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Israel court rejects media watchdog 'incitement' charge

Sept. 12, 2013 12:55 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 16, 2013 8:37 P.M.)
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma’an) -- A Tel Aviv district court has rejected legal claims against Palestinian officials accusing them of incitement against Israel which led to “terrorist” attacks against Israel and Israelis.

Judge Dalia Gannot strictly rejected the testimony of the founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli media watchdog group which monitors Palestinian media outlets and publishes reports about incitement against Israel.

Marcus was summoned as an expert witness by the complainant, an Israeli family whose son was killed in a shooting about 10 years earlier. But the judge deemed Marcus an “incompetent” witness.

The family’s attorney accused senior Palestinian officials including President Mahmoud Abbas of incitement against Israel which encouraged Palestinians to carry out attacks against Israelis, one of which led to the killing of a member of the family. The attorney claimed in his pleading that senior PA officials were indirectly responsible for the killing.

Lawyer Joseph Arnone, who represented the PA, argued that the challenge was completely false as the incitement theory was based on quotes taken from unofficial and unpopular news outlets.

In her decision, the Israeli judge said that “there were remarks reflecting incitement against Israel and the Jews in Palestinian media, but there was no evidence of deliberate incitement.”

The witness, Itamar Marcus, presented to the judge reports he and his watchdog group translated from Palestinian media outlets as well as video footage. He argued that through his work running a media watchdog he reached the a conclusion that “the PA follows an explicit policy of incitement against Israel and the Jews.”

However, the judge decided that the evidence Marcus gave could not prove his claims about incitement.

The judge argued that Marcus quoted newspapers such as al-Hayat al-Jadida, al-Ayyam and al-Quds as well as the Voice of Palestine radio station, but he ignored very popular Palestinian news outlets.

When she asked him about al-Fajr newspaper, Marcus said he was not familiar with that paper. The judge also highlighted that a majority of the newspaper quotes were taken from al-Hayat al-Jadida which is among the least popular Palestinian newspapers, while only very few quotes were taken from the most popular newspaper al-Quds.

Asked to explain, Marcus said he did not care how popular his sources were as long as these sources represented the PA.

“I don’t care if only 8,000 people read al-Hayat al-Jadida, all I care about is the messages this paper disseminates,” the lawyer quoted him as saying.

Marcus agreed with the judge that Wafa news agency was the official agency representing the Palestine Liberation Organization but he did not use quotes from the agency to support his claims.

The judge noted that Marcus ignored the more popular Palestinian news outlets, and thus his theory of incitement was unacceptable. She wondered why he did not use any quotes from major Arab channels such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyya which are very popular in the Palestinian territories.

The judge concluded that the complainant could not prove incitement by PA officials. “If that was true, the PA would have used the most popular news outlets to disseminate its messages to as many Palestinians as possible,” she noted.

She noted that there was still “disgusting” incitement in some Palestinian outlets.

The judge also pointed out that the complainant presented only 76 news reports and articles documented in 15 years from 1995 to 2010. This is very few, the judge said, given the large number of news reports published in 15 years. She added that many of the reports reflected the writers’ own opinions.

“There is no doubt some Palestinian news outlets incite against Israel and the Jews, but it is clear this is not an official policy of the PA,” the judge concluded.
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