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Facebook entangled in Middle East unrest

Facebook has been accused of having a political agenda

Facebook came under fire this week after the auto-complete function on the site controversially listed Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank as residents of ‘Palestine’.

The social networking site has been accused of having a political agenda after enraging users living in the Maale Adumim and Ariel settlements by classifying them as citizens of Palestine, rather than Israel.

Tensions in the area have run high between Jewish settlers and the non-Jewish population of Palestine since World War I. The situation worsened when Israel captured the West Bank in 1967.

"I was surprised and disappointed to find that my hometown of Ariel is listed in Facebook as being part of a country called 'Palestine,'" wrote Ari Zimmerman in a posting on Facebook. "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."

Palestinian response

Palestinian members have retaliated by creating their own Facebook group, threatening to cancel their accounts if Palestine is removed from the website - as some settlers have demanded.

"We created this group to let our voices be heard not only among Facebook's management but all the users, and to tell everyone that Palestine is and will always be a country," Saif Qadoumi, the group's 20-year-old founder, told Reuters.

Facebook has responded by allowing users to switch themselves back to being classified as residents of Israel. "Facebook users in the Israeli West Bank settlements of Maale Adumim, Beitar Illit, and Ariel can now choose between Israel and Palestine," Facebook's director of communications, Brandee Barker said last week in an email to Reuters.

Despite a promise of withdrawal, Israel has continued to occupy and build settlements on land inhabited by the West Bank Palestinians. It wants to hold onto Maale Adumim and other major settlements under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.