A study by a progressive Zionist NGO has found a massive jump in hate speech online directed against President Reuven Rivlin after he was publicly criticized by senior members of the right-wing, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Throughout 2019, the president was subject to a number of public attacks by politicians who accused him of working against Netanyahu, says Anat Rosilio of the Berl Katznelson Center, which produces an annual National Index on Hate and Incitement.
"The unprecedented increase in online hate speech directed at President Rivlin is part of an ever-growing trend in Israel of violent rhetoric and online incitement against the country's institutions, such as the judicial system, the police and the media," says Rosilio.
"[Politicians] must understand that the things they say have a devastating influence on public discourse and they must take responsibility," she says.
According to the National Index on Hate and Incitement, hate speech directed at Rivlin grew by 47% in 2019 from the year before.
One of the most prominent posts came from Netanyahu's son Yair, who posted an image of U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter, with a comment that read: "This is my president!"
The Index, which monitors hatred in Israel's online and social media in cooperation with Vigo Research, found approximately 12,267 hateful posts and comments directed at Rivlin in 2019. In 2018, there were 8,340 such posts and comments.
The index itself tracks millions of conversations on an hourly basis (profile statuses, reactions, comments on articles, tweets and so on) and aggregates the information to indicate levels of tolerance or incitement in the public and media discourse.
The Index's results show that the majority of the hateful comments about Rivlin came from those affiliated with the right and often criticized him for actions such as his proposal for avoiding a third round of national elections.
The proposal, which was never implemented, would have seen Netanyahu forced to share a rotating premiership with main political rival Benny Gantz.
The index also shows that most of the hateful posts targeting Rivlin came specifically from Netanyahu supporters, who accused Rivlin of actively working against the prime minister.
They accused the president of colluding with Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar, who ran against Netanyahu in the last party leadership race, and slammed him for speaking up for the Arab population after an attack by the prime minister during the Sept. 2019 elections.
"A lawyer for terrorists and domestic enemies," wrote one commenter about Rivlin.
"He's stirring up feelings of disgust and hypocrisy; that's what happens when you're not a public elected official," wrote another user.
"Let that left-wing president go to hell," wrote one person in a post supporting Netanyahu. "He wanted Gantz as prime minister but now that he failed, he's getting all choked up. Only Netanyahu will be this country's prime minister with the right ruling for decades to come."
In one of the more virulent posts directed at Rivlin, a user wrote: "You're both a moron and a dictator. Rivlin, you are not my president and you will never be!" Another commenter called Rivlin "President of Palestine" for his support of the Arab sector.