Israelis Insult Muslims, Face Criminal Charges
by Daniel Pipes
In 1997-98, the Israeli government under Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu, with Washington's encouragement, arrested and jailed a young woman, Tatiana Soskin (also spelled Tatyana Suskin), who put up posters in Hebron that depicted the Muslim prophet, Muhammad, as a pig, A Jerusalem court convicted her of various crimes and sentenced her to two years in prison, plus a one-year suspended sentence.
I wrote about the case at the time in an "[Hebron Pig Poster Incident:] How Clinton Adheres to the 'Rushdie Rules'" but then left the topic: that seemed to be that, a one-time incident, a sport.
But it does not appear to be so. As a supporter, Zvi Golan, noted at the time: "At a time when a Tel Aviv museum is displaying photographs of naked men wrapped in tefilin, and the national Israel Museum in Jerusalem has an erotic exhibit identifying with Eva Braun, Tatiana Soskin is in jail because she insulted not Judaism, but Islam." This weblog entry will pursue the topic of a double standard, one for Judaism and another for Islam.
To start, Ben Kurtzer notes at "In Israel There Is Free Speech for Some":
(January 19, 2004)
Nov. 25, 2008 update: Sultan Knish tells about Gershon (Gregory) Trastman, a writer for Vesti, the conservative Russian-language newspaper in Israel; a recent poem by him, with references to Arab demographics as a weapon against Israel, has got him in trouble. Here is a rough translation of the poem: .
In addition, Sergei Podrazhansky, the Vesti oped page editor, is on his way to court.
Comments: (1) Two such cases suggest the Soskin episode was not aberrant but part of something larger. (2) Dhimmitude appears to be flourishing in Israel.
The "No Arabs - No terrorism" bumper sticker, in Hebrew.
The "No Arabs - No terrorism" bumper sticker, in Hebrew.
Ofan will be sentenced at a later date. He is the second person to be convicted for using the slogan, the first having been David Ha'ivri, who was sentenced to six months of community service for distributing T-shirts with the slogan on them.
Ofen responded by calling the judgment both "a bit illogical" and "a selective enforcement of the law."
Itamar Ben-Gvir also accused the police and the courts of a double standard: "We see that when the Arabs chant 'Death to the Jews' as they did recently in Umm el-Fahm, neither the police nor the State Attorney's Office do anything." He also held that "No Arabs - No terrorism" does not amount to a direct call to violence.
Barak Medina, a law professor at Hebrew University agreed, noting that there is no uniform approach in such cases, which are influenced by the public mood and the general political circumstances. He also noted that Israeli law enforcement is more sensitive to remarks directed against a minority.
Comment: In contrast, a bumper sticker with "No Muslims - No Terrorism" was for sale in 2003 at a Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., and no one was arrested.
Mar. 2, 2009 update: On learning that "a cast member on the Israeli version of the reality show Survivor said he had named one of his shoes Muhammad," I wonder if jail awaits him. So far, the only reaction I find is that GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah yesterday, as paraphrased by the Saudi newspaper Arab News, "called on the international community and the United Nations to take immediate measures to stop the defamation of prophets and religions."
Mar. 9, 2009 update: Incidents in Hebron suggest that the government of Israel devotes less attention to protecting Judaism than Islam. Efrat Weiss reports for Yedi'ot Aharonot in "Prayer books at holy site vandalized":
Aug. 17, 2011 update: Israelis insult Israelis, do not face criminal charges: A pig poster quite similar to Soskin's but with Ariel Sharon's name on it caused no problems and led to no time in jail for Ron Magal, the person who drew it, when it appeared in a Tel Aviv gallery, Boaz Arad notes in Anochi. Interesting that the Jewish state should protect the non-porcine dignity of Muslims more than that of Jews.
May 29, 2013 update: A Muslim member of parliament in Israel, Ibrahim Sarsour of the UAL-Ta'al party, has submitted a bill that outlaws cursing, defaming and publishing pictures or caricatures of holy books and prophets, including Muhammad, Moses and Jesus. Indeed, according to Sarsour, the bill outlaws "any offense in any form – speaking, drawing – that harms people's religious sentiments, whether directly or indirectly."
Oct. 18, 2013 update: Not a criminal charge but not too different: Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab who heads Israel's Central Elections Committee has banned a Likud party municipal election ad about ending the early morning adhan from mosques in Jaffa on the grounds that it the ad would offend Muslims. The ad reads: "Silencing the muezzin in Jaffa? Only the Likud can." After a Labor party member complained to the Elections Committee about the ad, Joubran banned the ad on the grounds that it "will almost certainly be highly offensive to the Arab-Muslim population of the state of Israel."
July 31, 2014 update: A bartender living in Beer Sheba, Lior Cohen, 22, was arrested and interrogated for a Facebook page comment that "An Arab who is a real man is an Arab in the grave." Cohen expressed regret and so was sentenced only to house arrest for 10 days and no use of the internet for 30 days.
Feb. 5, 2015 update: At the request of MK Ahmad Tibi and the Joint Arab List, Salim Joubran (the Christian Arab who still heads the Central Elections Committee), has ruled that Yisrael Beytenu may not, as part of its electioneering, give away copies of the Charlie Hebdo "survivors' issue" with Muhammad on the cover along with a wrapping that carried criticism of Tibi. The Arab party also petitioned the committee, noting the outrage the cover provoked among Israel's Muslim population. Liberman had bought up copies of the issue after a bookstore decided not to sell it. Joubran explained that the copy of Charlie Hebdo amounts to a gift and so violates campaign laws. Feb. 25, 2015 update: A three-judge panel of the Supreme Court overturned the Central Elections Committee ban on Yisrael Beytenu from handing out free copies of Charlie Hebdo, calling it "legitimate election propaganda," not a gift. Liberman welcomed the ruling: "The High Court's decision to allow the distribution of Charlie Hebdo is an important message that Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state and that we shouldn't give in to threats and violence by Arab members of Knesset who are trying to turn Israel into another Islamic State country."
Reader comments (3) on this item
Comment on this item
Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes