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Required and Expected from the Media: Strategies for Facing Incitement Against the Arab Public

 Jafar Farah

first Published  : 22/02/2012   Last Updated: 26/02/2012 

   

The purpose of this article is to provide suggestions for facing the increasing incitement against the Arab public in the last weeks. These suggestions derive from the exercise of our right of expression; the right to maintain a good collective and individual reputation; the right to maintain our national rights in this homeland, in which we were destined to struggle in order to establish our daily rights. It is not the first campaign and will not be the last. This is an invitation to find national coordinative mechanisms for defending our Arab public and establishing our status in our homeland.

This incitement campaign against the Arab public coincides with the administrative and political crisis the Olmert government has been undergoing since its election, alongside the Lebanon War, the Winograd Commission report, and the governmental corruption linked to the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, and the President. Political entities from the extreme right, in addition to other parties from the government and the security services, have been looking for ways to distract public opinion from the corruption and the wretchedness of the leadership since the last election and the failure of the Lebanon War, and from the challenges raised by the Mecca Agreement and the Arab Peace Initiative in the face of a corrupt and paralyzed leadership.  

While Israel Hassoun issues ringing statements like "prepare for war against the Arabs in Israel", creating yet another episode in the Maariv headlines stating that the head of the "Shabak" says that the "Arabs are a strategic risk", Gilead Sharon, one of the former Prime Ministers corrupt sons, publishes his article in Haaretz, calling to correct a historical mistake and apply a Transfer arrangement to Al-Taybeh. 

This campaign has created a state of tension and expectancy among the Arab public in general, and the political parties and the Arab institutions in particular. It also generated a state of uncertainty in the Zionist left, which enabled the fascist right to fill up a huge number of newspapers, and a huge amount of radio and television airtime. Thus, public and political disability prevails; the state of waiting and expectancy becomes a lost battle over our good reputation as individuals, parties, institutions and society, where the incitement and the instigation against the media takes over, and turns into daily verbal confrontations between Arab and Jewish citizens at workplaces and in the media.

 

*The Incitement Campaigns Stages and their Accompanying Media Messages:

This campaign and its messages were neither a surprise nor new. We only need to deal with the arrangements of our institutions to face this mad campaign, regardless of the investigation of a certain MKparty. The current attack did not start with uncovering the details of the investigation of Azmi Bishara. Instead, it started before that through the insolent incitement against the initiatives of the Arab community for organizing the relationship between Arabs and Jews in the country. The attack continued to take place by taking advantage of the case of the rapists from Beer al-Maksoor, ultimately exploiting the investigation of Dr. Azmi Bishara so as to further incite against the Arab community in general, and to delegitimize our existence and political participation as individuals, political organizations and social institutions.   

Remember that the campaign of delegitimizing the political leadership prior to the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, in which 13 young men were murdered and tens wounded, continued until 2004 when the former Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, commenced his unilateral disengagement initiative, the ratification of which in the Knesset depended upon the Arab MKs votes. In this case, one notices a decrease in the police investigation at the time, and an increase in the verbal incitement by the settlers representatives in the Knesset against the legitimacy of the Arab MKs participation in voting on the Oslo Accordson the disengagement from Gaza and the Golan. As appears in the Mossawa Centers documentation, most of the investigations and attacks on MKs had decreased between 2004-2006, and have increased, now, in the current campaign.

It is worth noting that the aforesaid campaign, along with targeting Arab MKs, and delegitimizing their participation in decision-making about the peace process, began directly after the Arab MKs had supported the Oslo Accords and the Rabin government between 1992 and 1995. Throughout the period 1996-1999, we witnessed a campaign led by Avigdor Lieberman, the Director-General of the Prime Ministers Office at the time. This fascist rightist campaign aimed at preventing a democratic majority from supporting the peace accords which would be held in the future. The same campaign continued after the fall of the Lieberman-Netanyahu government in 1999, paving the way for the Barak government to reach its climax through the Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa attacks. The campaign went on throughout the Or Committee investigation, which in turn contributed by blaming the victims leadership for what had happened. Shimon Perez who aided and abetted the campaign through his silence,even by urging some political forces in the Israeli Labor Party to take action, never "forgave" the Arabs for his failure in the 1996 elections, for which he blamed the Arab public who could not make themselves support him following the first Qana massacre.  

 

*The Political Paralysis and the Current Campaign*

Since its election, the Olmert-Perez government failed to apply its social election program, and was led astray by the military leadership, as we know and as recently emerged from the Winograd Committee report. The paralysis of the Olmert government, as well as the cases of corruption and the investigation following the Lebanon War, have led to the failure of this military leadership, along with the moral failure we are witnessing today. Public pressure and the Winograd report could have brought changes into some of the political party leaderships that constitute the government, since Amir Peretzs loss in the Labor party primaries may change the structure of the government, and may lead to elections, which could contribute to the return of the Likud party and Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister. Under such circumstances we, as a community, must prepare for the attempts of wide circles in the political, security and media leaderships to divert attention from their failure in what is known as "the internal security and demographic threat". These circles exploit any case in order to divert attention from the leaderships crisis, and we must confront their attempts to sacrifice and weaken the Arab public; such attempts are made by standing in the Arab publics way and confronting it publicly and in the media, and by building alliances with those who have an Israeli and international interest in preventing the relations between the Arab minority and the Jewish majority from deteriorating. 

In the next part of the article, I will address some of the suggestions for confronting the incitement campaign which has been going on for years now, and has recently reached its most serious stages:

 

*Human Rights Institutions*

These institutions should defend their values and the Arab public in general, without going into the details of the accusations made against a certain political party, MKassociation. The principle in such a context is the right of every human being to protect himself and prove his innocence. Our duty is to prevent exploitation of personalinstitutional accusations made against an entire community. This function integrates with the role that must be played by figures, political parties and institutions. The Mossawa Center will not be able to defend the collective perception by itself. However, it must defend the right of the perception makers and the "equal constitution" document it has composed.  It should also allow the public to differentiate between the documents. The Mossawa Center cannot defend a certain political partyMK, but it can refute disapproved practices such as attacking peoples homesinitiating an incitement campaign against a personagainst his colleagues from other active parties in the Arab community, without going into the accusations made against that personanyone else, but rather through their right to remain in their homeland and protect their freedom and their rights in the face of an incitement campaign that exploits any case in order to violate the status of the elected political leadership and the legitimacy of our political participation. In the last few weeks, we have begun to take the initiative, by urging political forces and other institutions to take action in order to formulate and coordinate between their media messages. However, some of them did not provide us with any proper response. We have also started holding meetings with political leaders and other figures from all institutions and parties, asking them to state positions and make statements that would prevent the Israeli rights control of the media scene, and the incitement campaign disseminated by the Military Intelligence against the Arab community.

 

* The Responsibility of The Jewish Public*

The silence of the left and the center forces among the Jewish public in the face of the insolent incitement is disturbing; this is not the first time, since such a silence led to the murder of Arab citizens during the Second Intifada. We have commenced an initiative to urge the Jewish public towards its political trends - to take responsibility for defending the future of the relationship between both peoples. The Jewish public must take responsibility for blockading the Arab community, and for the possible consequences that may lead not only to verbal incitement, but also to arrests, investigations and even physical assaults similar to Eliran Golans against former MK Isam Makhoul, and the fascist assault by Natan Zada against unarmed citizens from Shefa-Amr.

 

*The Active Political Parties among the Arab Public*

Regardless of the objectives of the Islamic Movement, Hadash, BaladAbnaa el-Balad as competitive political parties, the political parties must refuse "victory" over a different political party, institutionvisionary document, through repressive practices. When a political party refuses to defend a certain document against which the head of the Shabak incites, it thus refutes the solidarity it has gained when its leaders were being arrested. The current political parties bear responsibility for confronting incitement against the Arab public in general, and against the other parties right to take political action in particular. The parties may act cautiously when the situation is unclear. However, they must not leave the field empty for the fascist right which incites against the Arab public in general, and calls for their expulsion on the pretext of having discovered a financialsecurity case under investigation, of which no one knows the details.

It is about time that the members of the High Follow-Up Committee hold a meeting to coordinate the steps between the Follow-Up entities and the active professional institutions in the Arab community. Taking collective action concerning the incitement against the documents, the political parties and the institutions, is an issue that requires a response and coordination between the different forces. The "strategic threat" hanging over our public requires coordinating efforts, at the very least. What our people requires and expects from us is to issue clear messages that will enable it to defend itself. The High Follow-Up Committee as well as whoever contributed to formulating the papers of the collective perception, bear responsibility for facing the incitements against it in an organized and professional manner. The Follow-Up Committee must employ a media consultant who will accompany the perception and response campaigns for the incitement against it. This is an exhaustive mission which requires high proficiency and personal and collective commitment.

 

*Israeli Human Rights Institutions*

We disapprove of the silence of the Israeli legal institutions which, during the last month, have not found the occasionthe opportunity to state a position compatible with the values of these institutions. This disapproval does not mean we should leave these institutions alone without urging them to take action. These institutions will neither adopt the positions of the Arab legal institutions nor that of the Islamic movement. However, they must express their position based on their values and principles. We must exert pressure over these institutions in order to urge them to take action, and to make use of their abilities and special position so as to be heard.   

The abovementioned survey includes a survey of the status quo and the challenges it poses. In this context, I present the following number of media messages that must reach the Jewish and Arab public during the coming period:

* We refuse to receive citizenship testimony from corrupt persons such as Sharons son (Gilead Sharon), Lieberman, and Yechiel Hazan who attempt to instigate against the weakened public in order to divert attention from their corruption and practices.

* The true danger for Jews and Arabs are those who did not hesitate to send hundreds of Jews and Arabs to die in a war which was not justified from its very first day; a war that claimed thousands of Lebanese lives. We must re-emphasize our position against the war from its very beginning; we must make certain that the person responsible for such a failure is penalized, and call him to resign based on the Winograd Committee report.

* We must raise questions and inquire in the media and the Jewish political leadership, whether any MK has violated the law; if the entire Arab public and MKs were being targeted as a result of the investigation with Hershzon, were the entire Jewish public targeted as well? Or was the purpose to delegitimize our citizenship and political representation by exploiting unproved suspicions?   

* What military secrets can be revealed by an Arab MKany Arab citizen who did not serve in the army; did not sit in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at the Knesset; did not work at the Israeli nuclear reactor next to Vanunu, and does not know 1% of what General Tenenbaum – who was captured by, and recently exchanged with Hezbollah prisoners - knows!!!* Remember the "mountain that gave birth to a mouse" in the charges against Sheikh Raed Salah, Mohammad Barakeh and Abdulmalik Dahamshe.

* Raising the question about the right of the Jewish institutions to decide the format of the constitution, and the format of the collective perception of Israel, and consequently, the identity of the state, while the Arab contributions and intellectual initiatives are treated as a "security threat to the state".

* The Arabs are not solely responsible for coexistence. It is also the responsibility of the Jewish majority which allows the policy of discrimination and marginalization to be practiced against us.

* The Jewish majority holds responsibility for its silence in regard to repressing, discriminating and inciting against the Arab public, led by certain circles from the center and the fascist right, under the silence of the Zionist left.

* Ever since the assassination of Rabin in 1995, the fascist right has been trying to exclude the Arabs and their leaders from the circle of decision-makers in order to prevent peace in the region.

* We will not leave our homeland. The attempt to expel us will involve unnecessary violent confrontations for both Arabs and Jews, especially since the expulsion of 20% of the Arab citizens will involve a regional confrontation that the world is trying to end. 

Recently, the forces of the fascist right have controlled the media arena due to the inciting role and wretched practices of the Hebrew media. This is not an unusual reality for us, but we must clarify our media message to our Arab audience, to the Jewish public, and to the world as institutions and individuals.

In order to penetrate the incitement campaign against us, we must hold personal and organizational responsibility for confronting such a campaign and preventing its exploitation by executing assaults against the Arab public in general, and the political leadership in particular, as has happened in the past.

At the Mossawa Center, we have established our media message as a human-rights institution, and have begun our moves to hold the Jewish public to its responsibility for preventing assaults against our Arab public. This initiative must be translated into actual professional and public Arab moves which use various public, parliamentary, media, and international means in order to prevent the deepening of the incitement against, and the denigration of an entire people, whom some are attempting to expel from its homeland of which there is no other. This is an invitation to take action against a coordinated campaign which aims at delegitimizing our citizenship, and violating our individual and collective ability for decent living.   

 

* The author is the director of the Mossawa Center for the rights of Arab citizens in Israel, formerly a journalist and the head of the National Union of Arab Students.