Israelis organising mob attacks on Palestinian-Israelis via WhatsApp
Last Wednesday, a WhatsApp group called "Death to the Arabs" urged its members to partake in a mass attack on Palestinians, according to a report by The New York Times.
Hours later, dozens of other new WhatsApp groups titled with genocidal remarks against Palestinians emerged, all planning attacks on Palestinians at 6pm in Bat Yam, a town on Israel's coast.
"Together we organise and together we act," read a message in one of the WhatsApp groups. "Tell your friends to join the group, because here we know how to defend Jewish honour."
Live-streams of Israelis attacking Palestinians and vandalising car windows began to emerge. The mob ripped one Palestinian man from his car and beat him unconscious, leaving him in serious condition.
According to a new analysis by the New York Times and FakeReporter, an Israeli group that monitors misinformation, at least 100 WhatsApp groups have been formed for the express purpose of organising violent attacks against Palestinians.
The WhatsApp groups, which included names such as "The Jewish Guard" and "The Revenge Troops", have added hundreds of new members a day over the past week. The groups, which are in Hebrew, have also been featured on email lists and online message boards used by anti-Palestinian extremists in Israel.
"It is a perfect storm of people empowered to use their own names and phone numbers to openly call for violence, and having a tool like WhatsApp to organise themselves into mobs," said Achiya Schatz, director of FakeReporter.
Palestinian citizens of Israel have experienced long-standing institutional discrimination and violence, but attacks on the community have escalated in recent weeks. Palestinians have been targeted by Israeli mobs whiles scores of protesters have also been detained by police, rights groups say.
Last week, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the central Israeli city of Lod after heated Palestinian protests, warning of police would "restore law and order with an iron fist".
Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz deployed feared Border Police units to the city, which has a large Palestinian majority.
It is the first use of emergency powers over a Palestinian community in Israel since the government withdrew military rule over the population in 1966.