In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not all incitements are equal

Sunday 13/11/2016
A March 2015 picture shows a Palestinian woman walking down stairs in front of graffiti scrawled on the wall of a Palestinian home in al-Mughayir, east of Ramallah in the northern West Bank. (AP)

London - Israel regularly accuses Pales­tinians of incitement, which it claims directly leads to violence against its security forces and, in some cases, Israeli civilians. This charge has gained prominence since the outbreak of violence in Oc­tober in which individuals carried out attacks, mainly against Israeli armed forces at humiliating check­points. Commentators labelled the series of attacks the “knife intifada”.
Israel’s definition of what consti­tutes incitement is wide-ranging and includes Palestinians labelling those killed by Israeli forces “mar­tyrs”, providing financial support to families of those killed or politi­cal prisoners, objecting to repeated incursions by Israeli extremists to al-Aqsa mosque, reporting Israel’s crimes to world bodies and even Pal­estinians reminiscing about return­ing to the towns and villages they came from before being driven out from 1948 onward.
More recently, Israel has turned its attention to social media. A “like” on a post or “praise” for an attack on Israeli security forces now consti­tutes incitement. The case of Pales­tinian astrophysicist Professor Imad Barghouti hit the headlines when he was sentenced to seven months in prison for “incitement” on Face­book. Evidence presented in sup­port of the charge was the number of “likes” and “shares” his Facebook posts received.
Israeli authorities have exerted increasing pressure on social media platforms to stop “abetting Palestin­ian incitement”, which resulted in Facebook dispatching a delegation to Israel in September to meet with Israeli government officials. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netan­yahu noted that “the goal here is to improve cooperation against incite­ment, the incitement to terror and murder, on the social network”.
However, incitement against Pal­estinians is rife in Israeli society and among political and religious lead­ers. The chant of “death to the Ar­abs” is regularly heard from Israeli youths, this was particularly so dur­ing a Tel Aviv rally in support of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who killed a gravely wounded Palestinian in Hebron in March.
Incitement on social media by Is­raelis is widespread. Take the exam­ple of Facebook user Arkadi Yakob­ov who wrote: “There is no shame in burning an Arab, it is a great mitz­vah to burn Arabs”. Galit Elmaliach agreed and added “may all the Mu­hammads burn, amen”.
The news and opinion website +972 Magazine, which translated these from Hebrew, noted that “no one raised an eyebrow. Their lives went on without any interference by the Israeli justice system”.
This contrasts with the case of Palestinian Sami Da’is, who received five likes for one of the status posts mentioned in his indictment and nine likes in another. He was sen­tenced to eight months in prison.
Incitement against Palestinians by Israeli religious leaders is reported but generally goes unpunished. Dur­ing Israel’s war on Gaza in 2014, ex­tremist Israeli Rabbi Dov Lior, from the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, issued a Halakhic ruling that sanctioned the killing of innocent civilians after being asked about the war in Gaza.
Incitement by Israeli politicians is also commonplace. Take Israeli Jus­tice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who, when commenting on the attack on Gaza, said “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy”, adding “in­cluding its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure”. She justified the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes”.
This was posted on her Facebook page in 2014 but in 2016 Shaked proudly announced that having been pressured by the Israeli gov­ernment, Facebook had “complied with 95% of Israeli requests to de­lete content” but only of posts by Palestinians.
It seems that equality is such anathema to Israel that even when it comes to incitement, there is un­equal treatment of Palestinians and Israelis. Likes for a post by a Pales­tinian can land you in jail but out­right incitement by Israelis is toler­ated.