Protesters stand opposite police during a protest for the death of 18-year old Solomon Tekah of Ethiopian descent, after he was shot by police, in Tel Aviv, Israel July 2, 2019.
(photo credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)
A massive spike has been witnessed in recent days in online incitement and hatred toward the Ethiopian-Israeli community in the wake of the death of Solomon Tekah and the subsequent protests against police.
The Berl Katznelson Center, which tracks hate speech on social media in Hebrew, found last week that online expressions of hate toward the Ethiopian community rose 40-fold.
Whereas racist comments against Ethiopian-Israelis on social media constitute on average just 1% of all hate speech tracked by the center, last week saw that figure jump to 40% at its peak.
In the many posts on Facebook, YouTube, talkbacks on news sites and other forums, users called Ethiopian-Israelis a variety of racial and ethnic slurs.
A common comment was to tell Ethiopian-Israelis to “go back to Ethiopia,” with others calling them “terrorists” and “wild animals.”
One commenter on a Facebook post said that they should “go back to monkey land,” while another said “send them back to Sudan, urgently.”
The level of online hate tailed off significantly after the protests stopped, although even on Tuesday it was 13% of all online hate speech, 13 times its monthly average.
The center blamed both the media focus on protests that turned violent, as well as right-wing politicians who politicized the protests, saying they were instigated by left-wing organizations and specifically the New Israel Fund (NIF), a particular bogey-man for the right wing.
One organization highlighted by right-wing media was the group Standing Together, supported by the NIF, which called for activists to participate in the protests against police violence.
Channel 20 commentator Shlomo Riklin blamed “left-wing organizations” for the wide-spread protests, although he also stated that anger among the Ethiopian-Israeli population was justified.
Likud MK and former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat blamed the NIF for “fanning the flames,” while Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan accused “extremist organizations” of the same thing, saying they were acting out of “political considerations.”
Katznelson Center deputy director Anat Rosilio-Adler said that it was specifically the politicization of the protests by politicians and the implication that they were politically motivated by the Left that generated the spike in online hate.
She said that the reason that there has been a generally low level of online hate against the Ethiopian-Israeli community until now is that it has always been viewed in non-political terms and an inherent part of Israeli society.
“This week that border was fractured, and the Ethiopian community found itself outside of the bounds of Israeliness, together with the Arabs, the Left and even the Druze,” said Rosilio-Adler.
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