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Chinese internet users post hateful comments on the online account of the Israeli embassy.
Middle East Technology

Chinese internet users post hateful comments on the online account of the Israeli embassy.

Following the assault by Hamas on Israel, the Israeli Embassy in Beijing took to the Chinese social media platform Weibo. However, their attempt to garner public support seems to be having the opposite effect as comments condemn Israel, commend Hamas, and even glorify Adolf Hitler.

The embassy’s profile, with a following of 24 million, has shared nearly 100 posts since the October 7th assault. Some are unsettling, including a photo of a charred infant victim. Others convey the strength of the Israeli people, like the account of a survivor from the Nova Festival who helped save multiple concert-goers following the attack.

The comment sections have been inundated with offensive language, including phrases like “Brave Hamas, well done!” and “Hitler was clever,” in reference to the German leader who oversaw the killings of 6 million Jews during World War II. Numerous individuals have replaced their Weibo profile pictures with the Israeli flag containing a Nazi swastika.

There are times when individuals show their backing for Israel and label Hamas as a terrorist organization. This causes intense responses from fellow internet users, including statements like “The only good Israeli is a dead Israeli” and “The US backs Israel, and the enemy’s friend is the enemy.”

The internet in China, which is heavily censored, has seen numerous similar comments on other websites.

VOA Mandarin was unable to ascertain the number of Weibo accounts that belong to individuals employed by the Chinese government and are posting on the Israeli Embassy account.

The Israeli Embassy in China did not reply to VOA Mandarin’s requests for an interview.

According to Eric Liu, a previous moderator for Weibo and current editor of China Digital Times, the Israeli Embassy has seen an increase in comments containing blatant hate speech and anti-Semitic content. It is likely that they have taken measures to address this issue.

According to Liu, the fact that the antisemitic comments are still accessible online suggests that the Chinese government is accepting of them. While China has traditionally supported the Palestinian cause, it has recently strengthened its connections with Israel in order to expand its involvement in areas such as trade, technology, and diplomacy.

“It is a voice heavily influenced by the opinions of the public,” he stated. “Compared to others, it is an extreme voice, with moderate voices being drowned out. Many participants are repeat offenders who hold animosity towards others. However, they also act spontaneously, or rather, they are guided by government censors.”

A former teacher from Shanghai, Gu Guoping, who is also a citizen-journalist advocating for human rights, shared with VOA Mandarin that he avoids using social media platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, and QQ. He believes that these platforms are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and are used to manipulate people’s thinking. He also believes that the CCP’s propaganda and strict online censorship have caused confusion among many Weibo users, blurring the lines between right and wrong.

According to Gu, the Israeli nation is remarkable, compassionate, and civilized. He also stated that Hamas initiated violence against innocent people in Israel, making Israel’s retaliatory actions justified as self-defense. It seems that they do not have a deep understanding of Israel.

Screenshots from the comments section of the Israeli Embassy's Weibo account show the Israeli flag altered with a swastika.

Images taken from the comments section of the Israeli Embassy’s Weibo page depict the Israeli flag modified to include a swastika symbol.

According to Liu, moderators on Weibo typically have to remove offensive comments directed at foreign embassies in China. However, they may also receive directives from the Cyberspace Administration of China and the State Council Information Office in cases of significant events, and different criteria may be implemented.

“The government’s stance has been unequivocally expressed, resulting in a clear trend in online public sentiment,” he stated. “It is likely due to the comprehensive propaganda efforts that have influenced public opinion in this way.”

The Chinese Embassy’s spokesperson in Washington, Liu Pengyu, stated that China is closely monitoring the current tensions between Palestine and Israel. They believe the most urgent action is to reduce tension, establish a ceasefire and stop violence, safeguard civilians, and prevent a humanitarian crisis. When addressing international and regional conflicts, China always maintains an impartial and fair approach and practices calmness and restraint.

Chinese authorities have urged for a halt in the Israel-Gaza dispute, but have chosen not to explicitly denounce Hamas. Certain analysts believe that China is taking advantage of the Israel-Hamas conflict to lessen the impact of the United States.

On Saturday, Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister, criticized Israel for exceeding the bounds of self-defense and urged them to stop their collective punishment of the Gaza population.

When the Iranian Embassy in China posted comments by the Iranian president accusing the United States and Israel of causing the deadly explosion at the Ahli Arab Hospital, Chinese netizens posted their support.

On October 18, during his trip to Tel Aviv, President Joe Biden stated that the information provided by his team cleared Israel of any involvement in the hospital attack. Israel has claimed that the militant organization Islamic Jihad was responsible for the explosion, which resulted in the death of over 100 individuals. However, the militant group, known for collaborating with Hamas, has denied these allegations. Palestinian officials and several Arab leaders have accused Israel of deliberately targeting the hospital as part of their continued airstrikes in Gaza.

Chinese internet users have also directed their criticism towards the Weibo accounts of other foreign embassies and diplomats who have expressed support for Israel. On October 13, when Swiss ambassador Jürg Burri posted a message offering condolences to the victims and families affected by the terrorist attacks in Gaza, he faced backlash for appearing to be impartial.

According to a netizen, they no longer desire to wear a Swiss watch. They expressed frustration.

Liu thinks that the online community’s backing for Gaza will shift.

“He stated that their support for Palestine is not unconditional. They may turn against Palestine in the future due to their Islamic beliefs. The posters make broad statements and disregard the struggles of Palestine. The root of their animosity lies in their hatred towards Israelis and Jews.”