Incitement: the second most meaningless and manipulated word

by Yaniv Reich on March 14, 2011

Well, the second most meaningless word after ‘terrorism’, of course, as Glenn Greenwald so expressively pointed out last year.  Clearly, terrorism means nothing more than the violence your enemies commit.  By construction, therefore, it never describes your own behavior, no matter how many innocent civilians you kill or under what circumstances, even if you kill your own people.

A very close runner-up must be the word ‘incitement’, currently in vogue all over the Israeli and Jewish press as a result of the gruesome murder of five members of the Fogel family from the Itamar colony deep in the West Bank.  The problem, says more pro-colonization advocates than can be easily summarized, is that ‘Palestinian incitement’ to violence has caused this tragedy.  Indeed, incitement is being proposed as the fundamental reason why there is no peace between Israel and its neighbors.

Here is a representative sample of such comments:

  • Brigadier General Kupperwasser, Chairman of Strategic Affairs: “The events of Friday night are, in a way, an expression of the way the Palestinian Authority presents an attitude of hatred and demonization towards Israelis in general and especially towards settlers. These phenomena create a situation where it occurs to someone to carry out an attack like the appalling events in Itamar.”
  • Israel Consulate (Twitter account): “Years of Palestinian incitement led to a Jewish family’s murder this weekend.  We keep track.”
  • PM Netanyahu: “A [Palestinian] society that allows wild incitement like this leads to the murder of children.”

The Israel Consulate of New York’s list of ‘incitement’ shows us just how meaningless the word is.  Take the following examples it provides:

  • On 6.3.11, the PA’s official newspaper, Al Hayat Al-Jadida, published an item to the effect that the management of a youth club in Ramallah planned to hold a soccer tournament in memory of Wafa Idris, a suicide bomber.
  • On 24.1.11, the Governor of Jenin issued a Presidential Grant worth $2,000 to the family of Palestinian terrorist, Khaldoun Samoudi, who was killed while trying to detonate two bombs against IDF soldiers at the Beka’ot Crossing.
  • On 30.12.10, Al Hayat Al-Jadida reported that Israel aspired to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to build the Third Temple on its ruins.
  • On 6.10.10, Al Hayat Al-Jadida carried an interview with Palestinian Minister Amr Aloul in which the latter said that Israel is, “An apartheid state that carries out state terrorism against the Palestinians.
  • On 21.6.10, official Palestinian television broadcast a children’s program in which it was said that, “The Jews are our enemies,” and that, “Israeli soldiers are wild animals.”
  • On 28.5.10, official Palestinian television broadcast a report on the family of a Palestinian security prisoner, during which her nieces were interviewed and said that they wanted to bear arms against Israel.

I will let readers decide for themselves which of these examples might fit with whatever definition of incitement they choose.  Some of them sound to me, however, absolutely ridiculous, barely worthy of serious comment (e.g. calling Israel “an apartheid state that practices terrorism”) because they include just about any possible form of uncomfortable criticism of Israeli policy.  But irrespective of your judgment ex-ante, it’s useful and important to compare these examples of so-called incitement to the exact same kind of thing, but coming out of the mouths of “our side”.

For example:

  • Netanyahu’s buddy Hanoch Daum: “These are not humans… Are they members of the family of nations at all?… We can keep talking at length about painful concessions, but as long as on the other side we have blood-thirsty psychopaths capable of knifing an 11-year-old child, a four-year-old boy, and a baby who was just born, such talk would mostly be futile… We have to recognize the following fact: Inhumane elements exist in the other camp. These are terrorists that Israel must eliminate, before they kill our children.”  Notice how closely the trope about being “not humans” compares to the “wild animals” piece of incitement cited above.
  • Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari: “I call upon the government to carry out a ‘price tag’ and expel the residents of the village from which the murderers emerged, and to demolish the village and build in its place apartments for young couples of army veterans.”  This is an open call for ethnic cleansing, nothing less.
  • Gilad Sharon, son of Ariel Sharon: “Let us not forget with whom we are dealing here. You can take the wild Palestinian beast and put a mask on it, in the form of some fluent English-speaking spokesman. You can also put on it a three-piece suit and a silk tie.  But every once in a while – during a new moon, or when a crow’s droppings hit a howling jackal, or when pita with hyssop doesn’t come out just right – the wild beast senses that this is its night, and out of ancient instinct, it sets off to stalk its prey…. A society that can thus sanctify death, and whose best of its youth are baby-stabbers, is simply not like ours…. Their three-piece suit is sullied with blood stains, and the mask falls off… and the image of the beast they tried to hide is once again revealed.”  He then proceeds to spout of anti-Palestinian nationalist mythology, best encapsulated by thess simultaneously self-aggrandizing and brutally condescending lines: “We are everything they never were and never will be. We have a history and culture thousands of years old, we have a functioning, developing society – while they are just the offshoot of our Zionism.  Their entire national story was born in the wake of Zionism. Even their self-definition as a people has no subsistence without us.”

There has been virtually no criticism of this hate speech (a notable example of criticism can be found here), only calls for building new settlements to avenge the blood of the Fogel family, easily the cheapest and most transparent way of desecrating the innocent blood spilled, and ensuring much more tragedy all around.

Moreover, these comments say nothing of the hateful, violence-filled language that has always been a part of the Zionist movement.  Again, some examples:

  • Israel Zangwill (of “Palestine is a country without a people” fame): “We must persuade [Arabs] to trek [from Palestine].  There is no reason for them to cling to these few kilometers. ‘To fold their tents and silently steal away’ is their proverbial habit.  Let them exemplify it now.”
  • The King’s Torah (Torat Hamelech): “In any situation in which a non-Jew’s presence endangers Jewish lives, the non-Jew may be killed even if he is a righteous Gentile and not at all guilty for the situation that has been created.” Also, specifically on baby-killing: “Hindrances – babies are found many times in this situation. They block the way to rescue by their presence and do so completely by force. Nevertheless, they may be killed because their presence aids murder. There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”
  • Ben Gurion (1937): “We must expel the Arabs and take their places.”
  • Menachem Usskin, Chairman of the Jewish National Fund (1930): “If there are other inhabitants there, they must be transferred to some other place. We must take over the land.”
  • Rafael Eitan, former IDF Chief of Staff, after proposing the construction of 10 settlements in retribution for every time a stone is thrown at an IDF soldier: “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it is scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle.”
  • Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Safed: Advocating carpet bombing to end Qassam rocket fire from Gaza (i.e. explicitly endorsing crimes against humanity), “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand, and if they do not stop after 1,000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop.” 

And on and on and on.  The historical record on such matters is extensive, but of course these comments can never be considered incitement if you are an Israeli.

Such a consistent application of principles to words like ‘incitement’ or ‘terrorism’ are simply impossible, most likely because they would require an uncomfortable examination of our own dark history of “wild incitement”, which, as Netanyahu so eloquently argued, “leads to the murder of children.”

 

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