The New York Times has finally found space on its pages to expose one of the foremost obstacles to peace — the chronic anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement that has flooded Palestinian public television and radio since 2000. Why now? To inform readers that the current PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has asked for the incitement to stop. (“On the air, Palestinians soften tone on Israelis,” Dec. 15, 2004)
Where was the influential Times when exposure of the malignant public discourse and hate-filled sermons (some of which called for the death of Jews and Americans) could have played a role in its eradication? The Times glossed over or mentioned Palestinian incitement only in passing, and then imposed a false moral equivalence to supposed Israeli incitement against Arabs.
The Times even now is apparently unable to expose Palestinian incitement for what it is without suggesting that Israel has done something similar. But it’s simply not true. Anti-Arab incitement is rare in Israel and certainly not state-sponsored. In fact, Israel has anti-incitement laws, and the isolated hateful comments by Israelis are immediately condemned by Israeli lawmakers and the public at large. In contrast, Palestinian incitement has been sponsored and promoted by Palestinian political, educational and religious leaders, and is pervasive throughout Palestinian society in textbooks, movies, music videos, newspapers, radio, and even crossword puzzles. The New York Times article, however, did not clarify this glaring difference. It merely stated:
Prominent Israeli religious figures, like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, the largest religious party in Parliament, have also delivered incendiary messages.
Speaking of Arabs in a sermon in 2001, he was quoted as saying: “It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.”
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the outspoken leader of Israel’s Sephardic community, has made several controversial statements in the past which he said referred specifically to Palestinian terrorists who target Israeli civilians. Unlike the weekly incitement of Palestinian clerics which is largely ignored by the media, the Israeli rabbi’s isolated comments were widely reported in the world press. But Rabbi Yosef has always insisted that the above comments which he made in a pre-Passover sermon calling upon God to punish Arabs for “what they are doing to Israel” referred “only to terrorists who threaten the lives of Israelis, and not innocent Arabs.”
The Times does not mention the context and clarification by Rabbi Yosef, leaving the false impression that a moral equivalence exists — that an Israeli spiritual leader, like Palestinian clerics, incited his followers to genocide.
The New York Times has in the past admitted that it grossly underplayed the virulent anti-Semitism leading to and during the Holocaust. One wonders whether the newspaper has learned from its mistakes. Why has it underplayed Palestinian incitement for so long, and why does it now falsely imply that there is a comparison with Israeli actions?