Ending anti-Israel incitement?
First steps by the Palestinians

London - published on 3 December 2004
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Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has ordered an end to anti-Israel incitement in official Palestinian media. If this move is translated into meaningful action by broadcasters and journalists, it could significantly improve relations between the parties. But the move also serves as reminder of the destructive nature of Yasser Arafat’s past rule.

Anti-Israel incitement as an obstacle to peace

For over ten years Israel has been concerned about anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian state-controlled media. Broadcasts featuring vicious anti-israel speeches by muslim clerics, and reports which demonise Israel and the Jewish people generally, each contradicted claims that the Palestinians had accepted coexistence with Israel. Incitement has bred hatred and fanaticism.

Palestinian order to curb incitement

Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has now order Palestinian-controlled media to take steps to end this incitement. According to a report by The Associated Press (1 December 2004), the anti-incitement measures include the following:-

  • A general order has been issued to the head of Palestinian radio and TV not to broadcast offensive material which could be considered incitement

  • TV broadcasts of mosque sermons will be pre-recorded rather than being broadcast live: if they are considered incitement, they will be edited

  • Muslim preachers whose sermons are broadcast live will be informed in advance and asked to avoid incitement

  • Old PLO songs praising revolution and sacrifice will be taken off the air

Reasons for caution

Israeli officials welcomed this development, provided it resulted in concrete action. There are certainly various reasons for caution:

  • Mahmoud Abbas may not attain power permanently, and a successor may not share his view that incitement should stop

  • Abbas’ order may not be complied in the media establishment

  • Official Palestinian media are not popular among the viewing and listening public: more popular is Al-Jazeera, and Lebanon’s Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, both of which are unaffected by Abbas’ order

  • Finally, other forms of incitement are unaffected, for instance, incitement contained in Palestinian schoolbooks or at universities, or incitement in religious sermons which are not broadcast, but nonetheless influential

Our comments

Commentators persist in seeing Palestinian extremism as the outcome of Israel’s actions. In fact, Palestinian extremism is the result of persistent incitement against Israel, Palestinian demonisation of Israel’s actions, and by outright rejection of the “Jewish state”. Mahmoud Abbas’ call for an end to incitement just serves as a reminder of Mr Arafat’s destructive regime. It also exposes how fanaticism is actually the responsibility not of Israel but of Palestinian society. Just as they nurtured fanaticism, they can now end it.