Defining “incitement:”


At bitterlemons, Yossi Alpher scores both Palestinians and Israelis on the issue of incitement.

His distinctions are instructive: What constitutes incitement? A celebration of a terrorist act in 1995? in 1945?

I remember listening to Palestinian Media Watch’s Itamar Marcus lecture about the horrors of naming schools after an apocryphal 7th century woman who commended her sons’ souls to heaven for their Islamic martyrdom and thinking — really? Is that where we want to go, considering what happens to Haman’s extended family? Does it pay to go nosing around in core religious texts?

I’m not sure I would use Alpher’s "hypocrisy" — that implies a disingenuousness, and I know the folks who track incitement have deep-seated concerns about the viability of any coexistence afflicted by hatred.

But clear definitions would be useful, and he outlines why:

When Palestinians name streets and squares after out-and-out terrorists, label them freedom fighters and glorify them in their school curriculum, then deny this is incitement, this is hypocrisy. But when Israel focuses on this phenomenon and ignores the progress made by the Palestinian Authority in cleaning up its textbooks and Friday mosque sermons, this is no less hypocritical.

Moreover, the Netanyahu government appears to be willfully ignoring the increase in incitement against Palestinians and Arabs in general in Israel’s school system–particularly the religious schools, where 80 percent of high school students recently supported denying equal rights to Arab citizens of Israel–and in the rhetoric of religious leaders like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of Shas. Indeed, there are features of the Israeli media that for years have "incited" against the Palestinian Authority without anyone taking conscious notice. Take, for example, the television and newspaper weather maps that obliterate the Palestinian Authority much the way Palestinian textbook maps ignore Israel.

The point is not that incitement in Israel is as bad as in Palestine (it isn’t), or that it began under the current Israeli government (it didn’t–decades ago we named squares after Jewish terrorists who murdered Arab civilians before 1948). Rather, the point is that the government of Israel appears uninterested in countering Israeli incitement even as it goes out of its way to excoriate Palestinian incitement. Needless to say, Palestinian complaints about Israeli incitement hardly serve the cause of objectivity when they focus on issues like the very name of Ben Gurion airport.

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