On 12 June, three Jewish teenagers were kidnapped while hitchhiking home from a yeshiva in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc near Jerusalem. In response, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched Operation Brother’s Keeper, a massive campaign of arrests and administrative detentions targeting members of Hamas in the West Bank. During the operation, the Israeli government placed a gag order on journalists, restricting them from reporting on a leaked recording of a phone call in which the teenagers can be heard and are apparently killed. By restricting the public’s access to information about the probable death of the teenagers and the identity of their captors, the Israeli government galvanized support for its crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank. One way that support for the Israeli incursion in the West Bank materialized was through a social media campaign that developed around the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys, which was modeled on the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag that went viral in the wake of the Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria in April and led to a groundswell of international support for the kidnapped girls. Thousands of Israelis used the hashtag on Twitter, including the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Palestinian activists responded by also appropriating the hashtag, this time to highlight the detention, imprisonment, torture, and killing of Palestinian children by Israeli occupation authorities and to protest the Israeli operation in the West Bank.
A selection of tweets and posts using these hashtags is presented below.