YouTube video praising Tel Aviv attack as miracle ‘may breach terror law’

Legal experts call for police probe after web giant’s latest failure over hate speech


A video on YouTube celebrating last week’s murder of three Israelis in Tel Aviv as a “miracle” may be in breach of the law against encouraging terrorism, legal experts have told the JC.

In a sickening post, Abdel Bari Atwan (above) — an influential media figure known around the world — praised the gunman as a “martyr” and “hero” and said Israelis fleeing for their lives were “like mice”.

The shocking rant was posted on his YouTube channel, which has 750,000 subscribers.

The video was highlighted by media watchdog CAMERA Arabic, and was taken down after YouTube was contacted by the JC — but only after it had been up for four days and viewed half a million times.

Numerous other videos uploaded to channels with millions of subscribers also called Tel Aviv gunman Raad Hazem a “martyr”.

YouTube has been the target of furious criticism over its failure to moderate content, as exposed in a series of stories by the JC.

Last week, after pressure from this newspaper, the company removed videos for breaking its rules about incitement to violence and supporting terrorism. YouTube also recently cancelled the accounts hosting the speeches of two hate preachers.

But the latest revelations make a mockery of the commitment by the company to clamp down on hate speech.

Lord Carlile, the UK’s former independent review of anti-terror legislation, said: “Atwans’s statement, full of hysterical passion, is the warlike statement of a dangerous fanatic. Published in the UK, plainly it should be examined by the police for possible breach of section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006.

“Beyond shocking is that it appeared on YouTube. They must be required to ban such dangerous broadcasts, which encourage and apologise for terrorism.”

Mr Atwan is a British-Palestinian journalist who appears regularly on BBC News in English and Arabic, as well as on France 24. He shares his thoughts regularly on his YouTube channel.

In his Arabic-language post the day after the Tel Aviv attack, he compared Israelis to “mice”, saying those killed and wounded were “are all military, police or security”.

He claimed the terror attack was a response to the recent landmark Negev Summit held in Israel two weeks ago, calling the four Arab foreign ministers who attended “treacherous Arab normalisers” and “lackeys of the occupation”.

He called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Israel as an “outrage,” and instructed him to “just keep quiet”.

He raged: “The Palestinian people won’t have it. That’s the point of the latest operation in Tel Aviv by young Raad Hazem.

“He ‘invaded’ Tel Aviv, the occupation state’s first capital, using just one gun.

“Did you see the Israelis, how did they flee? By Allah, like mice. Horrified, don’t know where to go, because of one person, one Palestinian youth, can you imagine? This is hysteria. This is the enemy.

“Look at the miracle... his father is a security officer, he, the youth, takes a gun, goes to Tel Aviv and opens fire at settlers.

“Look, we will never accept, it is impossible that we accept, that they are civilians. Civilians, no way! They are all military, police or security. Well, when Bennett, who is Israeli PM, tells the settlers ‘get out your weapon and walk around in arms’ that’s it, you all are not civilians. Secondly, they are all soldiers in the Israeli military reserves. So we don’t buy the ‘civilians’ story, nor should the entire world buy it.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently called on Israelis with gun permits to carry their weapons to enable them to intervene should they be caught up in or witness further terror attacks.

Mr Atwan suggested the recent terror acts showed restraint, saying: “These youths, had they wanted to shoot, they could have killed great numbers, hundreds killed, by Allah… One warrior liberated Tel Aviv for nine hours.”

Fourteen people have been murdered and many more left wounded by the four terror attacks in Israel over the past few weeks.

Mr Atwan said the attacker “committed martyrdom” and that he was shot by Israeli forces “defending himself, his mosque, his ideology, his [Arab/Islamic] nation… Now there is an extraordinary awakening”.

Three Arabic-language reports on YouTube from Alghad TV, a news channel launched in 2015 and headquartered in London, described the Tel Aviv terrorist as a “martyr”. In one video a reporter said the attacker “ascended [to heaven]” upon death. The Alghad TV YouTube channel has 3.7 million subscribers.

A video on YouTube from an account called “Quds News Network” refers to the perpetrator as a martyr.

One video posted by Alqanat Channel 9 TV on its YouTube account included a commentator who praised the killer, calling him “a steadfast, firm, forthcoming, unhurt, pure Jihad warrior”. It added: “Our youth is fond of death because it is in Allah’s path and for him. How beautiful it is that we put forward spirits, sons, properties and beings in Allah’s path and for him.”

Another Channel 9 report described the terror attacks as “heroic operations [that] are hurting Israel”.

YouTube has specific rules relating to the promotion of violence and terrorism in content uploaded by users. It claims it will not allow “content praising or justifying violent acts by terrorist organisations” or material that may “promote or aid them”. Its policies also say: “Hate speech is not allowed on YouTube. We remove content promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups,” based on their race or religion. The company also says it will “treat implied calls for violence as real threats” and notes its policies apply both to videos and video descriptions on the platform.

Dave Rich, Director of Policy at the CST, said: “There is no excuse for YouTube not to have acted much sooner. It should be a no-brainer that he contravenes YouTube’s policies, but yet again they have been found wanting.”

Jonathan Turner, Chief Executive of UK Lawyers for Israel, told the JC: “I think this does constitute encouragement of terrorism contrary to section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006, a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for up to 15 years.”

A spokesman for CAMERA Arabic said “This material is unmistakably consistent with Abdel Bari Atwan’s decades-long record. Many of his inciting rants originate on his personal YouTube channel. The platform is therefore accountable for enabling him to spread hate. Given the popularity of his weekly sermons, with over 700,000 subscribers and hundreds of cheering comments to every video post, the plausible deniability defence does not stand for YouTube. They should already be aware of his reputation and record.”

In a statement, YouTube said: “We are committed to making sure content that promotes violent extremism does not have a home on YouTube.

“Over the last few years we have heavily invested in human review teams and smart detection technology that helps us quickly detect, review, and remove this content.”

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