Omer Shalbi incited terrorism on Facebook (illustrative)
Omer Shalbi incited terrorism on Facebook (illustrative)Thinkstock

A Jerusalem District Court judge has sentenced an Arab resident of the capital to nine months in prison plus an additional five months on probation, in a landmark case over incitement on social media.

Omer Shalbi was convicted for posts he made on Facebook over the past year, in which he expressed sympathy with the terrorists behind the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens last summer, the Har Nof synagogue massacre, and the series of deadly attacks by "lone wolf" terrorists using vehicles and knives to target Israeli civilians and security personnel during that same period.

Shalbi, a father of six, had confessed to the charges against him, but claimed in his defense that he was just one individual part of a much wider phenomenon, and that there had been no precedent until now of a person being convicted in Israel for inciting over social media.

In his ruling, Judge Eitan Kornhauser noted that the conviction was indeed a precedent-setting case, and that as a result he would be issuing a relatively minor punishment.

Future cases, however, may not be dealt with so lightly, in a move which will be welcomed as long overdue by terror victim associations.

But Kornhauser emphasized that even Omer's sentence could not be too lenient, in order to send a clear message to other would-be inciters.

Kornhauser further noted the significant role online incitement played in encouraging terrorist attacks, as well as Omer's age and the fact that he repeatedly carried out the offenses over a prolonged period, in justifying a custodial sentence.

Pressure has grown for Israeli authorities to crack down on online incitement by Arab extremists, with analysts and campaigners noting how both terrorist organizations and individuals are regularly encouraging and even instructing attacks against Israelis and Jews, often with deadly results.

The attempted assassination of Jewish Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick was preceded by months of online incitement by Islamists calling to murder him, and Arabic social media has been flooded with cartoons, music videos and other posts glorifying "car terror" and knife attacks.