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Israel's online incitement of violence against the Palestinians

March 16, 2018 at 9:49 am

Social media apps [magicatwork/Flickr]

A major Israeli propaganda talking point is the concept of “Palestinian incitement”. The idea behind it is that Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation is so self-defeating, so irrational, that it can only be the work of outside agitators.

The Official Enemy of the past, supposedly responsible for such “incitement”, was the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Before that it was Gamal Abdel Nasser, the leader of Egypt, who allowed some Palestinian fighters to operate out of territory he controlled.


Today, the main “inciter” of Israeli mythology is probably Hamas, Palestine’s Islamic Resistance Movement. Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority, despite its craven policy of “security coordination” with Israel, is still used as a scapegoat for the source of “incitement” of Palestinian youth to resist Israeli occupation by demonstrating, throwing stones or even attacking Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers.

UoM BDS Campaign - Cartoon [Latuff]

UoM BDS Campaign – Cartoon [Latuff]

Even the BDS movement – aiming to encourage boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it stops violating basic Palestinian human rights – is considered “incitement” by Israeli propagandists.egy

The reality, of course, is very different. In fact, Palestinians need no “incitement” by anyone as a motivation to resist Israel’s occupation. The only genuine source of incitement is Israel itself and its actions.

Every time Israeli occupation soldiers shoot and kill another unarmed Palestinian youth for daring to raise a voice in opposition to the brutal military regime, then that is a source of incitement.

Every time thuggish soldiers perpetuate Israel’s 70-year-long campaign of ethnic cleansing by bulldozing another Palestinian home, that is a source of incitement.

Every time fanatical Zionist settlers in Hebron attack another Palestinian child, and every time they steal yet another Palestinian home through direct force because the Israeli state gives them carte blanche to do so, that is a source of incitement.

In reality, Palestinians need no outside incitement for them to react to their daily reality. As long as Israel continues to deny Palestinians their basic rights, they will continue to resist by any means necessary.

A new report on Israeli incitement from a Palestinian human rights group based in Haifa shows that – as is so often the case – the reality is very different to Israel’s false claims. Everything that the Israelis falsely accuse their enemies of doing they themselves are, in reality, guilty of that much and more.

7amleh (also transliterated Hamleh) is a relatively-new centre for digital rights and free speech in the social media realm. Its new report analysed the Israeli social media sphere during 2017, and found some shockingly hateful results.

Read: Israel arrests 280 Palestinians for Facebook posts

Palestinian citizens of Israel are typically very well educated in Hebrew as a second language, and so 7amleh was able to look comprehensively into the realm of Hebrew-language social media. The organisation found that, on average during 2017, there was a new Israeli social media posting containing incitement to violence or hate speech against Palestinians every 71 seconds. Some 445,000 Israeli social media postings contained calls for violence, hate speech or curses against Palestinians.

Such popular Israeli online incitement has in the past included a 2015 campaign for Palestinian “terrorists” to be executed – into which many Israelis sickeningly drafted their own children (many openly published their children’s photos, but the article to which I’ve linked has carefully pixelated out the faces of all minors).

According to 7amleh, this “exposes Facebook’s complicity in perpetuating the double standards of the Israeli government of silencing and shutting down Palestinian content whilst allowing for the spread of Israeli incitement. Furthermore, the Israeli government fails to hold any Israeli accountable for online violence while at the same time it jails hundreds of Palestinians based on this unfounded claim of incitement.”

Read: #FBFightsPalestine

Palestinians often face Israeli prison cells for daring to criticise Israel online. Perhaps the most notorious example of this in recent times has been the arrest and imprisonment of Dareen Tatour for daring to write a poem calling for Palestinians to “Resist them, my people, resist them.” She too was accused of “incitement”.

#FBFightsPalestine - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

#FBFightsPalestine – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Facebook (on which 82 per cent of the incitement and hateful Israeli social media posts recorded in the 7amleh report took place) has been complicit in this censorship effort. The extent to which the social-media monolith helps Israel to remove and censor legitimate Palestinian political speech from the platform was revealed recently; it does this under the pretext of “incitement” or “terrorism”.

However, Facebook does nothing when official Israeli spokespeople, MPs and ministers openly incite violence, ethnic cleansing and even outright genocide against the entire Palestinian people, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure,” in the words of a text that the woman who is now Israel’s “justice” minister posted infamously on Facebook in 2014.

It is time for these unaccountable social media corporations to be forced to become more transparent.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.