Israel on Friday removed from two government Twitter accounts a harrowing image of US journalist James Foley about to be beheaded, after the tweets sparked widespread controversy online.
The still, taken from a video of the killing of the freelance reporter in Iraq by a masked Islamic State jihadist, was posted on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official account on Thursday.
Below the image of Foley kneeling in an orange boiler suit was a photo of Hamas militants on a motorcycle dragging the body of a person executed for collaborating with Israel through the streets of Gaza.
The combined image was posted a day after Twitter began removing from the micro-blog service the five-minute-long video of Foley’s killing entitled “A Message to America”, which had been uploaded to social media sites by jihadists, and images from it.
The clip also included a warning that the jihadists intended to kill a second captive journalist unless the United States halts air strikes in Iraq.
Netanyahu was accused of using the tragedy as propaganda by linking IS with Hamas — the Islamist rulers of Gaza who are currently engaged in a deadly 46-day conflict with Israel.
Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth tweeted: “Netanyahu’s Twitter account is now using image of James Foley’s horrible execution to try to score political points against Hamas.”
Israel analyst Mitchell Plitnick wrote: “Bibi (Netanyahu) manages 2 hit a new low.”
But a tweet on the foreign ministry’s account @IsraelMFA on Friday featured the same two images, with the words: “Islamist terrorist organizations such as #ISIS and #Hamas are enemies of peace and of all civilized nations.”
The Netanyahu tweet was deleted early Friday, and the foreign ministry one was removed later in the day.
A foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that after consideration they had decided it was “inappropriate”.
An official in Netanyahu’s office, also requesting anonymity, said it was removed following criticism but stood by its stance that “Hamas is like IS — two murderous terror organisations”.
Senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq wrote on Facebook that “Netanyahu’s attempt to link Hamas” with IS was “a deception and disinformation campaign” that showed “no respect for the sanctity of the dead”.
At least 2,092 Palestinians and 68 Israelis have been killed since July 8 in the worst fighting since the 2000-05 intifada.