Facebook, which unwittingly had dropped itself smack in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reversed itself Monday and now is allowing Jewish settlers in the West Bank to list themselves as residents of Israel, not a country called "Palestine."
Users of the social networking Web site who live in Maale Adumim, Ariel and other large Jewish settlements in the West Bank protested when Facebook automatically listed "Palestine" as their hometown, the Jerusalem Post reported.
A settlers group accused the California-based company of having a political agenda.
"I was surprised and disappointed to find that my hometown of Ariel is listed in Facebook as being part of a country called 'Palestine,"' Ari Zimmerman wrote in a posting on Facebook, Reuters reported. "I am a citizen of Israel, as are all of the other residents of Ariel. We do not live in 'Palestine,' nor does anyone else."
Brandee Barker, Facebook's director of communications, said users in major settlements now can choose between Israel or "Palestine" as their permanent residence.
"We also offer Hebron in both Israel and Palestine," Barker told Reuters, referring to the major West Bank city that is home to about 150,000 Palestinians and 400 Jewish settlers.
Palestinian users reportedly have set up their own Facebook group whose members threatened to cancel their accounts if "Palestine" was removed from the site. Called "If Palestine is removed from Facebook, I am closing my account," the group claims it has over 4,700 members.
The move to automatically switch the hometowns of Jewish settlers from Israel to "Palestine" came as Facebook continued to fend off charges that it increasingly is hosting highly inflammatory sites within its network.
Various groups on the site call for the destruction of Israel, and last week a group was created celebrating the "martyrdom" of the terrorist who perpetrated the shooting attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, the Post reported. That group is still in existence on Facebook.