Hate campaign hits social media

 04 Jul 2014 - 7:18

Masked Palestinian protesters throw stones towards Israeli police during clashes in the Shuafat neighbourhood in Israeli-annexed Arab East Jerusalem yesterday

JERUSALEM: After this week’s murder of an east Jerusalem Palestinian, calls to inflict violent revenge on Arabs over the killings of three Israeli teenagers have gathered momentum on social media websites.
Such incitement, including by serving soldiers, has featured photos on Facebook and Twitter and prompted Israel’s authorities to urge restraint and threaten the culprits with disciplinary action.
The abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June, which Israel blamed on Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, ignited intense public grief and an outpouring of anger.
Fears are growing that such anger may have been channelled into action on Wednesday when a Palestinian teenager was abducted and murdered, apparently in a revenge attack.
Calls on the streets for revenge have spread to the web, with one Facebook page labelled “The people of Israel demand revenge” getting some 35,000 “likes” before it was removed on Wednesday evening.
A new version of the page received 4,000 likes after being launched early yesterday. It featured pictures of Israeli soldiers serving in the occupied West Bank, both men and women, inciting action against Palestinians.
One soldier, cradling a machine gun, had the word “Revenge” scrawled on his chest in black marker pen.
Rudy Saada, a journalist and social media specialist, said such views did not reflect those of the majority of soldiers.
“As usual, it’s the extremists who are the ones heard loudest,” he said.
“The soldiers are hiding their faces (in the images) but are leaving the names of their units visible. These are units deployed in the (Palestinian) territories, and they’re not always the most educated members of the Israeli army,” Saada said.
The military said it would clamp down “severely” on the culprits.
“Posting racist pictures and calls for attacking innocent people is something dangerous that does not fit with what we expect from an Israeli soldier,” an army spokesman said.
Israel’s public prosecutor advised police to launch an investigation into the incitement, a justice ministry statement said.
Four ultra-Orthodox soldiers have already been jailed for 10 days in connection with the hate campaign, Israeli media reported yesterday.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni deplored the online hate campaign.
“It doesn’t need to end in murder to be shocking,” she said in a speech to the Bar Association in the southern port city of Eilat.
“It is enough to see what is written on the social networks — they have turned into hotbed of dangerous and violent incitement.
“This is not the way of Zionism, this is not the way of the state of Israel. We must not let the extremists win.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres issued a plea for restraint.
“People who are engaged in incitement are not always aware where it can lead, to more sorrow, to more dangers,” he said in a statement.
“It’s time for all of us to show restraint, to show understanding and let us as human beings, all of us, be true to our morality.”
The incitement has not been confined to cyberspace, with some 200 Israelis staging an anti-Arab march in east Jerusalem that degenerated into attacks on Palestinians and security forces.