Of course that was the reason the Syrians fired down onto Jewish communities of Northern Israel, killing innocent civilians and terrorizing the residents.

The original demarcification between the British and French Mandates was based on water and 4 years after its formation, Syria captured extra land in the 1948/9 war intented to destroy Israel, but also gaining control of water sources originally allocated to the British Mandate.

The Golan was under Syrian control for 23 years. Israel won land in the Golan in a defensive war, protecting the civilians living under attack, and has now been in control for almost twice that time..

Today, Israel has as much of a water crisis as others in the region.

university rector   October 1st, 2009 9:53 pm ET

The Golan heights are occupied by Israel for one reason:

Syrian daily agression against Israel between 1948 and 1967

John A   October 10th, 2009 2:22 pm ET

Miriam and Rector you lie again. Golan has not been occupied to protect Israel from Syrian aggression. Israel has filled this area with Jewish civilians. You would not move civilian settlements into a dangerous area, you would create fortifications etc. The occupation is a simple land grab.

You two tell such BS stories. So you think Israels generals got together to discuss how to protect Israels borders and they decided the best way would be to occupy Golan and build houses and move in families?

Are you totally stupid or totally dishonest?

University rector   October 11th, 2009 8:28 am ET

John A

do you deny daily attacks on Israel from the Golan Heights between 1948 and 1967?

Filipe   October 11th, 2009 9:17 am ET

John A:

I Guess you failed to read and accept common knowledge and accept fact on this subject as well. Why am I not surprised???

Golan was taken from Syria as a result Syria's aggression upon Israel-- too friggin' bad !!!! Apparently they haven't had the ability to take it back, nor did they have the ability to retain it once they joined their fellow Arab brothers in 1967. Too bad they didn't just stay out of the conflict to begin with -– they would still have the Golan if they weren't so friggin' inept, incompetent and stupid .

The Israelis who live in the Golan do so of their own free will and determination. Israel has not "moved" anyone into the Golan !!! Israel does not force anyone to move and to live anywhere they don't want to! So your nonsense, gibberish and rhetoric about "land grab" is utterly ignorant, void of fact or logic.

You really so appear to be confused-- it's the Syrians, Lebanese, Jordan and Egypt who force people to live in refugee camps-where they don't want to live. Those who live in Israel, can live anywhere they so desire.

How do you get through life-being so misguided and confused?? Is this what happens to people who grow up listening to the US propaganda mantra??

John A   October 11th, 2009 12:36 pm ET

Filipe, what are you talking about? Israel pays massive subsidies and provides almost cost free housing to any Jews who wants to live in the occupied Territories. Is this Israels way to protect itself from Syrian tanks? Move Jewish families to the front line. You are mad. And Rector the war with Syria ended in 1967, thats before the end of the Vietnam war. Israel can no longer use this excuse to rob foreign territory.

miriam   October 11th, 2009 1:27 pm ET

John A,

The Golan is not a "dangerous" area, apart from the remaining Syrian land-mines.

Danger was what the Israeli communities in the Galilee had to face during attacks from Arabs positioned on the Golan for the 19 years it was in Syrian hands.

Today, Syria controls part of the Golan and Israel the part overlooking her communities. Israelis living below do not suffer Syrian attack, but Hizbollah missiles instead.

miriam   October 12th, 2009 11:46 am ET

John A,

Property prices in Judea, Samaria and the Golan have been comparable to prices in other peripheral communites but are increasing more rapidly, far faster than other areas in Israel.
This is largely due to the fact that demand is far greater than supply, since there is no new construction and all current construction has been sold.

Filipe   October 12th, 2009 7:19 pm ET

John A,

What a buffoon- like I said-- Israel forces no one to live in the Golan. They do so of their own free will. Who friggin' cares if Israel makes if financially attractive??? Why is that any of your concern--is it because you don't get any of it ???

You don't seem to mind it a bit that the Palestinians receive the largest per capita "subsidy" (welfare) of any ethnic group on the face of the planet !!! Why don't you whine about that for a while?

But no, your going to whine and cry and complain because Israel takes care of it's own citizens !!!

Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

And you also seemed to have forgotten-maybe you're just clueless-- the 1967 war has never officially ended between Israel and Syria or Israel and Lebanon.

So this is the exact reason that Israel is still in possession of the the Golan-it's not an excuse--it's a fact !!!

So let's see your next tirade of falsehoods, fables and fairytales !!!

university rector   October 13th, 2009 8:04 pm ET

John A

"And Rector the war with Syria ended in 1967"

so what,

answer the simple question:

do you deny daily bombings from Syria into Israel between 1948-1967?

John A   October 20th, 2009 7:44 am ET

There were no daily bombings between 1948 – 1967. The first bombs to cross the boarder were Israels, when Israel attacked a Syrian damn. The war was about Israel trying to take the regions water supplies. Which is why Israel holds Sheeba Farms & Golan. Both Sheeba and Golan are where the water reserves are. So cut the BS Mr fake war mongering Rector.
And how can you say "so what " if the war ended in 1967. Is the University Rector still at war with Vietnam or Germany. Rector, you need help!!

Clement   January 1st, 2010 4:20 pm ET

Let us go back to history........

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