Anti-Palestinian hate speech grew in 2021 amid Gaza war and Israel elections

Most violent comments were made through Twitter, Palestinian digital rights group says

Inciteful comments aimed at Palestinians and Arab members of Israel's parliament rose to the highest level in years, first in March and again between April and May last year, a Palestinian digital rights group said on Tuesday.

The surge in online hate speech coincided with the Knesset elections in March, the April-May protests against Israeli authorities and the Israeli offensive on Gaza that killed 192 Palestinians in Gaza and 10 civilians inside Israel, a report by the group 7amleh showed.

“Social media platforms in the May protests reflected what was happening on the ground, as hate speech notably increased during the uprising,” said Nadim Nashif, director of 7amleh.

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“Social media was also used as a tool to organise violent and inciting attacks against Palestinians and Arabs, with its impact exceeding the digital realm into the real world.”

Israel’s highly-anticipated parliamentary elections last year culminated in the head of the United Arab List, Mansour Abbas, joining a coalition government between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, in a historic agreement for Arabs.

Mr Abbas, members of his party and Ibtisam Mara’ana, a member of the Labour Party in the Knesset, were among those at the receiving end of inciteful and violent speech on social media.

Of Ms Mara’ana, one user said: “You should spit on her and expel her”.

“Every thought of involving Arab parties in the government coalition, must be thrown into the garbage. No deals with traitors,” wrote another.

Others referred to Palestinians as “human dirt” who should be “exterminated” and “murdered”.

Such comments were mostly made through Twitter (58 per cent), while Facebook only hosted about 19 per cent, 7amleh saidd after assessing more than 620,000 racist conversations.

The group said that hate speech against Palestinians and Palestinian-Israelis increased by 8 per cent since 2020 while violent speech constituted 11 per cent of overall speech – the highest it has been since 2017.

Updated: January 19, 2022, 11:51 AM
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