Israel gives nod to formation of anti-incitement c'tee

J'lem relays willingness to re-establishment of defunct committee to US; Abbas suggested move in interview following Itamar attack.

By
March 22, 2011 23:27
2 minute read.
Palestinian Media Watch

Palestinian media incitement. (photo credit: Palestinian Media Watch (palwatch.org))

Israel “has no problem” with the re-creation of a joint Israeli-Palestinian- American working committee to deal with incitement and has relayed this message to the US administration, a senior government official said Tuesday, signaling that Israel has reversed its position on the matter.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview last week on Israel Radio following the murders in Itamar, denied that there was incitement in the Palestinian Authority and suggested reestablishing this committee that met briefly more than a decade ago to monitor incitement.

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Abbas’s comments came after the government waged an aggressive campaign following the Itamar attack against incitement in the PA media and textbooks, claiming there was a direct link between the incitement in the PA and the type of terrorist atrocities committed in Itamar.

The idea of reestablishing the committee was raised by the Palestinians and the Americans during the few days of direct negotiations between the sides last September, but was not embraced by the Netanyahu government.

The Israeli position has been for some time that a committee isn’t needed to deal with the incitement, and that all that is really needed is for the PA – which controls its media apparatus and the textbooks – to take measures to stop it. Fighting incitement was seen in Jerusalem as a Palestinian obligation that the PA simply needed to carry out itself, without the need for a bureaucratic mechanism that would end up involved in endless debates about what is and what is not incitement.

A joint Israeli-Palestinian committee on incitement was set up in 1998 under US auspices. The Israeli team was led by the late journalist Uri Dan, who was a close confidant of Ariel Sharon, and the Palestinian side by Yasser Arafat’s spokesman Marwan Kanafani. Sharon was the country’s foreign minister when the committee was established. With little – but continuous arguments – to show for its work, the committee disbanded after about a year.

Itamar Marcus, a member of the Israeli team at the time and today the head of Palestinian Media Watch, an NGO that monitors the Palestinian media and text books, said Tuesday he thought reestablishing the committee was a good idea.

“The biggest hindrance to peace is Palestinian hate promotion, incitement to violence and deligitimization of Israel,” he said. “Having that exposed on a regular basis would be an important step toward creating a peaceful environment.”

Speaking in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki blamed the dormant status of the committee on Israel.

The Palestinians have repeatedly asked Netanyahu to reactivate the bilateral committee against incitement, Malki said at an event sponsored by the Peres Center for Peace.

“I never stopped asking all the foreign diplomats who come to see me in my office to intervene with the Israeli side in order to reactive this anti-incitement bilateral committee,” he said.

It is important for the Palestinians to work together with the Israelis to end incitement, Malki said. “Otherwise we will lose control; and the moment we will lose control, this will be disastrous for us,” he said.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.


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