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The Power of Incitement

Ha’aretz, Editorial

Two separate cases that were released on Friday March 5, 2004 reflect the complex nature of the relations between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority in Israel, and the destructive potential that is manifest in the behaviour of their respective leaders.

On the one hand, there was the revelation of the arrest of a Jewish youngster and his father, both Haifa residents, who are suspected of placing nine explosive devices (or aiding and abetting in this act) aimed at Arab citizens of this country. On the other hand, it was publicized that two brothers - both residents of the Galilee village of Arabeh - were put on trial on charges of aiding Hezbollah and passing information to Palestinian terror operatives.

These events again testify to the fact that there are extremist elements in both the Jewish and Arab publics who are ready to translate the incendiary rhetoric that the two sides direct at one another into violent and deadly national acts. There is nothing surprising in this: The Israeli-Palestinian arena, and within it the Israeli-Arab relationship within the Green Line, is infused with hateful, incendiary vapours. Israel's Arab citizens are exposed to ongoing poisonous incitement that presents their country in satanic terms and enhances their anger and frustration over its treatment of their brothers who are under occupation.

Israel's Jewish citizens hear more and more accusations levelled at the country's Arab leaders, especially the Arab Knesset members, which stoke suspicion toward them, as well as raise questions over the extent of their identification with the state and its troubles.

In this explosive situation, it is the obligation of the leaders of both the majority and minority to show responsibility, in their actions and their words. The events of October 2000 show how rapidly the decline can be from a situation of distrust and ongoing bitterness to one of violent confrontation that spins out of control. It is disappointing to discover that, among the heads of the Jewish and Arab communities in Israel, there are those who have not learned the necessary lesson of those tragic events and instead of trying to cool tempers are contributing to stirring them up.

Leading figures in the Arab community, among them Sheikh Ra'ad Salah and MK Azmi Bishara, have said and done things that got them into legal trouble.

Jewish ministers and MKs, among them Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert, Ze'ev Boim, Eliezer Sandberg and Yisrael Katz, have on more than one occasion used racist terms to label the Arab MKs as traitors, agents of Palestinian terror, and the like.

Words have the power to move people to carry out wicked acts. The revelations that there are perpetrators of terror against targets in the Arab sector, including MKs, and of the existence of another Israeli Arab cell charged with aiding the Palestinian terror networks, are testimony to the fact that there are receptive ears when it comes to incitement. The task of Jewish and Arab leaders in Israel is to educate their communities toward tolerance of the views of the other side, to cultivate the recognition of freedom of speech, and to remove stereotypes that derive from racist and preconceived notions from public discourse. They, of course, are abusing their positions, and they take upon themselves a responsibility filled with danger when they utter words that add fuel to the flames of enmity and suspicion that exist in the Israeli-Arab divide within the borders of the state.

Source: Ha’aretz, March 7, 2004, haaretzdaily.com

The Palestinian’s Long Wait for Peace
Elias H. Tuma, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of California reflects on the Palestinian strategy of waiting for external intervention to resolve the conflict with Israel. He further advocates for the Palestinians to “initiate and propose solutions that Israel cannot reject, even if such solutions entail serious compromises on their part”. (Source: AMIN.org, March 1, 2004)

Revive the Peace Initiative, but this Time, Do it Right
This Daily Star editorial praises last Wednesday’s reiteration by Jordan's King Abdullah II of a proposal to revive the "land for peace" initiative spelled out at the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002. It argues that to be successful, the initiative must include a serious diplomatic and public opinion campaign communicating the Arab desire for a fair and honourable peace accord to the Israeli and Jewish people. (Source: Daily Star, March 12, 2004)

Scaling the Middle Ground
Bill Broadway reports on the recent Breaking the Ice expedition that will be awarded a Common Ground Award from Search for Common Ground. The awards honour those who have made important contributions toward bridging the divides between people, finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and providing hope where there often was none. (Source: The Washington Post, March 6, 2004)

Common Ground News Service promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

From the Common Ground News Service
hagalil.com 22-03-2004



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