Ultranationalist Israelis in recent days have created secret online groups to hide their activities and to organize and spread hate against Arab Israelis.
News sites, including Sky News, have been monitoring the activities of Israeli ultranationalist social media accounts and have reported that the accounts are breeding grounds for hate speech and are being used to organize anti-Arab attacks in Israel.
While some of these groups are currently under review from Facebook, the encrypted messaging app Telegram previously took down a few of the channels, including one with “war group” in its title and another called “Death to Arabs.”
Reports indicated that the attack on an Arab man who was pulled from his car by a mob of right-wing Israelis and beaten in the streets of Bat Yam last week was coordinated on Telegram.
One of the groups shut down by Telegram boasted around 6,000 members who call themselves a civilian army. After it was deactivated, its members reportedly regrouped and formed a different channel that includes more than 400 users.
Usernames on these groups include “Death to Arabs,” “State of Israel,” and “Every Arab killed is a holiday for us.” One member carrying the username “State of Israel” shared an image of a man who had been shot in the head, captioned “Father of all Arabs.”
Another group, called La Familia-Death to Arabs, was linked to La Familia, the far-right, football supporter group of the Israeli Premier League club Beitar Jerusalem. The group was also shut down by Telegram for encouraging members to take to the streets to “bring order” and for inciting violence.
Facebook and WhatsApp groups are also vehicles for inciting violence, with some appearing to be connected to far-right Israeli political party Otzma Yehudit, meaning “Jewish Strength.”
A post on one of these groups reads: “In Lod there is a call for all those who carry a weapon to come asap to Lod to help save Jewish lives. Yes, it’s that bad. I emphasize: ONLY those with weapons!” The page was recently deleted by Facebook.
Most of these groups cannot be accessed without the admin’s approval and require a comprehensive set of security questions to verify prospective users. First, they must offer a photo of themselves with proof of the date and time it was taken and a link to their personal social media.
Then, they must produce a video and a written message in Hebrew vowing support for Israel and affirming a willingness to give their life for the cause. This evidence is then sent to an admin who will invite the user to the private chat.
A spokesperson for Facebook stated that the platform has dedicated teams, comprised of native Arabic and Hebrew speakers, that are “closely monitoring the situation on the ground” and “removing content and accounts that break our rules as quickly as possible.”
“We’re reviewing the accounts shared by Sky News and have already removed one Facebook Group for breaking our rules,” the spokesperson said.
In related developments dockworkers in the Italian port of Livorno refused to load weapons on a cargo ship after discovering that they were headed for Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
“We’ve decided to say enough,” Giovanni Ceraolo, coordinator of the Unione Sindacale di Base (USB), an independent trade union organization representing workers in the main commercial port of Tuscany in northern Italy, told Arab News.
“Whenever we know about loading, unloading or passage of armaments in our port, we’ll intervene. We’ll ask the competent authorities to stop the passage of those weapons, especially if they’re bound for places where they’ll certainly be used against civilians, as is happening now in Palestine,” he added. “If those weapons still come, we’ll do whatever we can to refuse loading or unloading them.”
The trade unionist said if necessary, his organization will declare a strike “so that no weapons in transit in the port of Livorno will be used to kill civilians, wherever this happens.”
He added: “It could be costly for us as we’d lose part of our salary, but no salary justifies aiding in any way those who kill civilians.”
USB member Massimo Mazza told Arab News: “We refused to load that ship because we don’t want to operate on ships carrying death. We don’t want to be called accomplices in giving weapons to those who are killing unarmed civilians, as Israel is doing now.”
He added: “We have no intention to facilitate the transportation of weapons and explosives that will be used to kill the Palestinian people, who are suffering so much and mourn hundreds of innocent civilian victims, including many children.”
The USB in Livorno has launched an awareness campaign so that workers do not load weapons on ships bound for war zones.
“Work is important, especially in the very difficult times we’ve been living through with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis. But this can’t make us close our eyes, or even worse, become accomplices in the continuing massacres of the civilian population in Palestine,” Ceraolo said.
The latest media casualty of the war is Gaza-based Palestinian journalist Yousef Abu Hussein who was killed on Wednesday by an Israeli airstrike on the building in which he lived. His wife and brother were injured.
Footage by Al-Araby TV showed that the building’s two upper floors were destroyed but the rest of it did not appear to be significantly damaged. Residents did not reportedly received any prior notice of the attack.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Thursday condemned the killing of Abu Hussein and called on Israeli authorities to immediately clarify whether they deliberately struck his home.
On May 12, Israeli airstrikes also destroyed the Al-Shorouk building in Gaza, which housed a number of media outlets.
Source: Arab News