IDF vows to punish soldiers’ racist online incitement
Spokesperson blames ‘politicized elements’ for exploiting nationwide sadness as army orders ‘hard line’ against racism
Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.
Soldiers who posted racist slogans and calls for vengeance on social networks will be severely punished, the spokesperson of the Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday.
After the bodies of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Frankel were found Monday, thousands of Israelis, including many soldiers in uniform, took to social media sites to post dozens of photos and messages pledging revenge for the three teenagers’ killing, often using racist language. Such actions are inconsistent with army’s worldview, which views such calls with “the utmost severity,” IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz said in a statement.
“We regret that the national feeling of sadness is being exploited by politicized elements to incite and to draw IDF soldiers into this kind of activity,” the statement read. “Freedom of speech on social networks is no substitute for command conversations in instances of this sort.”
Commanders have been instructed to “take a hard line” against soldiers making racist remarks or calls for vengeance, and to act to prevent such statements and acts, the statement added.
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 a heated exchange in Hebron.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has ordered an investigation opened into the online incitement. The Israel Police on Thursday said it would launch an investigation into the incitement.
A Facebook page titled “The People of Israel Demand Vengeance!” had over 32,000 likes on Wednesday, but was taken down by Thursday morning. Other smaller pages bearing the same campaign name could still be found on the social network.
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.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.