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Update – 31 August 2010

Posted by Emily Chrapot on Tuesday 31 August 2010 at 3:15pm:

Dear All,

If you picked up the Age today and opened it up to the World News section, you would have seen five or six stories about what is happening in the world, but the boldest headline was of course, ‘Israeli rabbi calls Palestinians evil’, by Jason Koutsoukis. The article is referring to comments made by the spiritual leader of Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who, in his sermon over the weekend declared that Palestinians were evil people who should perish from this earth. He also made particular reference to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who on Thursday will be entering into direct peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The story has gained traction around the world and drawn condemnation from the US State Department, with the spokesman Philip Crowley declaring These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace.

I agree with Crowleys assessment, the comments are offensive and they do hurt the cause of peace. And I agree that any sort of incitement should have no place in a civilised society. But if the Age or the Australian, or any media outlets throughout the world for that matter, want to splash such stories across their pages, then they need to understand the double standards involved.

You see, Palestinian incitement to violence has been prevalent in weekend sermons in Mosques for decades in the Palestinian territories. An all too familiar theme of these sermons are statements such as The Jews are the enemy of Allah, The Quran says Jews are evil and Jews are cancer that wants to rule the world (see more). Sermons such as these are not limited to a congregation but are broadcast on PA-controlled television on a regular basis.

The world was disgusted to learn that Rabbi Yosef believes that all Palestinians are evil, but it shows no interest at all when Israel is constantly portrayed as the standard of evil in the Palestinian media (including official media organs of both the Palestine Authority and its rival Hamas) as sadists and liars, or worse than smallpox that survive off blood and murder (see more).

I do not recall seeing any bold headlines at all in the month of August, when Mr. Koutsoukis could have reported on a number of issues of incitement such as:

* The funeral of Munich Olympic massacre senior planner Amin Al-Hindi, which was attended by PA Chairman Abbas and others. The official PA daily described Al-Hindi as one of the stars who sparkled… at the sports stadium in Munich (see more);

* Earlier in the month a public Fatah event included a song celebrating the 1978 terror attack in which 37 Israelis were murdered in a bus hijacking. The terrorists were glorified as birds of prey and heroic (see more);

* In July after the death of another mastermind of the Munich Olympic massacre, Mahmoud Abbas delivered a telegram where he praised the terrorists by saying, what a wonderful brother, companion, tough and stubborn, relentless fighter (see more);

* The constant naming of town squares, other public places and even childrens summer camps after terrorists (see more). These actions have attracted the ire of senior US figures such as State Department Philip Crowley who declared on 8 April 2010 after one such town square naming that we also strongly condemn the glorification of terrorists. Honouring terrorists who have murdered innocent civilians either by official statements or by the dedication of public places, hurts peace efforts and must end. We will continue to hold Palestinian leaders accountable for incitement (see more).

Crowleys criticism of incitement on both sides is justified. Peace will never be achieved if those that consider themselves senior figures on either side of the conflict spew hate to their followers.

Nevertheless, the media has to stop adopting the precise form of double standards that also hinder peace efforts.

If The Age wants to publish stories of incitement, then it needs to hold both sides accountable when it occurs and if it does not then its editors and reporters must stand condemned of the charge of racism.

Best wishes,

Emily.

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