Double standards exist even on hate in Israel

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Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Double standards exist even on hate in Israel


Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the founder of the rightwing Israeli religious Party Shas, died this past week. More than 800,000 Israelis, mostly religious, gathered to commemorate his life work in occupied Jerusalem. He was applauded by nearly every major Israeli political leader and organization, secular as well as religious, and by pro-Israel leaders and groups in the United States.

While I never celebrate anyone’s death, nor wish harm to anyone including my enemies, the issue of Rabbi Yosef raises an important question about the hypocrisy of Israeli media and of Israelis and their double standards in judging others differently from how they judge themselves.

Rabbi Yosef frequently called Arabs “vipers” and “evil.” He denounced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has supported peace based on compromise with Israel, asking God to strike “these Ishmaelites and Palestinians with a plague, these evil haters of Israel.”

Yet, when an Arab makes such terrible comments, they are punished and judged harshly. But when Israelis say the same and worse, they are honored.
Despite words of peace and compromise from Arabs, many Israelis and especially the biased, one-sided Israeli media, focus almost exclusively on negative Arab rhetoric. They constantly accuse the Arab media of hate speech and hate writing.

It doesn’t matter if it is purely humanitarian and not intended to be political, such as the case of Octavia Nasr, who was once the highest profiled American Arab in journalism. In 2010, Nasr was fired from her job at CNN. The reason was that she had sent out a tweet (on Twitter) expressing condolences on the passing of Imam Sayed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, one of the founders of Hezbollah. Fadlallah was considered a moderate who fought for the rights of women and even expressed opposition to the use of violence.

Her Twitter message read: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” Within days, Nasr was attacked by nearly everyone. How dare she express words of respect for a member of Hezbollah? None of her critics cared that Sayed Fadlallah had died.

Among the loudest critics was the politically pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which described Nasr’s comments in the harshest terms as a “clear impropriety of a journalist to express such a partisan viewpoint about a vocal supporter of terrorism.”

This is all quite in contrast to how the ADL, many Israelis, and the Israeli media responded to Rabbi Yosef’s death. Few made reference to the Rabbi’s racist, hateful rhetoric against Arabs. When they did, the hate rhetoric was downplayed, as if it wasn’t important. Or it was excused as the result of his age.

The ADL, which claims to combat hate and anti-Semitism, called Rabbi Yosef a “towering rabbinic figure who has left a lasting legacy for Sephardic Jews in Israel and for Jews all around the world” in a lengthy statement of praise.

At the end, they minimized the Rabbi’s history of vicious anti-Arab hatred, saying, “Rabbi Yosef was not without controversy and it is no secret that we disagreed with some of his statements in the past which we considered intemperate and biased.”

No secret? I don’t ever recall them issuing a press release denouncing him. They certainly didn’t demand that he resign as the leader of Shas. The ADL’s reaction was mimicked by many in Israel, with even less mention of his racist rhetoric.

What is the difference in attitudes between Nasr’s expression of condolences and the ADL’s expression of condolences? It’s okay to praise a hater, as long as that hater is someone you like?

Few Israeli officials or media made much of the Rabbi’s hateful history.

The story on his death in the Jerusalem Post never mentioned his past, and they are among the more progressive in Israel’s mainstream media, far better than the Hebrew language media, which for the most part ignored his hateful words.

As I said, I do not celebrate anyone’s death. I do not wish violence on anyone. I oppose violence. All violence. I do put much blame on the extremists in Palestine and Israel, though Israel has a higher burden for its failure because it has all the power and the Arabs are weak.

Principle is important. How you treat one person is how you should treat others. Principle is not based on politics or on your personal views. It is based on consistency. If you are Israeli and condemn the killing of Israelis by Palestinians, you should also condemn the killing of Palestinians by Israelis. And vice versa, too. That doesn’t happen often enough.

And if you condemn Octavia Nasr for her condolence for Sayed Fadlallah, you should also condemn those who applaud Rabbi Yosef. I could even bring in the case of award winning American Arab journalist Helen Thomas who was led into a controversy when her words were twisted into something they were not. Again, the Israelis and American Jewish community jumped all over her, and she was fired from her job after having covered nearly every American president with honor as the first woman in the White House Press Corp beginning with John F. Kennedy.

There are too many examples of Arabs punished, while similar actions by Israelis and American Jews are glossed over. There is no genuine peace today between Israel and its Arab neighbors because the Israelis and the Israeli media live by a double standard of arrogance and power advantage.

They don’t feel the need to be principled when it comes to Arabs and Palestinians. And they don’t feel the need to be principled about hatred either.

– Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter @RayHanania

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania