PMW in the Media
Press pushes anger to violence
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JERUSALEM – The same day that two Israeli boys – one from suburban Maryland – were stoned to death near a West Bank settlement of Tekoa, the Palestinian press featured a chilling augury.
“The day of judgment will not come until the Muslims will fight against Jews and kill them, until the Jews will hide behind stones and trees and the stone and tree will say, ‘O’ Muslim, O’ servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’” said an article in the May 9 edition of the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.
Israel has long complained that media outlets run by the Palestinian Authority – Palestinian radio and television and the Al-Hayat Al-Jadida newspaper – were agitating against Israel and against Jews, even while Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was engaging Israel in peace talks.
Israeli officials say that since the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting last September, the broadcasts and writings have turned more vicious, sometimes calling on Palestinians outright to strike at Israelis.
Alongside their street battles and bombing campaigns, Palestinians and Israelis are both engaging in a war of words.
On the Israeli side, some Cabinet ministers dub Mr. Arafat a murderer and a terrorist and talk about razing Palestinian neighborhoods where gunmen are shooting at Israel.
But on the Palestinian side, the words might have a more potent effect.
In the warring that has gripped the West Bank and Gaza for the past eight months, Israelis and Palestinians play very different roles.
The bulk of Palestinian casualties – more than 400 to date – have been killed by Israeli soldiers acting on orders or responding to shootings. Palestinians who attack Israelis often act on something more visceral – the impulse to inflict pain on an indomitable enemy.
As such, analysts say, they are probably more receptive to incitement.
“Here you have a situation where people happen upon kids and they feel like they’re doing Allah’s work by smashing their heads,” said Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli organization that monitors Palestinian media.
“The bodies of Kobi Mandell, 13, and his companion Yosi Ishran, 14, were found last Wednesday in a cave in the Judean Desert about a half-mile from the boys’ homes in the Tekoa settlement. The walls of the cave were covered with the boys’ blood, reportedly smeared there by the killers.
Kobi’s family emigrated to Israel from Silver Spring in the late 1990s. Kobi’s father headed the University of Maryland’s Hillel Center in College Park and his mother taught writing there between 1991 and 1996. A memorial for Kobi was held there last Thursday.
Mr. Marcus says articles in the Palestinian press routinely deny Israel’s legitimacy, spin tales about Israeli machinations and massacres, and refer to the Holocaust as a Zionist myth.
Though Mr. Marcus himself speaks no Arabic, his six translators are fluent, most having performed similar work in army intelligence. In addition to the Palestinian media, his group has analyzed the content of West Bank school textbooks and even crossword puzzles.
But while Mr. Marcus sees a direct link between the invective in the Palestinian media and the violence against Israelis, others are less convinced.
“I certainly think there are cases of incitement on both sides, and it’s naive to expect otherwise in a war situation,” Palestinian political analyst Ghasan Khatib said.