When three Israeli teens disappeared from the West Bank on Thursday night, it sparked an online campaign to bring them back — and a backlash from pro-Palestinian activists.
On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, #BringBackOurBoys has started trending. Like #BringBackOurGirls, the hashtag is meant to bring attention to missing children, this time three missing yeshiva students instead of 300 girls kidnapped by a Nigerian terrorist organization.
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The concept behind both campaigns is the same. People from all over the world post photos with signs that read “Bring back our boys,” often with the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys and #EyalGiladNaftali.
The latter is a reference to the three kidnapped teens: Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Gilad Shaar, 16, both Israeli, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, an American citizen who was born in Israel.
"We are here to say that nothing justifies kidnapping children anywhere in the world," Emily Neilson, 25, one of the student organizers of the Bring Back Our Boys page on Facebook, told NBC News from Israel.
Neilson claimed it was a non-political campaign meant to create awareness about the missing boys.
But, in Israel, things aren't always that simple. The hashtag #BringBackOurBoys was soon being used by pro-Palestinian activists.
"Some people have taken our hashtag, #BringBackOurBoys, and hijacked it," Neilson said. "I think it's shameful."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said publicly that he knows "for a fact" that Hamas is responsible, and has used the incident as an opportunity to criticize the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, for creating a unity government that is backed by Hamas.
In a public statement, Abbas condemned the events of the last week, "beginning with the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens and ending with a series of Israeli violations."
Israeli forces have reportedly detained more than 150 Palestinians in their search for the missing teens, according to the Associated Press.
"We want the world to support the boys and support them coming home," Neilson said. "The world should be putting pressure on the Palestinian Authority, who has partnered with Hamas, to bring back those boys and say, 'This is not OK.'"
First published June 16 2014, 7:31 AM