An Annual Report Reveal That Israeli Incitement and Hate Speech Against Palestinians and Arabs Trebled in 2021

Murad Jandali | 2 years ago




Israeli online incitement and hate speech against Palestinians and Arabs increased much more during 2021 than it did in 2020, according to a report published by the Arab Center for the Development of Social Media (7amleh) on January 18, 2022.

Another report by 7amleh attributed the apparent change in the narrative that deals with the Palestinian issue, especially after the recent Israeli aggression on the Palestinian territories, to the global spread of images and videos from the protests of the residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which succeeded in raising global awareness about the Palestinian cause.

Observers believe that the deafening silence of the international community has allowed the Israeli entity to continue its military occupation of Palestine, consolidate its apartheid and deepen its control over Palestinian life everywhere, it is not excluded that this template of its control will be expanded to include the digital world as well.


Violent Racism Speech

7amleh, a Haifa-based human rights organization that defends the digital rights of Palestinians, announced in its annual report on January 18 that “the results of the indicator of racism and incitement in Israeli social networks during 2021 against Palestinians and Arabs showed an unprecedented increase in many years.”

Monitoring results indicated the spread of about 620,000 conversations in the Hebrew language, included violent and inflammatory speech towards Arabs.

The year 2021 witnessed an increase of 46,000 Israeli inflammatory publications compared to the previous year (2020), during which 574,000 violent publications were published.

The results also showed in 2021 that the rate of speech inciting violence had tripled compared to the year 2020, according to the report, which monitors the overlapping of racist discourse on the Internet with the increase in violence against Arabs and Palestinians throughout the year.

In addition to the intensification of violent speech against Arabs, Palestinians and their representatives, the proportion of violent speech out of the total online speech about Arabs reached 11%, for the first time since 2017.

Palestinian politicians in Israel have come under particular criticism, according to the report, the leader of the United Arab List, Mansour Abbas, and Labor Party member Ibtisam Mara'ana, were among the most targeted members of the Israeli Knesset.

Among the Hebrew-language content that was shared on social media, for example: “Every idea of including Arab parties in the Israeli government coalition should be thrown into the garbage,” “no deals with traitors,” and “the Palestinians are human filth and must be exterminated and killed.”

“The most prominent platforms used to spread racist comments and incitement during 2021 was Twitter, where 58% of violent speech was published through it, while the Facebook platform accounted for 19%,” 7amleh indicated.

“The spread of online violent speech peaked in March of last year, during the Israeli elections, as for the second peak, it was recorded between April and May during the protests that began as a result of the expulsion of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem by Israeli settlers, and the Israeli aggression on the besieged Gaza Strip later, which killed at least 256 Palestinians,” the report found.

Commenting on the results of the Racism and Hate Index, Nadim Nashif, Director of 7amleh Center, said: “Our latest annual report shows very clearly how extremist content in the Hebrew language is not censored, and the occupation authorities’ enforcement of the law is biased and focuses only on the Palestinian narrative.”

“55 Arabic names of Palestinian groups, individuals and organizations were automatically removed from social media platforms, in exchange for the removal of only one Hebrew name is the far-right Benzi Gopstein, leader of the Jewish Lehava movement,” Nashif added.

“Incitement and calls for violence by extremist Israeli groups without oversight or accountability are considered an organizational tool to attack Palestinians in their neighborhoods and homes, for example: the unprecedented violence that took place in the cities of Haifa and Jaffa in May 2021,” Nashif said.

In turn, Palestinian journalist Iyad Hamad said in a statement to Al-Estiklal that “Israeli hate speech against the Palestinians has existed for a long time and has spread from the digital world to the ground, we have all seen the violence, killing and assassination of Palestinians, carried out by the Israeli army in the West Bank and Gaza.”

“The increase in hate speech over the past year is a result of it being affected by the changes taking place in the political arena, such as the events of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, the demolition of homes in the West Bank, the bombing of Gaza, the Knesset elections, and the settlers’ attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he also stressed.

“Hate speech and the resulting violence is a mechanism that has been programmed and organized by the Israeli government, what doubled its outcome during the year 2021 is the penetration of extremist officials into Israeli governments, during the former Netanyahu period and during Bennett’s current period,” he noted.

Hamad asked, “How do social media platforms allow the Israeli extreme right to coordinate its calls for rallies and attacks against Palestinian homes at specific hours and places? At the same time, it will delete Palestinian content and ban it if it writes any statement that opposes the practices of the Israeli occupation.”

“There is a clear failure by the Palestinian Authority to raise the voice of the people and expose the practices of the occupation and settlers against the defenseless Palestinian citizens who are being attacked,” he pointed out.

“In order to confront and stop this hate speech, social media pioneers can respond to it directly and report it; civil society organizations, activists and ordinary people everywhere must speak out to end this mockery,” Hamad added.


Online Discrimination 

In its report issued on January 11, 2022, 7amleh said that “what applies to Palestinians who demand their freedom online does not apply to Israelis who incite violence and spread hatred against these same Palestinians.”

The report also revealed that the Israeli Internet Unit, which operates within the Ministry of Justice, systematically monitors Palestinian content and submits its objections to technology giants, Facebook approved 81% of requests made by the internet unit to remove content.

“This is evidence that confirms that digital discrimination faced by Palestinians in the digital world is not a technical defect, rather, it is the result of systematic efforts by the Israeli authorities to silence the voices of human rights activists and influence tech companies’ policies related to content policing,” according to the report.

Gideon Sa'ar, who is currently Israel's Minister of Justice and Deputy Prime Minister, who seeks to expand the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinians to include the digital world through what is known as the Facebook Bill, which aims to give Israeli courts the power to suppress Palestinians' freedom of expression on the Internet and to control their speech and incitement against them.

For Gideon Sa'ar and his ilk, the speech of racism, hate and incitement online, along with daily violence, against Palestinians is not an important topic.

“In addition to Israeli hate speech against Palestinians and Arabs, Palestinians also face internal societal challenges such as restrictions on Palestinian digital rights by Israeli authorities and technology companies, as well as misinformation, which affects their activity and participation in the digital world,” according to the report.

“Social media platforms have increased censorship of Palestinian content, hundreds of publications related to the Palestinian situation were deleted, restricted, and restricted, during a period not exceeding two weeks,” the report added.

7amleh documented more than 1,000 violations across different platforms, the Facebook and Instagram platforms topped the list of the platforms that most violated the digital rights of Palestinians and Palestinian content, while Twitter and Tik Tok were more responsive to center's notifications than Meta.

The report emphasized the power of social media, the need for optimal investment in the digital world, especially with regard to the Palestinian cause and narrative, and the importance of globalizing it rather than limiting it to the local level.

This was confirmed by the events during 2021 and what accompanied the case of Sheikh Jarrah, as Mohammed and Muna El-Kurd were able to communicate the issue to the world in English through the use of terms and contents that serve the Palestinian cause and show the correct narrative.