Pro-Palestinian social media celebrates murder of Ukrainians in terror attack - analysis

The murders in Bnei Barak have an Arabic hashtag: Operation Bnei Barak. In the hashtag, they post videos of the killing and decorate the images of the perpetrator with flowers.

 The scene of a shooting in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
The scene of a shooting in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022.

When news of a terror attack began to circulate on social media, a number of Palestinian Arabic-language media and social media accounts began to celebrate.

The reports claimed that “settlers” were killed. This might be confusing for some who read Western media and think “settlers” refers to Israelis living in the West Bank. In Palestinian populist media and among social media users, it almost always refers to everyone who lives in Israel.

The term “settlers” in this context goes beyond referencing Jewish Israelis or Jews in general. It also refers to foreigners who live in Israel or tourists.

In the case of the Bnei Brak terror attack on Tuesday, two Ukrainian victims living in Israel were also labeled as “settlers.” And if anyone needs to understand the depths to which the populist, nationalist, pro-terror, far-right Palestinian narrative has sunk over the decades, one need only witness how the murder of anyone in Israel is acceptable, be they Jewish, Arab or Ukrainian.

The murders are celebrated in most parts of the West Bank and Gaza and among their supporters abroad, and the celebrants do not discriminate: they honor the killing of everyone.

Israel Police officers and rescue forces are seen at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, March 29, 2022 (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)Israel Police officers and rescue forces are seen at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, March 29, 2022 (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

There is no other place in the world, and no other cause, that celebrates mass killing as “heroic.”

The statements by terror groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are available for all to see. PIJ was quoted by Quds media saying “the heroic operation of Bnei Brak is an affirmation of our people’s insistence on paying back the occupation the price of its aggression, and in response to the cries of children and mothers who lost their dear ones amid the silence of the international community.”

There is no pushback on tweets like this when Palestinian or pro-Palestinian Arabic media post them. No one says: “Wait, the victims are two Ukrainians, they are innocent.” And this is the honest image of what has become a privilege of the hate crimes of terrorism.

This kind of hate crime goes beyond our notion of what might be called a “nationalist” crime, or even an antisemitic, racial, religious or ethnic-based crime. This is the mindset of the hate-filled criminals and their supporters, who have taken on a genocidal “right” to kill whomever they want – and then be celebrated as “heroes.”

To murder a person randomly is a new definition of “heroic,” but this is what years of excusing these crimes as “resistance” have done.

One cannot accurately call this a conflict between two groups or states: a conflict in which a man gets up in the morning and sets off to shoot people at random because they are living in a state he doesn’t like goes beyond the concept of “conflict.”

It’s as if one country just randomly bombed other countries and claimed a “heroic victory.” We wouldn’t call that a conflict.

It is also unclear why we say the perpetrators are part of a “militancy,” which would imply there is some “military” aspect to this. A man with a rifle killing an unarmed man sitting and eating falafel isn’t involved in any kind of “military” action. He’s committing a hate crime and a crime against humanity.

We should view this phenomenon as a hate crime. The Ku Klux Klan lynching people was not a “conflict,” and it was not “militancy.” It was hate-based criminality. And that in essence is what is happening here, as radicalization has poisoned the minds of some who take it upon themselves to kill Israelis.

That Palestinians on social media celebrate even when they know the victims are not Israeli is an example of how low and depraved this populist hate trend has become. The shifting of the term “martyr” from someone who targeted a military target to a person blowing up a bus to a person stabbing people to a person shooting random foreigners is part of the process.

It is a process not just of dehumanization, in which the other is called “settler,” but also a privilege afforded the hate criminal who is told from a young age that if he decides to kill random people, he will be a hero. He sees growing up that other men whose posters hang around the neighborhood or outside schools are “martyrs,” even if their “martyrdom” was stabbing a 78-year-old unnamed woman walking to her local grocery. And there’s no shame in killing a foreign tourist either – no one will protest or preach against it.

We can read the reactions on social media. When it became known that two Ukrainians were victims of the hate crime attack, one woman posted the photos of the victim and called it a “heroic operation.” A man replied that “no one is safe in Palestine, they will have to go back where they came from.”

They post smiley faces as comments, laughing at their deaths, and they post emojis of clapping and write: “Wherever you are, death will catch you.” This isn’t out of ignorance – some of the comments in Arabic about the murdered Ukrainians even reference Zelensky and praise Putin.

One reaction to the murder of the Ukrainians announced in Arabic Palestinian media was that “they think that by publishing this, it will warn people the occupation by Israel is worse than the ‘occupation’ of Ukraine” by Russia.

This is an informed comment by an educated person. Other media called the Ukrainians “immigrants.” Still, others made sure to claim that the two Ukrainians were “Jews.” One claimed they were Jewish immigrants who came to “occupied Palestine.”

But a social media account that claims to cover Gaza noted the men were foreign workers. One man celebrated the deaths of the two by posting smiley faces laughing and a heart with the word “Putin.” He has 1,700 followers.

The murders in Bnei Barak even have an Arabic hashtag: Operation Bnei Barak. With the hashtag, they post videos of the killing and decorate the images of the perpetrator with flowers. “Brave fighter,” “hero” and “it will be better for the Zionists to leave” are some of the comments.

These celebrants write without shame in their own names with images of the victims. No one challenges their accounts on social media.

This praise of murder is a cult of genocidal hatred. It is no different from that of the KKK or Nazis, in which a supremacist ideology has accorded itself a right to murder all whom it considers other.