Social media frequented by Israelis and Palestinians reveals the true feelings behind this weeks tensions.
Social Media is often a place to vent, a barometer of public opinion, a space where people who have no voice in the mainstream media can project their concerns, anger and frustration. It is a place where things are said as they are, with no political correctness, no fancy wording, and no illusions. It is the place to look, in short, when you want to discover the reaction on the ground to local events by ordinary people.
Unfortunately this resource is also a method of incitement. In recent weeks, both Israelis and Palestinians have taken to social media to either encourage violence or call for revenge. A few have called for a peaceful resolution of current tensions, however with growing anxiety on the streets and the sale of self-defence items going through the roof this week in Jerusalem, such peaceful activists are growing ever smaller in number and influence.
On the Palestinian side, the "Car Intifada", as it has become known, has seen Palestinian newspapers and even the Fatah Facebook page and EU funded Al Quds University displaying images of cars mowing down Israeli civilians, of a car with the dome of Al Aqsa on top of it beside which an Israeli soldier waits with a knife, and of the Al Aqsa mosque portrayed as a woman being raped by an Israeli soldier. "Hit the gas for Al Aqsa" has been a popular slogan, following a statement by Abbas calling on Palestinians to use "all means" to defend the mosque. On social media, terms such as "Israeli pigs", "Zionist murderers", and "death to Zionists", are rampant.
On Israeli social media, the public reaction to the recent stabbings in Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion has equally bayed for blood and revenge. A new Facebook page entitled "Unitetheidfshands" calling for more power to be given to the Israeli Defense Forces says: "If they thought they had it bad before, we need to show them how good it was". Arab car tyres are being slashed overnight in East Jerusalem (Beit Safafa), with the slogan "No cars, no Arabs" spray-painted next to them. This follows the deaths of three Israelis last week in such nationalistically motivated "hit and runs"/terrorist attacks. More Israelis have been killed in the last month by Palestinians (a total of 6) than in the last 2 years (a total of 5)- a fact which is causing alarm in Israel, but ridiculed by many when compared to the casualty number from Gaza this summer alone.
Comments by the Israeli public on the Facebook page of the Jerusalem Post following the publication of a picture of the suspected killer of an Israeli soldier yesterday included: "Blood for blood, his family should also be killed, this is the only language these savages understand", "Kill this murderer animal", "Destroy him...Shoot him", "Put him down", "I was hoping that the pic was of him on a shelf in the morgue. Maybe someone will help him to get there", "kill these rats", and "the annihilation of Gaza is required."
These animalistic instincts are not to be found only on one side or the other, as some would have you believe, but on both sides. They are as bad as each other. The idea that there is one side more righteous in mentality than the other is a warped vision of reality. Violence begets violence. It is a constant circle. Of course some will say that there are no Israelis blowing themselves up or running people over, that there is clearly more "violence" coming from the Palestinians (the "they started it" mentality), however these people forget the damage of structural violence impeding people's freedom of movement, and psychological violence at checkpoints, which leads to physically violent reactions. And it will require two very courageous leaders to say firmly "Enough is enough". Currently, both Israelis and Palestinians continue blaming each other, rather than looking in the mirror. It is more convenient. Yet, if the status quo remains, there is no alternative but for violence. Leaders must step up be leaders by providing a political alternative, or else they will bring both peoples into a new war much sooner than they may have expected..