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Report: Israelis incite against Palestinians every 66 seconds on social media

Icons for the Facebook and Twitter applications are displayed on a smart phone in front of Google website in Ankara, Turkey on 29 August, 2018 [Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency]
Icons for the Facebook and Twitter applications are displayed on a smart phone on 29 August 2018 [Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency]

A new report has found that last year Israelis incited against Palestinians on social media every 66 seconds, pointing to a worrying increase in anti-Palestinian rhetoric.

The report – which was conducted by 7amleh: The Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media and distributed by Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network – found that, in 2018, Israelis posted “inciting content” every 66 seconds, up from every 71 seconds in 2017.

In addition, one in ten social media posts against Palestinian citizens of Israel denied Palestinian identity, contained hate speech or calls for violence such as rape and murder, the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday, citing 7amleh’s findings.

The report also noted that, “in total, in 2018 there were some 474,250 inciting posts against Palestinians on Israeli social networks,” the main catalyst for this being the controversial Nation-State Law.

The law, which was passed in July last year, declared Israel the “historical home of the Jewish people” and stated that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”. This effectively rendered Israel’s some 1.8 million Palestinian citizens, as well as the country’s myriad minority populations such as the Druze and Armenians, second class citizens.

The report notes that many of these inciting social media posts were directed against Israel’s Palestinian politicians, most of whom are Knesset Members (MKs) with the Hadash-Ta’al or Ra’am-Balad alliance. These Arab-Israeli politicians have come under repeated attack, not only from the Jewish-Israeli public but also from their colleagues in the Knesset.

This incitement was thrust into the spotlight once again by Israel’s general election last month, during which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used anti-Palestinian rhetoric to drive voters to the polls. In an echo of his controversial 2015 campaign message – that right-wing voters must vote Likud to counter Palestinian citizens going to the polls “in droves” – Netanyahu coined the slogan “it’s either Bibi or Tibi”, a move vehemently condemned by Arab-Israeli politician Ahmad Tibi whose name the mantra employed.

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A further aspect of the report noted that Israel is also using social media to censor content which supports the Palestinian cause. It explained: “Israel is using artificial intelligence techniques to locate users by matching traits like age, gender and location with keywords like ‘resistance’ and ‘martyr’.” Then, the report says, “Israeli authorities censor these people’s posts and pages, deleting their accounts and, in some cases, arresting these posters”.

Israel is no stranger to cracking down on pro-Palestinian social media content. Just one prominent example is the case of Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel from outside Nazareth who was arrested in 2015 for a poem she published on Facebook.

Israel pass Facebook Bill which will authorise deleting content considered incitement - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel pass Facebook Bill which will authorise deleting content considered incitement – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The poem – called “Resist, my people, resist them” – included lines such as “in Jerusalem, I dressed my wounds and breathed my sorrows, and carried the soul in my palm for an Arab Palestine”. It called on readers to “follow the caravan of martyrs” including “Ali [who] called from his grave,” likely referring to 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh who was burned to death in his West Bank home during an arson attack by extremist Israeli settlers in the summer of 2015.

Tatour was sentenced to five months in prison for “incitement to violence” and “supporting terrorist organisations”, eventually being released in September 2018. Earlier this month Tatour was partially acquitted of incitement, with the Nazareth District Court reversing her conviction. Tatour’s lawyer, renowned human rights attorney Gaby Lasky, hailed the acquittal as “a victory for the freedom of artistic creativity and democracy and a stop sign for the government that persecutes, censors and silences artists and artists who do not think like them”.

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