Israel Police is set to launch an investigation Thursday into calls for incitement on an Israeli social media campaign that urges vengeance against Arabs over the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers on June 12.
Police will open the probe at the recommendation of Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, Israel Radio reported Thursday.
On Wednesday, thousands of Israelis took to social media to publicly demand vengeance over the killing of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach shortly after they were abducted while hitchhiking in the West Bank three weeks ago. The bodies of the three were found on Monday in a field north of Hebron.
Anti-Arab slogans flooded the web, and Facebook pages calling for revenge rapidly garnered massive followings.
By Wednesday afternoon, a Facebook page titled “The People of Israel Demand Vengeance!” over 32,000 likes but by Thursday morning, that page seems to have been taken down. Other smaller pages bearing the same campaign name could still be found.
The page featured hundreds of photos of people holding up signs demanding revenge for the killing of the teens, and urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order widespread military action in the West Bank and Gaza.
The campaign was reminiscent of a similar social media meme which erupted in April, as thousands of IDF soldiers expressed support for a soldier who faced public censure after he cocked his weapon at a Palestinian teenager in Hebron.
A post uploaded by the group’s administrators on Wednesday stated: “Many have been asking if vengeance means killing innocent people. No… The goal of this group is to avenge the blood of those kidnapped, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, of blessed memory. To catch the terrorists who kidnapped and killed them, and exact vengeance.”
Some of the images posted to the page appeared to be aimed at subverting its message by portraying harmless animals with a caption demanding revenge.
Tensions between Jews and Arabs continued to rise on Wednesday after the body of East Jerusalem Palestinian resident Muhammed Hussein Abu Khdeir, 16, was found overnight in what locals described as a revenge attack for the killing of the three Israeli teens: Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16.
Media outlets that reported that incident were greeted with a stream of comments glorifying the murder and calling for further retributions against Arabs.
“I hope that every day we will see more bodies!” one person posted.
“Applause to whoever slaughtered that sick animal,” wrote another.
Others called for the deportation of all Arab Israelis from the country.
Earlier this month, the “three Shalits” hashtag, an internet meme showing popular support for the abduction of the three teenagers, emerged online and spread across the web, with Palestinians and others in the Arab world posting photos of themselves signaling the victory sign, sometimes writing the words “three Shalits” in pen on their hands.
The campaign was criticized by many Israelis.
Following the funerals of the three Israeli teens on Tuesday evening, police in Jerusalem arrested at least 47 ultra-nationalist Jewish demonstrators who chanted anti-Arab slogans and denounced the lack of a government response to the killing.
The demonstrators called out “Death to the Arabs” and “No Arabs, no terror attacks.” Many wore stickers and shirts expressing support for the slain ultra-nationalist rabbi Meir Kahane.
Police said one man was arrested after going into a McDonald’s with a mask and attempting to attack an Arab. Three more people were arrested nearby after attacking Arabs.
At the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall Wednesday, a group of some 40 teens gathered around a woman sitting outside a restaurant who had told them to leave, and poured water on her, according to a bystander.
“One of the boys spat at her, and then at me,” Sara Miriam Liben, who was sitting nearby, recounted. One of the teens smashed a glass on a restaurant table.
There were some teenage girls in the group, as well as two mothers walking behind the unruly youths. One of the women told bystanders she was proud of the violent group.
The demonstrators’ march, which began at the Bridge of Strings at the entrance to the city and continued along Jaffa Road to the Machane Yehuda market and Zion Square, blocked traffic and briefly brought the city’s light rail to a halt.