RAMALLAH - Taking its strongest stand yet against anti-Semitic incitement, the Palestinian Authority has decided to ban incendiary sermons from state-run TV, just days after a televised Gaza mosque preacher likened Jews to the AIDS virus.
Information Minister Nabil Shaath, whose ministry is in charge of Palestinian TV, said Wednesday he would no longer permit the broadcast of sermons that incite against other faiths. Shaath harshly criticized cleric Ibrahim Mdaires, who, in a sermon Friday, also accused Jews of inflating the dimensions of the Holocaust.
Other Palestinian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they expected the Gaza cleric to be banned from delivering sermons.
Abbas pledged to lower incitement
Several months ago, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pledged to lower the incitement level on Palestinian television and radio. Palestine Liberation Organization fighting songs, for example, have been taken off the air.
But action has been gradual, and Israel continues to protest that the Authority is not doing enough to counter anti-Jewish themes and displays.
An official Palestinian website had carried a notorious anti-Semitic tract, the "Protocols of the
Learned Elders of Zion," until Wednesday - removing it only after a Jewish group protested. The 19th-century forgery purports to spell out a Jewish plot to take control of world finance.
Israel: more to be done
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev welcomed Shaath's decision, noting that while incitement has declined since Yasser Arafat died in November, "We still think there is more to be done."
"We hope the Palestinians follow through with this," he
Shaath said the ban on inflammatory sermons would be part of an overhaul of Palestinian TV to try to make it more relevant and competitive against Arab satellite stations.
On Wednesday, the Palestinian Cabinet adopted new guidelines for TV broadcasts, including equal opportunity for expression to various political groups, and a provision that denies Abbas top billing on news programs unless news value warrants.
"Our TV is being watched by only 1 percent of the Palestinian people who watch Arab satellites, and our radio is also limited after the destruction of its transmitters and equipment" by IDF military strikes, Shaath
"We have to convince the Palestinian people that we are the main source of the Palestinian news, with all its ramifications," he said.