Even as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the kidnapping last week of three Israeli teens, and his security forces assist the Israeli army in its efforts to retrieve them, popular support for the abduction has continued to proliferate on Palestinian social media.
The “three Shalits” hashtag emerged online almost as quickly as #BringBackOurBoys, with Palestinians posting photos of themselves signaling a three-fingered victory sign, sometimes writing the words “three Shalits” in pen on their hands.
The new victory sign has quickly become a symbol of Palestinian defiance as the IDF expands its campaign across the West Bank.
Al-Quds, a Palestinian news agency, published an article on Wednesday describing the creative ways in which Arabs are celebrating the campaign through personal photographs, shaping the words out of string beans, or even carving them on a Libyan beach.
“The campaign has raised the slogan ‘three Shalits’ in support of capturing Israeli occupation soldiers and exchanging them for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails,” the article read. “While containing Palestinian messages, the campaign has spread to include Arab countries, as well as Arab and Palestinian ex-patriots the world over.”
On Twitter, one commenter wrote: “We don’t know anymore if the Hebronites really kidnapped the three Israelis or whether this is an Israeli lie. Hopefully it’s true.” Another wrote: “The people of Hebron could hide a shekel and no one but God would know where it is. All the more so three settler dogs.”
French muslims hold up three fingers to celebrate the kidnapping of 3 Israeli teens, this morning https://t.co/RagAiu5Whm
— Arieh Kovler (@ariehkovler) June 18, 2014
The new salute is reminiscent of the four-finger hand gesture used by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt following the ouster of president Mohammed Morsi last June, known as the Rabia sign.
Music is also being used to express Palestinian satisfaction over the abduction. A humorous clip titled “the capture of Shalits” by Abdul Rahman Al-Qaryouti was uploaded to YouTube on Monday, garnering over 7,000 views.
“Once we used to have a Shalit, now we have a handful of Shalits,” go the lyrics. “The Zionist in the West Bank is completely lost… Our heroes stepped on his soldiers. Victory is coming, O prisoners, salvation is coming, O prisoners.”
Some websites, however, have posted photos of ostensible pro-kidnap salutes that predate the kidnapping and/or are not related to the kidnapping. This widely circulated Facebook post, for instance, was initially posted on January 15, 2014.
The popular campaigns are the result of “an emotional impulse more than a rational one,” said Ramallah-based political scientist Sameeh Hamoudeh of Bir Zeit University.
“There’s a general sense that Israel only responds to force and that no [political] solution can be reached on the prisoners,” he told The Times of Israel, referring to Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli prisons. “It stems from frustration with the Netanyahu government and its rejectionism concerning the prisoners, especially following his refusal to release the last batch of Palestinian prisoners [as part of the peace talks with Israel].”