Arabs took to social media in hoards last week when wildfires caused by suspected arsonists broke out in Israel. Hundreds of thousands took to Twitter and Facebook to gleefully proclaim #TheZionistEntityIsBurning and #IsraelIsBurning.
Israel has not taken kindly to the (some would say unsurprising) lack of solidarity from some of its Middle Eastern neighbours after the blazes caused large amounts of damage. In some cases, however, its response to Arab social media comments has verged on farcical.
A young Palestinian activist from a Bedouin community in the south of the country has been released today after he was arrested on Thursday over a misinterpretation of his social media criticism of Arab gloating over the fires.
Anas Abudaabes had written a satirical post mocking those who suggested the inferno was a divine punishment for the recent bill banning the use of loudspeakers to broadcast the call to prayer in the country. It seems however, Israeli police humor did not stretch to satire, and he was detained for four days under the misunderstanding that he had been inciting arson.
An Arab Knesset member, Osama Saadia, pointedly commented after Abudaabes’ release on bail that "the police should stop using Google Translate."
Perhaps more weird still was the use, by official Israeli accounts in Arabic, of Quranic verses to denounce the Arab social media response.
A post by a spokesperson on behalf of the Israeli military with a considerable Arab following included a verse from the Quran in a post criticizing what he called the “hatred, incitement and gloating” of some of the comments. Avichay Adraee nonetheless thanked others for their “rational responses”, which he claimed represented “the true voice of God”.
Whoever breaks the covenant of Allah after contracting it and severs that which Allah has ordered to be joined and causes corruption on earth, it is those who are the losers. (The Cow 27)
In contrast to the harshness of some of the Arab social media response, Palestinian firefighters helped put out the blaze, receiving rather muted thanks from Israel (Palestine is a small footnote at the bottom, if you missed it).
It seems that Israel was not to be outdone by its Arab counterparts in terms of social media snubs.
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