A survey by the Israel-based Arab Centre for Social Media Advancement has discovered that 60,000 Israelis wrote at least one racist, anti-Arab Facebook post in 2016. The survey showed that the number of discriminatory or defamatory posts on the social network reached 675,000, with an average of one post every 46 seconds, double the figure of 280,000 found in 2015.
One of the findings correlates the racially-profiling remarks and stereotypes made by Israeli leaders and official media, respectively, with the rising racism and incitement-charged content posted by the Israeli public on social media.
As examples of this phenomenon, the report flagged the “social media violence” by Israeli activists when officials accused Arab citizens of arson when major fires erupted across Israel in November last year. The same happened when Israeli Minister of Culture Miri Regev roused Israeli public opinion against Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and rapper Tamer Nafar during a film awards ceremony in southern Israel, in protest against the Darwish-inspired lyrics performed by the singer.
The results suggest strongly that the Israeli public source their news about the Palestinian Arabs from their media, wherein the range of racial incitement against Arab politicians widens when they are mentioned frequently. For instance, Hanin Zoabi MK received the most insults and death threats, with an average of 60,000 posts; she was followed by Ahmed Tibi MK with 40,000 posts; Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 30,000; and MKs Ayman Odeh and Basil Ghattas, with 15,000 posts each. In addition, the Bnei Sakhnin football team received 14,000 posts.
The centre published this report while an Israeli campaign to accuse Palestinians of racially-aggravated behaviour has been in full swing, with the government agreeing with Facebook to combat what it alleges is “incitement” by Palestinians on social media. As a result of this cooperation, a number of the Facebook accounts of Palestinian activists and news outlets have been blocked.
The report reveals further that Israel has pursued more than 200 criminal cases against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians on charges of incitement on the Internet; not one case has been opened in order to bring Israeli Jews to account.