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.
The Soskin poster from 1997.
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":
The prestigious Israel Prize for sculpture has been awarded to Yigal Tumarkin [who] has fashioned a pig wearing phylacteries, and on November 4, 1988 told Tel Aviv Magazine that when seeing haredi Jews he can understand the Nazis. He once said he wished he had gunned down Raphael Eitan and Rehavam Ze'evi.
He branded then Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat "Papa Doc" for proposing to relocate Tumarkin's upside-down glass pyramid Holocaust memorial from outside city hall. He published a "retraction" in an op-ed in Hadashot 10 days later, writing that, "The outward strangeness of the Jew and the pretentiousness of the notion that God chose us... caused violent surrounding cultures to clash ... with this arrogant minority ... The image of the cunning, ambitious scoundrel, lending money at exorbitant interest, turned the bent, hook-nosed bearded Jew into the enemy of civilization ... which didn't help belatedly enlightened Jews."
(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: .
Today however in Israel it is
A Nightmare, the number of Arabs passes a Million
And increases without weakness or respite
Look upon them and your vision grows dark
I will tell the Jews without offense
At night they farm and form is filled
By the eclipse of the moonlight's beam,
The breath of death, what way is found?
The hare, the cat, the locust cannot match
And whether through Ill Luck or Prophecy
We already pave the way to the Tomb of Night
The Tomb of Night, an Arab woman's womb
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.
tainted with racism because it connects the entire Arab population, without any differentiation among its members, and the execution of heinous terror acts. It thus shows hostility and enmity toward an entire populace, only because of its national-ethnic origin. The slogan also suggests a solution to the "problem" in the form of collective punishment of the Arab population by making it disappear, either by expulsion of by other means, which the reader need only imagine, as long as the country remains "clean" of Arabs."
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":
Police launched an investigation Monday after Jewish settlers in Hebron accused Palestinians of destroying prayer and psalm books in the Cave of the Patriarchs. Spokesman for the Jewish settlement in Hebron, Noam Arnon, claimed a double standard was at play. "If Quran books had been torn up I have no doubt the case would be handled drastically and immediately, but when it's damage done to Jewish holy sites there is disregard and whitewashing," he said.
Every year Jewish and Palestinians worshippers are allowed 10 days at the holy cave. On Monday Jewish prayer-goers arrived to find their holy books vandalized during one of the Muslim days of worship at the cave. According to Arnon, the incident was not the first to occur. "After every such day we gather shards and appraise the damage. This time the damage occurred to prayer and psalm books; in the past it was mezuzot, furniture, pipes, and faucets," he said. He added that complaints had been filed before, to no avail. "No one has ever been interrogated or brought to justice. No sanctions exist to prevent such incidents," he said.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) responded to the incident by saying, "The barbaric behavior of the Hebron rioters, who destroyed holy books in the Cave of the Patriarchs, proves once again that they are an agitating and destructive presence that finds itself among cultured people." He added that the next government, in which his party is predicted to participate, would strive to secure full Jewish control over the holy site.
Police stated that an investigation has been launched. So far no arrests have been made.
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.
No jail time for this illustration.
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."
Sarsour explained that, although there have not been any offensive caricatures of Muhammad disseminated in Israel recently, he would like to prevent it from occurring in the future. He also pointed out that soccer fans often chant things about Muhammad that are offensive to Muslims. "There is no difference between religion and a prophet, and a law like this is necessary regardless of whether the phenomenon exists, because it can exist," he said.
The current law, which outlaws "grossly offending" religions is not strong enough, Sarsour added, and the time has come for the punishment to be greater, in the form of high fines and jail sentences, so it deters people from insulting religion. Sarsour saw no issue of free speech with the legislation, saying he makes "a clear difference between the right to express opinions and harming religious sentiment. That is a red line, and there is no justification to cross it."
The bill is unlikely to pass, as it does not have support from any MKs [members of Knesset] outside of UAL-Ta'al or in the coalition.
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."
Avigdor Liberman campaigning on Feb. 5.