TikTok Executives To Speak at Conference Organized by Group That Has Defended Hamas Attack on Israel and Promoted 'Knife Intifada'

TikTok has partnered with anti-Israel 'digital rights' group 7amleh

(Reuters/Dado Ruvic)
June 3, 2024

TikTok, the Chinese-controlled social media giant, has denied allegations that it enables anti-Semitic and pro-Hamas content on its platform. That claim will be a tough sell given the company's partnership with an anti-Israel "digital rights" group that defends Hamas and has called for "intifada" against Israel.

Three TikTok executives will speak Wednesday at the Palestine Digital Activism Forum, organized by 7amleh, according to an itinerary of the event. The conference theme is artificial intelligence, which 7amleh says has reinforced "occupation and oppression" against Palestinians and perpetuates "racist and dehumanizing narratives" about Muslims.

7amleh, also known as the Arab Center for Social Media Development, has a history of defending terrorist groups and promoting violence against Israelis. In October 2015, it endorsed the "knife intifada," during which Palestinians fatally stabbed dozens of Israelis in lone wolf attacks. 7amleh used the hashtags "#intifada" and "#strike" in the Oct. 11, 2015, post.

After Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, 7amleh board member Niveen Abu Rahmoun, who will take part in the tech conference, praised the "resistance," which she said "shall escalate and shall impose a new reality," according to NGO Monitor. Jalal Abukhater, 7amleh's advocacy director, who will participate in the forum, has said that Zionists are "prone to commit genocidal violence."

The group's leaders have defended terrorists affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. That rhetoric was too much even for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a staunch critic of Israel. The Massachusetts Democrat canceled her planned appearance because of 7amleh officials' defense of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel.

TikTok, which is owned by China's ByteDance, has faced allegations that it either actively promotes or fails to monitor anti-Semitic content. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said China uses TikTok as a propaganda tool to "downplay Hamas terrorism." A group of Jewish celebrities said in an open letter to TikTok in November that the platform "is not safe for Jewish users" due to the "rampant antisemitism" on the platform.

TikTok, which is listed as a "partner" for the 7amleh event, denies that it intentionally allows anti-Semitic content to proliferate on its platform, claiming to have deleted millions of anti-Semitic posts on the platform.

But the company has worked with 7amleh in the past to prevent censorship of Palestinian activists, many of whom have often embraced anti-Semitic or pro-Hamas rhetoric. 7amleh says it serves as a "trusted partner" for TikTok and other social media companies "to ensure they don't censor Palestinians and protect their digital space."

TikTok's fellow event partners further indicate the event will be a forum for anti-Israel sentiment.

American Muslims for Palestine and Students for Justice in Palestine, whose leaders have been linked to Hamas front groups, are listed as partners for the 7amleh event. Students for Justice in Palestine chapters have pushed pro-Hamas rhetoric at universities across the country, including the display of the message "glory to our martyrs" at George Washington University. Students for Justice in Palestine and another event partner, Jewish Voice for Peace, were suspended by Columbia University for promoting "threatening rhetoric and intimidation" on campus. An official at another event partner, MPower Change, during an April rally in New York City called on Hamas to "strike Tel Aviv."

It is unclear whether TikTok has provided financial support for 7amleh or the forum. Neither organization responded to a request for comment. But 7amleh has repeatedly defended TikTok against Congress's efforts to force China to sell TikTok over national security concerns. Lawmakers say the Chinese Communist Party has ultimate control over TikTok and could use the platform to surveil Americans and pump pro-China propaganda to American users.

7amleh and a coalition of nonprofits in April called on senators to reject the legislation, claiming the bill was a "direct attack on Palestinian digital rights" that would "increase tension with China" and "lead to a rise in anti-Asian rhetoric and hate crimes."

The group has mounted a campaign against Facebook, accusing the platform of censoring Palestinian users and critics of Israel. 7amleh has been much more supportive of TikTok, which it praises in a recent report for having "collaborated with civil society actors to better protect Palestinian users and content, displaying a more effective response compared to other platforms." In 2021, 7amleh cheered that TikTok "became more widely used among Palestinian users after it became an essential tool for disseminating content."

7amleh recently formed a coalition with Meedan, Inc., a San Francisco-based tech company that received a $5.7 million grant in 2021 from the National Science Foundation to develop a platform for "combating hate, abuse, and misinformation." The government in 2021 awarded Meedan a $255,000 grant to develop algorithms to track disinformation on encrypted messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Signal. Scott Hale, the director of research at Meedan, will take part in the 7amleh forum.