Israel-Palestine: On inflammatory comments and hate speech - Politicsweb

Inflammatory statements are often made by parties involved in a war. Some are an emotional, careless response; some reveal prejudice and hatred; some reveal naked politicking. Such statements, sadly, are a staple in war. Nonetheless, they are, to put it mildly, extremely unhelpful in bringing the belligerents closer to resolving the conflict.

Sara Gon 
Inflammatory statements are often made by parties involved in a war. Some are an emotional, careless response; some reveal prejudice and hatred; some reveal naked politicking. Such statements, sadly, are a staple in war. Nonetheless, they are, to put it mildly, extremely unhelpful in bringing the belligerents closer to resolving the conflict.

In the case of the current war between Israel and Hamas, for example, some media outlets accused Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant of calling the Palestinians ‘human animals’ or, as some misquoted, ‘inhuman animals’ in the speeches he made on 9 October 2023 –the day after Israel realised the true horror of the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

Gallant was referring to Hamas, not to the Palestinian people. Even the Huffington Post, which is not a friend of Israel’s, understood the distinction. In reporting on the formal declaration of war on Hamas, it wrote: ‘Israel’s defense minister on Monday announced a “complete siege” of Gaza, describing the Palestinian fighters who attacked Israel over the weekend as “human animals”.’

In a cell phone video taken on 9 October 2023 of the address he made to Israeli soldiers after the declaration of war on Hamas, he said: ‘You saw what we are fighting against. We are fighting against human animals. This is the Daish [ISIS] of Gaza.’ Gallant has repeatedly and publicly referred to Hamas as the ISIS of Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned cabinet ministers on 12 November 2023 to choose with care their words regarding Israel’s war with the Hamas terror group. ‘Every word has meaning when it comes to diplomacy. If you don’t know – don’t speak,’ the prime minister said during that Sunday’s cabinet meeting. ‘We must be sensitive.’

The prime minister was referring to recent comments by ministers that were viewed as having caused damage to Israel’s international legitimacy.

In 2015 Netanyahu appointed, as part of the coalition agreement reached between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jewish Home party, Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan as Israel’s deputy defence minister.

While discussing the resumption of peace talks in a radio interview in 2013, Ben Dahan said, ‘To me, they are like animals, they aren’t human. The Palestinians aren’t educated towards peace, nor do they want it’, he said. (Reports by Times of Israel and International Middle East Media Center). The left-wing Meretz party condemned Ben Dahan.

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter told Channel 12 that the war was ‘Gaza’s Nakba’ — the Arabic word for ‘catastrophe’ that many Arabs used to describe the displacement of Palestinians amid the 1948 War of Independence.

The term has been widely used by Arab commentators to describe the devastation of the war, but its use by an Israeli minister helps to fuel claims that Israel is attempting to drive the Palestinian civilian population out of Gaza. Jerusalem insists it has no such plans.

When asked if Gaza residents would be able to return to their homes after the war, Dichter, a former chief of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, said, ‘I don’t know how it will end. You have to remember that Gaza City takes up about a third of the Strip. Half of the population but one-third of the Strip.’

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu received outright condemnation in international media when he suggested that one of Israel’s options in the war against Hamas could be to ‘drop a nuclear bomb on Gaza’.

Netanyahu quickly disavowed his comments, before suspending Eliyahu from cabinet meetings.

Eliyahu is a member of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit party. He was speaking in an answer to a question in a radio interview.

‘Your expectation is that tomorrow morning we’d drop what amounts to some kind of nuclear bomb on all of Gaza, flattening them, eliminating everybody there…’ the interviewer said.

‘That’s one way’, Eliyahu responded. ‘The second way is to work out what’s important to them, what scares them, what deters them’.

Netanyahu called the remark ‘detached from reality’.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid slammed Eliyahu’s comments as ‘a horrifying and insane remark by an irresponsible minister’.

‘He offended the families of the (241 Gaza) captives, offended Israeli society and harmed our international standing. The presence of the extremists in the government endangers us and the success of the war goals – defeating Hamas and returning the hostages. Netanyahu must fire him’, he demanded.

Saudi Arabian, Jordanian, UAE, Chinese, Indian and more condemned this remark in no uncertain terms, as did Hamas.

However, inflammatory statements made by Israeli politicians in the media are usually off-the-cuff remarks, not made with official approval. Quite the opposite: they can attract official censure, as in the case of Eliyahu’s remarks.

Compare this with the language chosen by the Palestinian leadership, including the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. As shown below, systematic media monitoring reveals that the Palestinian leadership has over the course of decades used a programme of propaganda that is in a different category altogether. 

Monitoring Palestinian antisemitism

Despite its pervasive nature, the propaganda of the Palestinian leadership is seldom exposed to the outside world. Set out below are some insights into the programmes of propaganda against Israel and Jews espoused by official Palestinian media for more than half a century. 

The language is routinely dehumanising, totalitarian, and genocidal. Every generation of Palestinian children is indoctrinated with the same language. 

There are at least four organisations that monitor what is said in Arabic by Palestinian media. It became apparent over forty years ago that whatever official Palestinian media were saying in English to the outside world, they were saying something altogether different to Palestinians in Arabic.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) was founded in 1982, five years before the founding of Hamas. It monitors media and conducts research to promote ‘accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East’.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), 1996, researches Palestinian society and has corrected many inaccurate narratives about the conflict.

Middle East Media and Research Institute (Memri), 1997, ‘bridges the language gap between’ the West, the Middle East and South Asia, with translations of Arabic, Farsi, Urdu-Pashtu, Dari, Turkish, Russian, and Chinese media. 

‘The MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) scrutinises Islamist terrorism and violent extremism worldwide, focusing especially on activity within and emanating from the Arab world, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, as well as on attacks and activity in the West inspired and encouraged by the Islamic State (ISIS), Al-Qaeda, and other global jihad organisations.’

Honest Reporting, 2000, aims ‘to ensure truth, integrity and fairness, and to combat ideological prejudice in journalism and the media, as it impacts Israel’.

Some examples are set out below. They have been taken from the PMW website. There is one example for each year of PMW publication. It bears noting that these examples are drawn from a very large corpus, encompassing 32,650 media items collected in one section of one monitoring organisation alone.


‘Zionists are descendants of apes and pigs’

The Voice of Palestine, official PA radio station  | 11 July


‘Jews are ‘the descendants of the Devil,’ says Muslim Brotherhood cleric’ 

Official Palestinian Authority TV  | 17 December


‘The Jew was ‘the disease of the century’’

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA daily  |  28 December


*PA Minister: ‘Arafat instructed the PA to prepare the Intifada’

Al-Ayyam, independent Palestinian newspaper |   6 December

*Note: the PA began the preparations and to get ready for the outbreak of the second Intifada since the return from the negotiations at Camp David at the request of President Yasser Arafat


Israel as spider

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA daily  |  21 October


Dr. Mahmoud Mustafa Najem, PA religious figure: ‘Allah turned Jews into apes and pigs’

Official Palestinian Authority TV  |   1 November


Israel as snake

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA daily  |  8 November


Israel as rat

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA daily  |  27 March


PA cleric: Jews are a cancer and caused the Tsunami

Official Palestinian Authority TV  | 7 January


Israel as cockroach

Al-Risala, Hamas, newspaper  |  6 November


Israel as caterpillar

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA daily  |  28 August


Hamas explains use of human shields: ‘We desire death as you desire life.

Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas)  |  29 February


Sheikh Ahmed Ali Othman of the Egyptian Waqf issued a Fatwa that ‘pigs in our time have their origins in Jews who angered Allah, such that He turned them into monkeys, pigs, and Satan-worshippers, and it is obligatory to kill and slaughter them [the pigs]’.

Al-Moheet Arab News Network  |  13 May


A video calls for Allah to kill Jews, Christians, Communists and their supporters. The video asks Allah to ‘count them and kill them to the last one, and don’t leave even one’.

Hamas TV  |  8 December


‘Jews, Jews! Your holiday [Passover] is the Holiday of Apes’

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA daily   |  24 November


‘Our enemy, Zion, is Satan with a tail’ – A child reciting a poem promoting Pan-Arabism by an Egyptian writer

PA TV children’s program The Best Home  |  20 April    


Hamas proud of terror attacks, vows to continue: ‘87 suicide bombings… it will never stop’

Al-Aqsa TV, Hamas  |  19 November


Abbas’ Fatah movement glorified 2 terrorists who murdered 5 Israelis in a synagogue with the supreme Islamic status of Shahids – ‘Martyrs… who ascended [to heaven]’: 

PA official news agency WAFA and Fatah |  30 December


Fatah to kids: Water the ground ‘with blood’

Facebook of official spokesman of the PA Security Forces Adnan Al-Damiri  |  29 December


PA daily cartoon: Israel shoots Santa, claims he was trying to carry out a stabbing attack

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA daily  |  28 December


Palestine – ‘Its borders are the blood of the Palestinian Martyr… He joined the dance… with a rifle in hand’ – children on PA TV

Official Palestinian Authority TV  |  26 May


Palestinian family renounces son who converted to Judaism, says he’s a devil

Official Fatah Facebook page  |  21 December


PA: Jews ‘are defiling our Al-Aqsa Mosque’

Official Palestinian Authority TV  |  13 November


Fatah glorifies and celebrates terrorist murderer of 37 people including 12 children

Official Fatah Facebook page  |  29 December


PLO: Friendly football matches between Arab states and Israel are ‘an insult’. It warned them do not ‘fall into the trap of a Nazi occupation’ and stated that they would shake their hands with hands ‘covered in the blood of Palestine’s children.            

Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida  |  14 December


A star is born: ‘Daddy gave me a present, a machine gun and a rifle’ – Girl sings for the second time to prisoner dad on PA TV

Official PA TV  |  16 December

And then in 2023 – 22 days and again 17 days before the Hamas terror attack –

*PA minister asks Allah to ‘‘purify’ Muslim holy sites ‘from the defilement of the criminal infidels’’ 

Official PA TV  |  15 and 20 September

*Note: This was broadcast on the eve of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah)

2023 – the day after the attack

* ‘Strike the sons of apes of pigs… slaughter everyone who is Israeli’

Telegram channel associated with Fatah’s military wing the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades  |  9 October

*Note: This was broadcast the day after the attack by Hamas, before Israel had launched its war.

2023 – 2 weeks after the attack

PA Ministry of Religious Affairs’ instruction sheet for all preachers’: All mosques must teach that extermination of Jews is an Islamic imperative

Official PA TV  |  22 October

2023 – 16 days after the attack

Palestinian political commentator says ‘Jews are ‘human waste,’ Europe and the US will do anything to keep them in Israel’ 

Official PA TV  |  24 October

On 19 November 2023PMW issued a post: ‘Hamas’ threats to “cut off heads,” slit throats,” and “slaughter every Jew on the planet’. PMW notes that the Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas) broadcast was made on July 12, 2019 and it was ignored.

Antisemitism in Palestinian school curricula

Hatred of Israel is promoted not just through Palestinian media channels, but also in Palestinian schools. In 2012 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) published a report calling on the Palestinian Authority to remove all incitement from their school curriculum.

In May 2019 the European External Action Service commissioned a report following concerns raised in 2018 over incitement in Palestinian textbooks. The EU pays for these textbooks. ‘Misgivings’ have been raised every year since.

On 29 August 2019 CERD issued a report saying it was concerned about ‘hate speech in certain media outlets, especially those controlled by Hamas, social media, public officials’ statements and school curricula and textbooks, which fuels hatred and may incite violence, particularly hate speech against Israelis, which at times also fuels antisemitism’.

On 14 December 2022 the European Parliament passed a resolution that ‘strongly condemns’ the Palestinian Authority for hatred, incitement to violence and antisemitism present in Palestinian textbooks. 

The resolution noted that the European Union is currently funding this material, and would have to ‘suspend the funding in case of misuse’.

On 10 May 2023 the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the Palestinian Authority over the ‘hateful’ content of its textbooks and conditioning future funding for education on the removal of antisemitic material.

This was the first EU resolution directly linking the content of PA textbooks with funds for Palestinian terrorism, and in particular attacks by young people. 


PMW recorded that on 5 November female students in Ramallah in the West Bank waved Palestinian flags and the green Hamas flag, while enthusiastically calling to ‘shoot a Jew’ or ‘give it to Hamas’. If the next generation of Palestinian leaders are reflective of these young women, there is little hope.

Peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will require greater moderation in language. As long as the language is dehumanising, totalitarian, and genocidal, finding common ground will be very challenging.

Inflammatory remarks by craven politicians, however, are one thing; sustained propaganda is another. The West must demand from the Palestinian Authority, which is responsible for most of this propaganda, that it stops. However, Hamas is unlikely to be receptive to such entreaties.

Sara Gon is head of strategic engagement at the IRR, and director of the Free Speech Union of SA

This article was first published on the Daily Friend.