Marwa Fatafta’s Twitter mentions have been flooded.
While violence escalated in Israel-Palestine earlier this month, Fatafta, who is Palestinian and works as a political analyst for an online think tank that focuses on Palestinian human rights in Berlin, had posted pictures and stories. on families killed in the Gaza Strip. 14,000 followers. In response, she had been trolled. Some of the hate speeches, which they called Palestinians as their “terrorists,” came from far-right Israeli accounts. But many appeared to be from India – Fatafta said they had Indian names and the Indian flag in their usernames.
“It seemed like all these ethno-nationalists from India and Israel were coming together,” Fatafta told BuzzFeed News. “It was a fascinating phenomenon. I haven’t been trolled by people from India before. ”
Like the deadly violence in which the Israeli army killed 248 Palestinians and Hamas killed 13 Israelis was ended by ceasefire, hate speech against Jews online is resurrected, as the anti-Semite violence.
But the conflict has also fueled an online wave of hate speech and misinformation against the world’s Muslims. A full-page advertisement in the New York Times accused pop stars Dua Lipa and models Gigi and Bella Hadid of anti-Semitism. Last week, the Israeli Public Affairs Committee of Israel, a pro-Israel lobby group, posted Facebook ads that superimposed face of Representative Ilhan Omar on Hamas races, with the factually inaccurate caption: “When Israel targets Hamas, Rep. Omar calls it an act of terrorism.” Official Twitter account in Israel in Arabic angry Muslims tweeting verses from the Qur’an with an image of an Israeli air strike in Gaza (that tweet has since been deleted).
That the conflict in the Middle East could spark waves of hatred and lies against Muslims is not new. But what is new is the source: India. In the world’s largest democracy, anti-Muslim hatred has become mainstream, both online and offline. Just a year ago, the politicians of the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and even dozens of press channels accused a meeting of the Tablama Jamaat, an international Islamic missionary group, to deliberately spread the coronavirus in India after more than 4000 cases they were bound to this. At the time, #CoronaJihad was one of the top trending topics on Twitter in the region.
On Saturday, First Draft News, a UK-based non-profit organization that studies disinformation, published an analysis of more than 300,000 tweets relating to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. They found a campaign containing thousands of tweets and hashtags that appeared to have been created in India, one of Twitter’s leading markets.
“As we analyzed the tweets, we noticed that the top hashtags still had some Indian references,” Carlotta Dotto, senior data journalist at First Draft, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s been shocking.”
Dotto focused on #UnitedAgainstJehad, an intentionally misspelled hashtag that was mentioned more than 40,000 times by nearly 6,000 accounts between May 12 and May 17. The analysis showed that the hashtag was at the heart of one coordinated campaign destined to make it move on trend, accompanied by troops on Muslims that Indian Hindu nationalists have been spitting up for years – as amassi and jihad, an unfounded conspiracy theory that accuses Muslim men of converting Hindu women to Islam because of marriage. 10% of accounts using the hashtag were created in May.
“It was clear that they were using the Israel-Palestine conflict to promote their own Twitter stories in India and around the world given the amount of attention it was getting online,” Dotto said.
Although India had previously tended to avoid participating in the region, relations between India and Israel have improved dramatically under Modi, who became the first Indian prime minister to visit the country in 2017. In part that is why the leaders of both countries are conservative nationalists. Moreover, India’s rights are based on its country’s long-standing rivalry with neighboring Pakistan.
“India’s right wing finds Israel fascinating for a number of reasons,” Jency Jacob, editor-in-chief of Boom, an Indian fact-finding organization, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s a small country surrounded by Muslim neighbors fighting outside. It has a strong leader that concentrates on protecting its borders.”
“Whenever there is tension between an Islamic country and any other country, the far-right ecosystem gravitates towards the one that is on the non-Muslim side,” Jacob adds. “For them, it is a natural aggression that highlights all their prejudices against Muslims in general.”
Members of the Indian party Bharatiya Janata and his supporters have taken to the conflict. Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, spokesman for the BJP, called Islam is a “Virus” that was “generator of Terrorism in the world” and said, “Israel is Vaccine of this Virus, please support Israel.” He too claimed that Muslims believe “Religion is greater than the nation.” Each of Bagga’s tweets got thousands of retweets and likes. Hundreds of messages insulting Muslims were also transmitted via WhatsApp, Facebook’s instant messaging application used by hundreds of millions of Indians.
“Check out most of the #IndiaStandWithIsrael tweet handles,” he tweeted Rana Ayyub, Indian profile journalist often overlooked by supporters of Far Right Modes. “A common thread that runs through is a visceral hatred for Muslims and a bloodbath to see Muslims massacred and show their place.”
As watch dogs in Israel he struggled to follow through with the glut of hatred and lies, his counterparts outside the country would not have made it any easier. Boom, for example, has verified facts almost two dozen stories, some of whom portrayed the Palestinians as falsifying their anguish.
“It’s become one of our big topics,” Jacob told BuzzFeed News.
One of the pieces of misinformation falsely pictured a funeral rally organized in 2020 by young Jordanians to evade the coronavirus block while Palestinians falsify a funeral for “international sympathy”. Another viral clip tried to pass a 2017 news report on Palestinian thugs as Palestinian residents falsifying wounds during the current conflict.
“Repression is transnational,” Fatafta said. “Islamophobia is the common denominator here.”