Study: 20 years later, Rabin assassination conspiracy theories have risen dramatically online

Some say Shin Bet, Shimon Peres responsible for assassination, others believe that former prime minister is still alive.

October 27, 2015 01:51
3 minute read.
Itzhak Rabin

Yitzhak Rabin. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Support for conspiracy theories around the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and praise for his murderer has risen dramatically in recent years on social networking, as part of a wider phenomenon of growing incitement in Israel, according to a study.

“The Hate Report”, an online report compiled by the Berl Kaznelson Foundation, has found that out of 90,000 mentions of Rabin on the Internet and social media since the beginning of the year, some 22,000 showed support for conspiracy theories surrounding the murder, 9,000 said assassin Yigal Amir is innocent, 1,800 called for him to be released, and the majority of those 22,000 said that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) or Shimon Peres were directly responsible for his murder.

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Some 200 people expressed their belief that Yitzhak Rabin is still alive.

The Hate Report examines incitement and hate speech on Facebook, Twitter, and also in comment threads on every Israeli news site, noting any time someone writes a comment, status, or reply dealing with a particular race, religion, or group in Israel, including Arabs, the LGBT community, and leftists, among others. The report’s compilers use a platform that scans some 500,000 online “mentions” in the Hebrew language per day, according to Anat Rosilio, the manager of the project.

Regarding Rabin assassination conspiracy theories, Rosilio said that “we have seen conspiracy theories start to take a central place in the discussion about Rabin,” adding that she thinks people today feel more comfortable to express such views.

The report also lists the frequency with which inciting words are used on social media in Israel. According to the report, the word “Nazi” is used 10,078 per month on social media; with almost triple that amount this October, perhaps due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent comments about Mufti Haj-Amin al-Husseini’s ties to Hitler or the ongoing wave of terrorist attacks.

The report also includes a breakdown of whom hate speech targets. On average, 39% of comments are directed at Arabs, 13% toward the LGBT community, 11% toward ultra-Orthodox Jews, 10% toward leftists, 8% toward Oriental Jews, and the rest toward asylum seekers and others. This month, however, amid a surge of stabbing attacks and shootings, the figures have shifted, with 58% of hate speech directed at Arabs, 14% toward leftists, 6% toward the LGBT community, 5% toward the ultra-Orthodox, 4% toward asylum seekers, and the rest toward “others,” according to the report.

According to Rosilio, the online debate in Israel is very closely affected by the security situation in the country and by the political issues dominating the debate offline.

For instance, this past month, they’ve seen a surge in hate speech directed toward Arabs, while after past rulings by the Supreme Court against the state’s policies on asylum seekers, there has typically been an uptick in hate speech directed at African migrants.

The recent wave of violence has seen hate speech peak online, Rosilio said.

She added that the Facebook page for The Shadow, an Israeli rapper turned rightwing activist, has become one of the top locations online where Israelis post hate speech or comments that could be classified as incitement.

Rosilio said that she doesn’t agree with blaming the platform for the rhetoric, or that social networks simply make people more comfortable to say things they wouldn’t otherwise.

Rather, she says, the blame can be placed squarely at the feet of Israel’s political leadership: “I don’t blame the platform, I think it’s easy for us to say harsher things, because many of our leaders don’t hesitate to do so and there isn’t a responsible adult who will return the debate to its acceptable boundaries.”

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