7amleh found incitement on Israeli social media trebled compared to 2020, with peaks of violent speech reported during the Israeli elections and Gaza offensive.
Incitement against Palestinians and Arabs on Israeli social media trebled in 2021, while hate speech increased by 8 percent, Haifa-based 7amleh – the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media says in its latest report.
In its Index of Racism and Incitement on Israeli Social Media in 2021, 7amleh monitored 620,000 online conversations, and found 46,000 more posts promoting hate speech and violence compared with 2020. Palestinian politicians in Israel came particularly under fire, according to the report.
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.
“In terms of law enforcement, the Israeli [authorities] are not dealing with this,” 7amleh’s director Nadim Nashif told TRT World. “It is very one-sided and focused on the Palestinian narrative.”
Violence and hate speech peaked twice during the year – in conjunction with the Israeli elections in March, and in May during protests that began over the expulsion of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip later that month.
Nashif explains that while as many as 55 Arabic names of Palestinian groups, individuals and organisations are flagged and automatically removed from social media platforms, only one name – that of the leader of the Jewish supremacist Lehava movement – gets the same treatment in the Hebrew language.
“Our research shows very clearly that extreme content in Hebrew is not being moderated,” Nashif explained.
Violent speech against Palestinians, Arabs and their representatives constituted around 11 percent of overall speech on Israeli social media platforms in 2021 – a peak since 2017. Most hate speech was shared on Twitter, which hosted nearly 60 percent of the inciting and racist comments. Facebook hosted 18 percent, while 15 percent was found in online comments.
“There are Israelis who feel totally free to incite and call for violence. And we have seen the result of this: extremist Israeli groups were attacking Palestinians in their neighbourhoods and their homes in Haifa and Jaffa,” Nashif said, referring to unprecedented violence in Israeli cities last May.
“It leads to real harm and real violence.”