The social networks as a source of inspiration and imitation for terrorists: the case study of Obada Abu Ras, the Palestinian terrorist who carried out the stabbing attack in Givat Ze’ev, Jerusalem.

Obada Abu Ras: "I yearn for an event in which I will sacrifice my life" (Facebook page of Obada Abu Ras, December 17, 2015).
Obada Abu Ras: "I yearn for an event in which I will sacrifice my life" (Facebook page of Obada Abu Ras, December 17, 2015).

Overview

1.   On January 27, 2016, an Israeli man was stabbed and seriously wounded by a Palestinian. The attack took place in the Givat Ze'ev neighborhood northwest of Jerusalem. The terrorist went to a gas station near the neighborhood and followed a man and woman whom he saw there. Before they entered a nearby store the terrorist stabbed the man and ran way. Civilians who saw the attack chased him. As he ran he threw a knife on the ground. After about 200 yards the civilians caught up with and overcame him. Another knife was found at the scene, apparently also belonging to the terrorist.

The two knives belonging to Obada Abu Ras (Panet website, January 27, 2016).
The two knives belonging to Obada Abu Ras (Panet website, January 27, 2016).

2.   The Palestinian media reported the terrorist was Obada Aziz Mustafa Abu Ras, 18, from the village of Bir Nabala (north of Jerusalem). According to the Palestinian media, he was the son of Dr. Aziz Abu Ras, a senior Hamas figure, who at the beginning of the 1990s was one of the operatives expelled to Marj al-Zohour, Lebanon[1] (Panet website and Al-Hadaf, January 27 and 28, 2016).

Obada Abu Ras (Facebook page of Obada Abu Ras, January 21, 2016)
Obada Abu Ras (Facebook page of Obada Abu Ras, January 21, 2016)

Use Obada Abu Ras Made of His Facebook Page

3.   Obada Abu Ras's Facebook page is another example of the role of the social networks in the current terrorist campaign as a source of inspiration for Palestinian terrorists and as a platform for their thoughts and feelings:[2]

1)   Obada Abu Ras's role model was Muhannad Halabi, from Al-Bireh, who carried out a lethal stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem, killing two Israelis (October 3, 2015). Halabi served as a role model for other terrorists as well.

2)   Several weeks before the attack, Obada Abu Ras posted his desire to participate in an event during which he would sacrifice his life (Facebook page of Obada Abu Ras, January 2016).

3)   He also made extensive use of emojis to express his ideas and feelings. Many of his Facebook pages have emojis of knives, gun, and the V sign.

Examples of emojis on Obada Abu Ras's postings to Facebook.
Examples of emojis on Obada Abu Ras's postings to Facebook.

4.   Two days before Obada Abu Ras carried out the stabbing attack in Givat Ze'ev, two Palestinian terrorists carried out a stabbing attack in the village of Beit Horon. A comparison of the Facebook posts of Obada Abu Ras and Hussein Abu Ghosh (one of the two terrorists who carried out the attack in Beit Horon) shows several points of similarity.

1)    The sequence of posts: In retrospect, the contents of the posts during the weeks before the attacks reveal the maturing of the terrorists' idea.

2)   Terrorists who were killed as role models: In both cases terrorists who had been killed while carrying out attacks served as sources of inspiration and role models. The wording of the sayings about self-sacrifice was imitated (see below). Previous attacks as inspiration and sources of imitation are prevalent in the current Palestinian terrorist campaign.

3)   The desire to sacrifice their livesHussein Abu Ghosh wrote, "I am not sure I will be in this world much longer..." Obada Abu Ras wrote, "I yearn for an event in which I will sacrifice my life..." Terrorists who carry out stabbing and vehicular attacks do so at great personal risk. NoteAmjad Sukari Abu Omar, a Palestinian terrorist who carried out a shooting attack near Beit El (January 31, 2016), posted to Facebook about the hopelessness of life under the occupation.[3]

4)   Pictures of weapons: Hussein Abu Ghosh posted pictures of himself and of a terrorist who inspired him, both armed with rifles; Obada Abu Ras made extensive use of emojis of knives and guns, and of pictures of masked Palestinians.

5)   Use of a saying currently popular on the Internet and the social networks, which includes the desire to die: Obada Abu Ras: "I don't need things that come from people. I need things that come from heaven (like rain, like luck...like death)." Hussein Abu Ghosh: "I don't want things that come from people, I want things that come from the heaven...like rain...like luck...and like the shahadah [death as a martyr for the sake of Allah])."[4]

 

5.   For the maturing of Obada Abu Ras's idea to carry out the attack in Givat Ze'ev, as reflected chronologically on his Facebook page, see the Appendix.

[1]On December 17, 1992, Israel expelled 415 imprisoned Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operatives to Lebanon, among them senior figures. Following international pressure the Israeli government shortened their expulsion and allowed them to return to their homes.
[2]For the similar example of Palestinian terrorist Hussein Abu Ghosh, see the January 27, 2016 bulletin, "The stabbing attack in Beit Horon showed an increase in relative complexity, daring and premeditation."
[3]On January 31, 2016, a Palestinian carried out a shooting attack at the Beit El roadblock, wounding three IDF soldiers, one of them critically. An IDF force at the roadblock returned fire and killed him. He was Amjad Sukari Abu Omar, an operative of the Palestinian security forces. He posted the following on his Facebook page two hours before the attack: "In this land [i.e., "Palestine"] there are things worth living for. Unfortunately I don't see anything worth living for as long as the occupation strangles us and kills our brothers and sisters. Allah, have mercy on our martyrs, heal our wounds and release our prisoners. You [i.e., the shaheeds] are those who came first and we, Allah willing, follow in your footsteps." The first three words, "in this land," are the title of a well-known poem about the Palestinian homeland written by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. The end the post was taken from a hadith (the Muslim oral tradition) as having been said by the Prophet Muhammad while speaking to the dead in a cemetery. The combination of secular and religious motifs is intended to magnify the emotional effect of the Facebook post.
[4]The saying is often used on the Internet and social networks, and is written in contemporary literaryArabic (not a quote from the Qur'an, a hadith or Arabic poetry). It is an emotional statement with Islamic religious significance and refers to gifts from Allah: the rain, luck and death as a martyr for the sake of Allah (the shahadah). Its use is contagious. Young Palestinians without systematic, religious scholarship read what Palestinian terrorists who carried out attacks have written and then quote them. The quotation is not always exact: Obada Abu Ras wrote "death" instead of "shahadah," but basically the idea was the same.