Jewish World Review August 24, 2001 / 5 Elul, 5761

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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The mufti's message of hate -- IN the summer of 1997, a young Israeli art student named Tatiana Susskin drew a caricature portraying the Prophet Mohammed as a pig and tacked up copies of it on Arab storefronts in Hebron. She could hardly have devised a more inflammatory insult. The crude leaflets provoked riots and calls for vengeance, not only in Hebron but in much of the Muslim world.

Far from defending Susskin, leading Israelis rushed to condemn her. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned the Arab mayor of Hebron "to express not only my personal revulsion, but the revulsion of the entire people of Israel ... against this frontal attack on one of the world's great religions." There was an apology as well from President Ezer Weizman, and one of the country's two chief rabbis went to Hebron to apologize in person to the city's senior Muslim cleric.

Susskin, meanwhile, was arrested by Israeli authorities and put on trial. She was convicted in Jerusalem District Court of (among other charges) committing a racist act, attempted vandalism, and attempting to give religious offense. Judge Zvi Segal sentenced her to two years in prison, calling her deed a "revolting, degenerate act which offended the feelings of Moslems in Israel and the entire world." Her appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court was rejected and she spent 16 months behind bars before being released on parole.

For Americans used to the protection of the Bill of Rights, so ferocious a reaction to some juvenile graffiti is unthinkable. But while Israel is not bound by the First Amendment, it is bound by the terms of its accords with the Palestinian Authority. Article XXII of the 1995 Oslo 2 agreement, for example, obliges the parties to "abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other" and to "take legal measures to prevent such incitement by any organizations, groups, or individuals within their jurisdiction."

As the Susskin affair suggests, Israel has been vigilant in suppressing and punishing such incitement. Have the Palestinians?

Consider the case of Ikrama Sabri. In July 1997, just a few days after Susskin's leaflets went up in Hebron, Sabri called openly for violence against Israeli Jews -- "colonialist settlers who are sons of monkeys and pigs." He beseeched Allah to "take revenge" on them (and, for good measure, to "destroy America, for she is ruled by Zionist Jews.")

Unlike Susskin, a lone activist with no public platform or official position, Sabri is a Palestinian of considerable influence: He is the mufti of Jerusalem, chosen by Yasser Arafat to be the city's senior Islamic religious figure. His sermons are attended by thousands of worshipers and broadcast on Palestinian radio. There can hardly be any doubt about the Palestinian Authority's obligation to silence Sabri's anti-Jewish hate rhetoric -- or about the importance of doing so.

But Sabri was not silenced in the summer of 1997. Nor was he silenced the following March, when he praised suicide bombings as "a response to the occupation" and a "legitimate" means of confronting Israel. Nor was he silenced -- let alone arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned -- in March 2000, when he mocked Jewish deaths in the Holocaust. "Six million Jews dead? No way, they were much fewer," Sabri sneered. "Let's stop with this fairy tale."

Last summer, the mufti whipped up a frenzy over the prospect of Jews praying on the Temple Mount. Any "Jewish prayer," he threatened, would mean "massacres the magnitude of which only Allah knows ... massacres and rivers of blood." The reaction of the Palestinian Authority? It published Sabri's words in Al Hayat Al Jadidah, the official PA newspaper.

His vitriol has been unending. "I am filled with rage toward the Jews," he spat in October. "They are the most cowardly creatures Allah ever created." In June came another paean to suicide bombers: "Oh, Muslims," he preached, "attack and you will gain one of two blessings: either victory or martyrdom.... The Muslim loves death and martyrdom." One week later, an Arab bomber murdered 21 young Israelis outside a disco in Tel Aviv.

The difference between Israel's treatment of Susskin and the PA's treatment of Sabri is glaring but unsurprising. After all, there is virtually no provision of the peace accords that the Palestinians have not violated. They promised to put an end to violence, to protect Jewish holy sites, to extradite wanted terrorists, to confiscate illegal weapons, and to resolve all outstanding disputes through negotiation. Each of those commitments has been broken repeatedly; it hardly comes as news that their promise to crack down on incitement has not been kept either.

No, the key point is this: Susskin was an exception, Sabri is the rule. The mufti's blind hatred of Jews is echoed over and over, in every Palestinian venue and medium. Turn on the TV -- a sheik offers "blessings to whoever saved a bullet to put in a Jew's head." Open the mail -- a letter from Arafat praises the Tel Aviv disco terrorist as a "model of manhood and sacrifice." Send a child to one of the PA's summer camps and he learns that murdering Jews will assure him a place in heaven. Click on the web site of Arafat's PLO faction ( and read how the killing must continue until "the Zionist state is demolished."

Daily, hourly, constantly, Palestinians are exhorted to loathe Jews and to glorify those who kill them. Nine years into the "peace process," their hatred is greater than ever. Is it any wonder the victims keep dying?

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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