How Israel Ploughs a Racist Furrow on Social Media
How Israel Ploughs a Racist Furrow on Social Media
If You Call for Exterminating Arabs – that’s freedom of speech
If you Call for Intifada then that’s incitement
If you are an Israeli Jew and you post the most obnoxious filth about
Arabs on social media or the Internet then you can rest assured that there will
be no legal consequences. However if you
are a Palestinian and post something like ‘“I
am on the waiting list.” then you risk being arrested, detained, beaten up or
whatever by the forces of the State. Of
course in theory the law applies equally to everyone but in Israel, which has a much cleverer form of Apartheid
than in South Africa, not everything is written down.
Raed Saleh of Israel’s Northern Islamic League- sentence to 9 months imprisonment for ‘incitement to race hatred’ in Israel only the victims of racism get gaoled
Instead discrimination is embedded into long-standing
administrative practices. There are
shared understandings between those who control the state apparatus which
negate the need for laws specifying that Arabs will be prosecuted for x and y
whereas Jews will not be prosecuted. So
just as the Access to Communities Act passed last year left the decision on
whether to accept residents to existing residents in communities with less than
500 people, in the full knowledge that this would be used by Jewish residents
to bar Arab residents on the grounds that they ‘wouldn’t fit in’ there was
nothing in the legislation specifying this.
It was all understood as a way of getting around the Supreme Court
decision in Kadan that the State and the JNF couldn’t discriminate in the
leasing or renting of land or property between Arabs and Jews.
reading in Hebrew ‘Jesus monkey, Maria cow, Tag price’, sprayed on the
walls of Deir Rafat Catholic convent in April near the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem (AFP)
So too it is with social media. In not much more than 5 minutes going through
posts on The Times of Israel site I came across calls to exterminate Arabs and
much more besides. Will the person who
posted this or equally vile posts be prosecuted? Of course not. There would be thousands of such
prosecutions, almost all of them Jews, in Israel. Instead it is easier just to patrol and
police the comments of Israel’s Arab population. After all they are the enemy in the ‘Jewish’
Posts calling for exterminating Arabs and ‘the only good ‘Palestinian’ is a dead one – no prosecutions if you are Jewish
That became clear in mid-October when 19-year-old Anas
Khateeb was arrested and charged with incitement over three comments he had
posted on the social media website. The comments
read: “Jerusalem is Arab,” “long live the intifada” and “I am on the waiting
In the past week, a magistrate’s court in Akka
(Acre) — a city in present-day Israel — extended his detention until 26
His treatment is being perceived as an attack on the
right to free expression by Palestinians. The charge of incitement is viewed as
absurd. None of the three posts explicitly called for violence.
And none of them received more than 70 “likes,”
indicating that Khateeb was unlikely to foment unrest on any significant scale.
Under Israeli law, incitement only occurs if there is a strong possibility that
a speech or text will encourage acts of violence.
Khateeb’s arrest has been part of a wider crackdown on
Palestinians living in present-day Israel, where they make up about 20 percent
of the population.
human rights group, has calculated
that approximately 100 Palestinian activists were arrested in Israel within the
space of a week in early October. In most cases, requests by police to extend
the detention of these activists were approved by courts.
A Palestinian gravestone vandalised
The courts have ignored evidence that police violently
suppress political protests, according to Adalah. The organization also accuses
the Israeli forces of abusing their powers and has documented how Palestinian
activists have been arrested for organizing an “unlawful gathering,” even
though there is no such offense in Israeli law.
Police who overstep their powers are seldom punished.
“This impunity has not only allowed the police to
avoid accountability, but has essentially encouraged them to view their
brutality as legitimate,” said Amjad Iraqi, an Adalah campaigner.
Strategy of persecution
Monitoring of online activity by Palestinians is
undertaken by both the authorities and by employers.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israelfinds that that Palestinians are being dismissed from jobs
because of comments they have made. Employers are checking what Palestinian
workers write on Facebook and giving the names of young workers to the police,
it has been reported.
“The persecution of Palestinian citizens of Israel has
been a strategy of the State of Israel for years,” said Khulud Khamis, a feminist campaigner and writer based in Haifa.
“It is only changing form, and spreading to the medium of social media.”
“I think those people who publicly voice their
opinions do so knowing the risks entailed,” she added. “Others keep silent for
precisely the same reason.”
Nadim Nashif, founder of the grassroots group 7amleh,
said that young people are more likely to be arrested for Facebook posts as
they are the most politically active group in Palestinian society.
The Israeli authorities are seeking to depict a wide
variety of comments relating to protests as incitement, according to Nashif.
“A girl from Haifa was arrested because she wrote
‘take an onion with you’ on Facebook,” he said. “The Israeli authorities said
that this meant that she was preparing for tear gas to be used.”
“It is ridiculous, they will try to find anything they
can [to persecute people],” he added.
While a number of Palestinians have been jailed
for their online activities in the recent past, Israel appears to be
intensifying its surveillance and repression both on the Internet and on the
streets in response to mass protests.
A young Nazareth
woman was recently placed
under administrative detention — detention without charge or trial — after stating
in a text message that she wished to become a “martyr.” Although administrative
detention has been widely practiced against Palestinians in the occupied West
Bank, this is the first case in a decade of it being used against a Palestinian
citizen of Israel, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
“Israel is trying to keep things under control; they
always panic at a potential uprising,” Nashif said. “They are taking a harsh
attitude with Palestinian citizens in order to keep us quiet while they are
busy in the West Bank. Things that are acceptable in normal times are not
Nashif noted that different standards are being
applied to Israeli Jews than to Palestinians.
In October, Reuven Rivlin,
Israel’s president, promised he would never release Yigal Amir, who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister, in 1995. In response, Hagai
Amir, Yigal’s brother, wrote on
Facebook that Rivlin was a “kiss-up politician” who “must pass from the Earth.”
Hagai Amir was detained for one day, before being released and placed under
five days’ house arrest.
By contrast, “Anas Khateeb did not make any
specifically violent comments and his detention has been extended,” Nashif
said. “It is completely unjustified.”
Racism at the top
Israel’s ruling coalition contains a number of
ministers who have made racist and arguably genocidal remarks about
Palestinians. The best known example is that of Ayelet Shaked,
now Israel’s justice minister.
During Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, she claimed
that all Palestinians are “enemy combatants” and advocated the killing of
Palestinian mothers while calling their offspring “little snakes.”
Unlike Khateeb’s posts, Shaked’s Facebook comments
received thousands of “likes.”
Adalah has complained to Israel’s attorney general
about the incitement by Israeli public figures. But no action has been taken.
Among the cases raised by
Adalah were that of Avigdor Lieberman, then Israel’s foreign minister, who called in
March this year for the beheading of “anyone who is against us.”
And during the summer, Adalah complained
about how Bentzi Gopstein, director-general of the Israeli far-right group Lehava,
had stated publicly that he supported the burning of churches. Adalah contended
that his remarks amounted to a call for violence against Palestinian Christians.
“There are lots of racist posts and comments in the
Hebrew social media, but they only arrest Arabs,” said Rani Khoury, a
Palestinian living in Nazareth.
“Israel does not want Arabs to think politically,” Khoury said. “They want us to be more Israeli. They have been scaring us like
this since 1948.”
Alia Al Ghussain is a British-Palestinian born and
raised in Dubai. She holds an MA in human rights from the University of Sussex
and is currently based in Haifa.