Palestinian media figures guilty of advocating mass murder
NITSANA DARSHAN-LEITNER The Jerusalem Post Feb. 2, 2004
While many around the world seem focused on the upcoming legal confrontation
in the International Court of Justice involving the legitimacy of the
security fence, another important decision in a different international
forum seems to have passed by unnoticed.
In early December 2003, the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda (ICTR)
found three African media executives guilty of genocide, incitement to
commit genocide and crimes against humanity for the hateful reports and
editorials they had published and broadcast nine years before.
With its ruling that could impact on our own regional warfare, the ICTR
handed down long prison sentences for the trio, establishing that their
racist diatribes against a Rwandan minority - mere words - were enough to
make them criminally liable for the subsequent murderous attacks of the
Throughout the early 1990s, when this African conflict was unfolding, the
newspapers and electronic media of the Hutu majority incited hatred and
urged violence against members of the Tutsi minority. The editorials and
broadcasts urged the private militias to kill Tutsi civilians and even
targeted specific leaders for death.
The Rwandan media played no small role in formulating extreme public
opinions of the Hutu community, glorifying violence and fanning the flames
of the civil-war.
In 1994, during a 100-day period, Hutu militias unleashed deadly assaults on
the Tutsis resulting in mass murder. According to estimates, more than
800,000 were killed during those three months. Only then did UN officials
and international forces arrive in Rwanda to investigate the reports of
In time, order was restored and arrests were carried out for the killings. A
special criminal tribunal was established and indictments were brought
against ruling the Hutu political figures and militia leaders.
IN ADDITION, three media executives were also singled out for responsibility
in the genocidal attacks on the Tutus. Hassan Ngeze, publisher of the
mass-circulated Kangura newspaper, and Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean-Bosco
Barayagwiza, executives of the Rwandan RTLM radio station, were charged with
conspiring to perpetrate the violence.
Last month, the trio were found guilty of using the media to incite the
100-day genocidal campaign against the Tutsis.
The sentences handed down by the ICTR ranged from 35 years to life.
Amazingly, the defendants were not convicted of any specific act of violence
or victims. Instead they were found guilty, through their radio broadcasts
and articles, of whipping up anti-Tutsi passions that resulted in mass
murder by others.
The ICTR's remarkable 350-page decision noted that under international law
states have the powers and right to limit speech to protect their own
national security and safeguard their citizens. However, governments
additionally have an obligation to restrict and impede speech that
advocates: "national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement
to discrimination, hostility or violence."
In its decision the ICTR compared the Rwandan defendants to the infamous
Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher, who published the anti-Semitic Der
Stuermer. Decades earlier, the Nuremberg Tribunal adjudicating the war
crimes of the Third Reich found that Streicher's racist writings acted as a
"poison injected into the minds of thousands of Germans which caused them to
follow the National Socialist Party's policy of Jewish persecution and
The Nuremberg judges gave Streicher the death penalty for his journalistic
THROUGHOUT THE more than 40 months of this current intifada, Israel and its
Jewish citizens have also been at the center of an escalating campaign of
racial incitement and hate speech. Barely an evening passes without Israeli
television viewers being treated to video samples of the latest racist and
anti-Semitic incitement on Palestinian Authority, Syrian, Saudi Arabian,
Egyptian and Hizbullah television.
The menacing and deranged broadcasts of the local Arab media seem to be
united and unrelenting in their message: We Jewish infidels are less than
human, and killing us is a meritorious act.
Whether it's the masked Palestinian gunmen in Ramallah or the speeches of
the turbaned Iranian-backed terrorists in the Bekaa Valley, or the
videotaped final testaments of Hamas suicide bombers in their Gaza homes,
the words all sound surprisingly the same.
The viciousness of their imagery and the dangerous anti-Semitic stereotyping
they employ all seem designed to glorify the terrorists and encourage the
killing of Jewish civilians.
The hate speech of our Arab enemies would not, indeed, have sounded much out
of place on the pages of Der Stuermer or the Rwandan Kangura.
The international community has finally been handed a clear and unequivocal
legal precedent that the racist speech inflicted on Israel's citizens by the
Palestinians encourages their violence against us.
The reasoning of the ICTR's decision mandates that broadcasters and
publishers have an obligation to restrict hate speech or face the penal
consequences. Those who provide a media forum to encourage racist violence
are guilty of crimes against humanity.
The ICTR's long sentences for criminal incitement that led to murder
constitute a powerful example of how seriously hate speech is now viewed
under international law.
IT IS long past time for Israel to go after the conspirators who pump out
hate and incitement in the local Arab media. We have allowed our Palestinian
neighbors carte blanche to vilify and slander us with words that no free and
self-respecting Jewish community would ever allow to continue. We have
contented ourselves with targeting the lowly killers without any punishment
for those Palestinians who motivate and incite them.
Criminal indictments for crimes against humanity should be issued by our
Justice Ministry to the key Palestinian broadcasters and journalists
engaging in daily anti-Semitic diatribes. Those who operate Palestinian
television and radio stations and the printing presses engaged in hate
speech should be arrested along with the other suspected killers.
In public trial a direct evidentiary connection can be made between
increasing Palestinian media incitement and the perpetration of terrorist
acts by its viewers and readers. The defendants will be offered the
opportunity to explain the legitimacy of their dangerous lies and libels.
Moreover, in handing down long sentences to these Palestinian media figures
an Israeli tribunal can provide a powerful deterrent to others.
Every nation has not only the right but the obligation under international
law to prosecute crimes against humanity and racist incitement to murder.
Mere words, the ICTR has established, could lead to mass murder in Rwanda.
Mere words, we will show, have led to mass murder in Israel too.
The author, an Israeli attorney, is the Director of Shurat Hadin - Israel