Punching up or turning away? Palestinians unfriending Jewish Israelis on Facebook

Nicholas John*, Aysha Agbarya

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This article explores the Facebook unfriending of users from a majority group by members of a minority group, focusing on Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel. Indeed, this is the first study to focus on power differentials among Facebook users in the context of unfriending. The article thus adds depth to our understanding of unfriending, while also shedding light on the experience of social media use from the perspective of an oppressed minority. Based on semi-structured in-depth interviews with twenty ’48 Palestinians (Palestinian citizens of Israel), we present various triggers for unfriending (mainly, encounters with racism and surveillance), and show that Palestinians’ stories of unfriending Jewish Israelis are sometimes about punching up and sometimes about stepping away. However, while unfriending is broadly considered an apt response to abuse, it also distances Palestinians from centers of power in Israel. This suggests an important way in which social media reproduce inequality.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number5
Pages (from-to)1063-1079
Number of pages17
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by a grant from the Levi Eshkol Institute for Social, Economic and Political Research in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Facebook
  • Israelis
  • Palestinians
  • Unfriending
  • defriending
  • inequality


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