Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
New MK Itamar Ben Gvir arrived for the swearing-in ceremony with his better half, April 6, 2021.

The WhatsApp account of the wife of Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir has been permanently suspended on Monday by the app’s owner Facebook, without a warning or an explanation.

Mrs. Ben-Gvir’s is one of 30 accounts that have been blocked, including the account belonging to Bentzi Gopstein, chairman of the Lehavah organization. What they all have in common is their membership in Otzma Yehudit, a legitimate political faction in Israel’s Knesset (parliament). Otzma Yehudit is a faction in Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious-Zionist party.

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MK Ben-Gvir told JewishPress.com on Tuesday: “This is harassment on political grounds. My wife was blocked because there are elements who want to silence me as a Knesset member. I asked the Ministry of Communications to respond in an unambiguous manner and act immediately on this matter. At the same time, a huge lawsuit is being filed against WhatsApp which is actually being filed on behalf of each one of us who may be next in line to be shut up.”

Ben-Gvir noted that his wife works as a teacher and that her being locked out of WhatsApp has sabotaged her communication with her students.

Otzma Yehudit’s attorney Iris Edri issued a statement saying: “We intend to file a lawsuit against WhatsApp’s blocking of my client. It is a belligerent, unilateral, offensive, and discriminatory act taken without any warning against ordinary citizens, for no apparent reason or justification whatsoever. Blocking my client from using WhatsApp is an abuse of power by a giant corporation that violates their rights and causes permanent damage, especially since it is blatantly discriminating against them.”

The Lehavah organization issued a statement saying: “The shutting of mouths has reached WhatsApp, too. For years the technology giants and social networks have been trying to silence and block right-wing activists. It happens on Facebook, YouTube, Tiktok. Now, another red line has been crossed. They’ve also begun to intrude on our privacy. We will not be silenced – and we are going to fight!”

In January 2021, WhatsApp announced an update of its privacy policy which states that WhatsApp will share user data with Facebook and its “family of companies” starting February 2021. Previously, users could opt out of such data sharing, but the new policy removes this option. The new privacy policy does not apply within the EU, since it is illegal there. Facebook and WhatsApp have been widely criticized for this move. The enforcement of the privacy policy has been postponed from February 8 to May 15, 2021.

The brave new world a la WhatsApp began on May 16.

For alternatives to WhatsApp you are welcome to try Telegram (500 million users), and Signal (20 million). Both Telegram and Signal reported registration spikes during WhatsApp-related controversies.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.