Al-Aqsa Aftermath: Analyzing post-Attack Extremist Rhetoric

July 18, 2017


Following the July 14th attack on al-Aqsa mosque, during which three Israeli-Arab gunmen shot and killed two Israeli police officers, tensions mounted as police canceled Friday prayers at the mosque for the first time in nearly two decades. Many international terror groups issued statements praising the attack, denouncing the closure, and inciting further violence against Jewish people and institutions.

Further analysis showed an extraordinary amount of anti-Semitic tweets from ordinary Arabic-speaking users who explicitly reference the attack. Many of the tweets advocate for violence against Jews.

Part 1-- Violent post-Attack Rhetoric on Twitter:

Over the weekend, violent anti-Semitic speech praising the attack skyrocketed on Twitter. Nearly 22 percent of all tweets in Arabic mentioning “al-Aqsa” or “Al-Aqsa Mosque” include threatening remarks towards Jews, or express positive sentiment about the attackers by either explicitly congratulating them or describing them as martyrs (approximately 26K tweets out of 117K tweets discussing the attack/subsequent mosque closure). Such volume is not only alarming, but also indicative of the increasing tensions that have surfaced in the aftermath. The night before the attack, tweets mentioning al-Aqsa averaged approximately 150-200 per hour; however, the next morning, Twitter volume rose to nearly 6.4K in the hours following the attack.

In many cases, the posts, which are not affiliated with any specific organization, are equally as extreme as some of the statements released by various international terror groups. “Exterminate them...kill them...don’t leave one behind,” says one tweet; and another calls for “death to America, death to Israel...the curse on the Jews.” Other tweets ask God to “accept [the] Aqsa Martyrs,” and to “grant victory to [their] brothers...and decimate the Jews and their helpers.”

A brief overview of the post-attack reactions, from both established terrorist groups and general Twitter accounts, highlights the critical nature of the threat posed by such anti-Semitic rhetoric.

  • “Oh God, save the al-Aqsa mosque and avenge those who conspired against it and support our brothers there and destroy the Jews and their servants, oh Nasser, the vulnerable raise their ears—God is great”
  • “Support al-Aqsa: Teach your children prayer and fasting and hatred of Israel! Teach your children that the shedding of Jewish blood brings us closer to God!”
  • “Oh God, your enemies of religion, they will not fail you, Oh God, Oh Lord of the worlds, cleanse the al-Aqsa Mosque of the Jews and accept the martyrs of al-Aqsa”
  • “Oh God, cleanse the al-Aqsa mosque of the Jewish usurpers”
  • “This will be our motto, our goal is to free al-Aqsa God willing, God is great, death to America, death to Israel, fuck the Jews, victory for Islam”
  • “Oh lord, praise Islam and Muslims, the Jews revolted in the land of corruption, oh God, judge them and kill them and don’t leave one behind.”

Part 2-- Official Statements:

  • Al Aqsa Hamas

    Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri's response to the al-Aqsa attack

    Hamas: Immediately after the attack, Hamas’ official Twitter account, @hamasinfo, retweeted a post from a member of its Political Affairs Office, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, calling the attack “a natural response to Israeli terrorism and the desecration of the al-Aqsa mosque, and [the attack] confirms the continuation of the intifada and the unity of [their] people behind the resistance.” The group also staged a celebratory rally in Gaza on Saturday, calling on Palestinians to attack Israeli forces and inviting them to “break the restrictions on the al-Aqsa mosque.”
  • “The Jerusalem operation is a natural response to Israeli terrorism and the desecration of the al-Aqsa mosque, and it confirms the continuation of the intifada and the unity of our people behind the resistance”
  • “We invite all of our people to confront the Zionist occupation forces and break the restrictions on the al-Aqsa mosque, and we call on all of the sons of the Arab and Islamic nations to support the steadfastness of the Jerusalemites”

Islamic Jihad: The group praised the attack, calling it “heroic,” and warned Israel against “the use of incursions and aggression as a means for dividing al-Aqsa.” Through their praise, they incited further action, affirming “the Zionist enemy will pay the price of aggression.”

  • “The Islamic Jihad: The heroic defense of process from the battlefields of al-Aqsa, and warn against the use of incursions and aggression as means for dividing al-Aqsa”
    Al Aqsa Islamic Jihad

    Islamic Jihad's response to the al-Aqsa attack

  • “The Islamic Jihad: We emphasize our commitment to defend the al-Aqsa mosque, and we promise that the Zionist enemy will pay for this aggression”
  • Al Qaeda: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb issued a joint statement on Sunday following the cancellation of Friday prayer at al-Aqsa. The statement explicitly addresses a variety of segments of Muslim and Arab society, as well as “the Jews and their agents.” It urges followers to commit physical violence instead of protesting, employing “the battles of stabbing and mowing, and all [their] forms of jihad and combat.” Directly addressing Jews, the statement quotes the Sahih Muslim hadiths-- “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” The group promises Jews that they “are waiting for [them].”
  • Afghan Taliban: The Taliban posted on its propaganda platform on Saturday, condemning the closure of al-Aqsa. It also called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other Islamic NGOs to raise their voices and stand with Palestinians-- “On behalf of the Afghan Muslim community, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan condemns this outright aggression by Israeli occupation soldiers, and calls on countries in the Islamic world to condemn this aggression and crime of the Israelis, and to discuss its prevention.”
  • ISIS: While the group has not officially commented or claimed the attack, the pro-ISIS channel, “Lone Mujahid” has used the aftermath to incite further violence against Jewish institutions, particularly in the United Kingdom. Posting in English, the channel stated, “Indeed these apes have barred the Muslims from praying salat al Jum-ah at Masjidul Aqsa. Therefore, prevent the Apes from attending their places of disbelief.” The channel included Wikipedia links listing Jewish communities and synagogues, in addition to the location of an upcoming cricket match between two Jewish congregations.