Israelis post anti-Arab racism online every 46 seconds, study finds

A new study shows that Israeli Jews publushed 675,000 racist posts on social media in 2016 — a dangerous increase from 2015, when only 280,000 such posts were published.

7amleh statistics

Every 46 seconds an Israeli Jew publishes a racist or inciting comment against Arabs on Facebook and other social networks, a new study finds. According to the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media (7amleh), which published its Index for Racism and Incitement on Social Media last week, 60,000 active Israeli social media users published at least one racist post against Arabs in 2016.

According to the study there were over 675,000 such posts in the previous year, published at a rate of one post every 46 seconds — a dangerous increase from 2015, when 280,000 racist and inciting posts were published.

7amleh’s study also focused on the correlation between remarks made by high-level government officials and the amount of inciting posts. One can see a clear increase in the number of racist posts against Arabs following every inciting remark by a member of the government.

The sharpest spikes in racist posts came following remarks by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against Arab citizens, following the fires that raged across Israel and the West Bank in November 2016, which leaders blamed on nationalistically-motivated arson. Miri Regev’s comments against Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar and poet Mahmoud Darwish also led to a higher volume of incitement on the internet.

Another sharp increase was felt throughout the trial of Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who was found guilty of killing an incapacitated Palestinian in Hebron early last year.

Haneen Zoabi is removed by Knesset security on February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Haneen Zoabi is removed by Knesset security on February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

According to the study, the Israeli media serves as the main inspiration for racist posts against Arabs. Much of the hatred and incitement is directed at Palestinian politicians, who are frequently mentioned in both the media and who are incited against by Israeli politicians. MK Haneen Zoabi was the most frequent target of incitement and racism, with 60,000 posts directed at her. Ahmed Tibi was subjected to 40,000 posts, closely followed by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with 30,000 and Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh with 25,000.

7amleh published the following video:

Institutionalized racism works

7amleh’s report was a result of repeated accusations by Israeli politicians that Palestinians take part in incitement against Israeli Jews on social media. These accusations led to the arrests of Palestinian activists, often when they had committed no such crime. According to 7amleh, Israel is putting pressure on companies such as Facebook and Google to reveal data on its users so as to make it easier to track and arrest them.

According to human rights organizations, over 200 criminal cases have been opened against Palestinian activists who have been accused of incitement on the internet. On the other hand, only a few Israeli Jews have been arrested for anti-Arab incitement on social media.

7amleh’s study was conducted by Vigo, an Tel Aviv-based company that specializes in monitoring and studying social media outlets. The company used a search algorithm based on 100 names and key words used among Palestinians, crosschecking them with racist words or incitement to violence that often appears on social media in Israel.

This article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.