ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Clip of man forced to kiss their hands, feet widely reposted

Palestinian teens who humiliated Haredi man for TikTok video freed to house arrest

Investigation into ‘grievous incident’ by youths, 14 and 16, in Old City of Jerusalem ongoing; police say release from custody ‘in no way speaks to their innocence’

An ultra-Orthodox man bends down and kisses the foot of a Palestinian teen in the Old City of Jerusalem; two Palestinian teens were arrested over the incident on December 1, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
An ultra-Orthodox man bends down and kisses the foot of a Palestinian teen in the Old City of Jerusalem; two Palestinian teens were arrested over the incident on December 1, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Two East Jerusalem teenagers arrested last week after posting a video showing them accosting a Haredi man and forcing him to kiss their hands and feet were released to house arrest on Tuesday, police said.

The video, taken in the Old City of Jerusalem and posted on the TikTok video hosting platform on December 2, showed the pair intimidating the traditionally dressed Jewish man, making him kiss the hand of one of them, and then kneel to kiss the foot of the other. It has sparked angry reactions, leading to the arrest of the two, along with fresh worries about social media’s role in fueling assaults by Palestinians.

Police said in a statement that the State Prosecutor’s Office had decided to release the two, aged 14 and 16, to house arrest while continuing its investigation. The suspects have not been named publicly in line with rules protecting the identity of minors.

“The decision to send the suspects into house arrest under restrictive conditions in no way speaks to their innocence or to the results of the investigations,” the police statement said. It called the incident “grievous.”

The video has been removed by TikTok, but versions of it have been reposted with different background music, often so-called “anthems of the revolution” — songs that extol the Palestinian cause and in many cases incite violence.

One song used with the video, “Ma Hadha?” (“What’s That?”), features a musical Q&A in which a time-traveling sheikh from early-Islamic Arabia asks, “What is that terrified creature with a hat and sidelocks? He looks different or unreal, is he a foreigner?”

“That’s a Jewish settler and the one with a gun over his shoulder came from the West to colonize the land of my forefathers,” comes the sung answer from a modern-day Palestinian. The same song is used in over 100 different videos on TikTok, many of them anodyne clips showing ultra-Orthodox Jews going about their business.

Some voices have raised concerns that social media is driving an uptick in violence against Israelis by Palestinian youth in search of internet fame.

The phenomenon of Palestinians filming themselves assaulting or humiliating ultra-Orthodox Jews sparked outrage and clashes last year, leading to several arrests. In one video that went viral, a Palestinian was filmed pouring hot coffee on an Orthodox man, leading to a two-year prison sentence.

In October, TikTok banned an account belonging to the Nablus-based Lion’s Den terror group, which had used social media to spread videos of its attacks and gained a large following in a short period.

At the time, Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz instructed law enforcement officials to focus efforts on combating incitement on social media, amid heightened tensions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, a deputy mayor of Jerusalem, told The Times of Israel this week she was “not surprised” by the violence and incitement strewn across Palestinian social media.

“It’s part of a culture of systematic racism and antisemitism being taught at Palestinian schools,” she said.

The Israeli Education Ministry, in collaboration with Jerusalem City Hall, has offered incentives for East Jerusalem schools to adopt Israeli curricula as a replacement for Palestinian ones, which they claim contain examples of incitement. The Israeli efforts on this front prompted schools in East Jerusalem to go on strike in September.

Haredi Jews who live in neighborhoods to the north of the Old City often pass through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to reach the Western Wall.

While inter-religious confrontations are generally infrequent, they sometimes ramp up during times of heightened tensions, according to Eran Tzidkiyahu, a Jerusalem expert at the Forum for Regional Thinking.

Tzidkiyahu noted that Haredi Jews faced attacks in the Old City during the First Intifada, their easily identifiable Jewish garb making them easy targets. During the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, Haredi leaders launched an Arabic-language campaign explaining that most ultra-Orthodox Jews had no desire to visit the Temple Mount, in a bid to dispel misconceptions and lower tensions, he said.

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