Incitement has become a charged word in Israeli political life. Our public discourse now centers largely on questions like: What constitutes incitement? Who's inciting against whom?Does the slogan "Stop the Haredim" qualify as incitement? Did the Right incite Yigal Amir to assassinate Yitzhak Rabin? Was Avigdor Lieberman, director of the Prime Minister's Office, responsible for last week's nasty roadside banners vilifying Communications Minister Limor Livnat?
In this atmosphere, it's no surprise that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his challenger Ehud Barak - two intelligent and sophisticated men - have sunk to the lowest level of mutual mudslinging rather than debating the issues in any dignified manner. While the nation was busy with questions of internecine incitement, Ma'ariv ran an article by Nadav Ha'etzni last Friday called "Listen to What's Happening on Voice of Palestine," focusing on a different kind of incitement. Here's a sample:
"The situation in Hebron and Rafiah is explosive, the occupation is shooting at men, women, and children." [Insert: voice of a Hebron woman:] "My daughter is innocent... our enemies have no mercy and no heart... they shot her in the stomach... I went crazy when I heard that her organs spilled out... [The Israelis'] hearts are like rocks, they're not human beings... they're like animals, they're like animals."
That segment was broadcast last Tuesday on Voice of Palestine, A.M. frequency 675 (formerly Voice of Israel in Arabic). It was not an exception, but typical of Voice of Palestine's broadcasts over the past few weeks. From the preceding Saturday: "[Noise of sirens] The occupation forces resumed firing against innocent civilians in the center of Hebron... A group [of soldiers] burst into a house... they broke down the door with iron bars and set up a snipers' nest on the roof, from which the firing continues up to this moment. From the vegetable market this morning a group of settler-terrorist gangs threw stones at offices of the Hebron Wakf and of the Old City Renovation [Authority]."
How's that for incitement - or defamation, or hate- mongering, or whatever you want to call it? Needless to say, Channels 1 and 2, those fearless guardians of the public's right to know, didn't find any of this newsworthy; nor, for that matter, did our "hardline," "nationalist" government. CONGRESS'S recent vote overwhelmingly in favor of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital received praise from the Israeli Right, uncomfortable silence from the Left - and a quite different reaction from the Palestinians.
From Voice of Palestine, that same Saturday: "Representatives of all the streams participated in today's mass gathering [in Nablus] to protest Congress's resolution, and expressed opposition to all American and Israeli attempts to Judaize Jerusalem and take over our holy sites. The demonstrators cried: 'In passion and blood we will redeem Jerusalem!'
As Ha'etzni points out, the hate-mongering is not limited to the Voice of Palestine. Over the past weeks, Palestinian newspapers have featured stories accusing Israel of infiltrating the territories with: aphrodisiac gum (to turn Palestinian women into prostitutes who can then be recruited into the General Security Services); Israeli prostitutes infected with AIDS (to spread the disease among the populace); and spoiled food (to poison those Palestinians who haven't yet succumbed to AIDS).
Behind it all lies growing popular resentment against the corrupt and inefficient Palestinian Authority - which the PA seeks to deflect by channeling popular wrath toward a more convenient enemy. The immediate result has been the Palestinian violence in Hebron and against the settlement of Morag in Gaza. The longer-term result can only be the intensifying of hatred and aggression.
But while people in Nablus chant "In passion and blood we will redeem Jerusalem," in Jerusalem itself it's business as usual - name-calling, backbiting, charges and countercharges of incitement. Saddest of all was last week's spectacle in the Knesset. Barak, in his speech, expressed the usual canard of the Left: Conflict with the Arabs is caused by the Israeli government. But all Justice Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, the representative of that government - from which many of us expected so much better - could come up with in reply was a scurrilous attack on Barak himself, based on a single newspaper story. In Hebron, Nablus and Gaza, the war drums beat on.
(c) Jerusalem Post 1997
P. David Hornik is a writer and translator living in Jerusalem.