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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Words stoke Mid-East fires
A rightwing Israeli protest in Jerusalem
Who's inciting who? A rightwing Israeli protest in Jerusalem
By BBC News Online's Martin Asser

The Israeli leadership cites incitement in the official Palestinian media as the prime cause for acts of violence against Israelis such as the grisly murder of two young Jewish settlers on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman Raanan Gissin, speaking on the BBC, singled out Palestinian TV and the Hayat al-Jadida newspaper, for inciting murder "by religious decree".

Kobi Mendel
Kobi Mendel, a young settlement-dweller, beaten to death
"Almost every day there is this call to kill Jews - in revenge for this or that action - but definitely to kill Jews," he said.

It's an allegation denied by Palestinian officials, for example negotiator Saeb Erekat, who asserted that "killing civilians is a crime, whether on the Palestinian or the Israeli side".

Indeed, the common Arab view is that there is little need for incitement to trigger these bloody acts; popular anger is already seething at the hundreds of Palestinian lives lost as a result of Israel's military response to the seven-month Intifada.

A new martyr

The latest catalyst has been the death of four-month-old Iman Hijou, who was killed by shrapnel on Monday as the Israeli army bombarded Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

We will torment them... because the things that they are doing to us are more heinous and more oppressive

Palestinian editorial
Iman's picture in death has galvanised opinion across the Arab world, and her name is already being used in the same breath as young Muhammad al-Durrah's - whose videotaped shooting last year may well have triggered the mob killing of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah the following week.

It would be no surprise if the tone of media coverage did provoke - incite even - such violent reactions.

What Palestinian TV has done in recent days is to broadcast a seven-minute film - preceded by a warning about its disturbing nature - which shows little Iman's fatal injuries including the large hole in her back from which her lungs and other organs protrude.


A search of BBC Monitoring's records of official Palestinian broadcasts does not reveal any overt calls to kill Israelis and Jews - though it may be argued that incitement can take many forms.

Palestinian baby Iman Hijou in a mortuary in Gaza
Baby Iman, whose death has enraged Arabs everywhere
An example of the kind of thought that is current comes from an editorial by the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

"We will torment them with more than they have tormented the world because the things that they are doing to us are more heinous and more oppressive given the time difference and timing and mankind's ascension on the path of civilization, progress, and enlightenment," the editorial says.

But the promised "torment" is not of the violent, physical kind, according to the editorial. It is in the form of publishing photographs of Israeli "crimes" and exposing "everything they [the Israelis] write and lie about."

Inflammatory language

A BBC request to the Israeli Government for examples of overt calls to "kill Jews" did produce results, however, although ones dating back to October, from the Fatah official Marwan Barghouti and from a sermon in Gaza broadcast on official Palestinian TV.

In the latter, Dr Ahmad Abu Halabiya is quoted as preaching: "The terrorists are the Jews... they are the ones who must be butchered and killed... Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are..."

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 in April 2001
The text, which continues in a similar vein over several pages, is nothing if not incitement, and its timing, in the hours before the infamous Ramallah lynching, is revealing.

But examples of inflammatory language are not restricted to the Palestinian side.

In April, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called for the annihilation of the "evil and damnable" Arabs and he is the central figure of Israel's third largest political party, Shas, which holds five seats in Ariel Sharon's cabinet.

And Mr Sharon's infrastructure minister, extreme rightwinger Avigdor Lieberman, said the latest murders was the work of "a group of cannibals".

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See also:

10 Apr 01 | Middle East
Rabbi calls for annihilation of Arabs
07 May 01 | Middle East
Israeli attack kills baby girl
09 May 01 | Middle East
Israeli teenagers 'stoned to death'
02 Oct 00 | Middle East
Boy becomes Palestinian martyr
13 Oct 00 | Middle East
Lynch mob's brutal attack
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