Israelis Evenly Split in Reactions to Summary Execution of Palestinian Assailant

Analysis of social media conversations reveals that 48 percent of users were critical of soldiers' shooting of captured Palestinian, while 46 percent were in favor.

The scene of a stabbing attack at in Hebron in the West Bank on Thursday, March 24, 2016.
United Hatzalah

Israelis are almost evenly split in their attitudes to the killing of a captured Palestinian assailant by an Israel Defense Forces soldier, according to an analysis of social media reactions.

The soldier was filmed shooting the prone and captured assailant in the head on Thursday. The Palestinian was one of two attackers who were shot while stabbing another soldier in Hebron.

According to an analysis conducted by Vigo, a company specializing in analyzing social media data, 48 percent of the social media users who responded to the shooting were critical of the soldier, while 46 percent responded favorably to his action.

The number of posts was close to the number of users who created them – in other words, most of the users published one post on the subject.

Responses to blogs, forums and talkbacks were included in the analysis, though the bulk of social media reactions (about 96 percent) were on Facebook and Twitter. The analysis covered a period of about six hours, from the first reports of the shooting until 8 P.M.

During that time period, according to Vigo, some 2,000 social media users posted comments, with about 10 comments a minute posted during the peak period of 6 P.M. to 8 P.M.

The majority of critical posts were posted by center-left activist who acknowledged their political positions. Some 20 percent of those posts mentioned the occupation and the majority were critical of the officers and soldiers in the immediate vicinity of the soldier who fired on the Palestinian.

The bulk of the 46 percent of social media users who supported the action of the soldier wrote that the IDF should behave similarly with all terrorists. Only a small number of them acknowledged that the video of the shooting created an image problem for the IDF, though they nevertheless thought killing the terrorist was preferable to keeping him alive.

Most of the supporters identified themselves as right-wingers, or even radical rightists. The profiles of some are known as rightwing activists who respond to every incident. Some 15 percent of the posts attacked B'Tselem, the left-wing NGO that provided the camera with which the incident was filmed and distributed the video.

The Vigo data shows similar reactions to the Brussels terror attacks earlier in the week. Some 39 percent said that the Europeans had it coming to them and that the Brussels bombings were the result of European support for the Palestinians.

"We call on both sides to show restraint," some right-wing activists wrote satirically. "Belgium must stop its building in East Brussels."