AG Orders Vesty Probed for Inciting Racism

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has ordered police to open an investigation into the Russian-language newspaper, Vesty, which is suspected of inciting racism. Mazuz also ordered police to investigate the author of a poem published in the newspaper in August that gave rise to the incitement allegations.

The acting editor of Vesty, which is owned by mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth, criticized the move as a "circus," and a repression of free speech, noting that he would not reveal the identity of the author, who wrote under the name of Gershon Ben-Yaakov.

A complaint filed by Mossawa, an advocacy center for Israeli Arabs, charged that the poem, called "The Lieberman Paradigm," describes Arabs using racist phrases and constitutes anti-Arab incitement. The author wrote disparagingly about high birth rates among Arabs, comparing Arabs to rabbits, cats and locusts.

"Expressions such as these have shocking connotations and create a dehumanization of part of the population, on account of national and cultural affiliation and skin color, especially in light of the use the 'poet' made of frightening images taken from other worlds," wrote attorney Fuad Azar in the Mossawa complaint.

Mazuz informed Mossawa this week that he was ordering police to open an investigation.

The acting editor of Vesty, Sergei Podrazhansky, criticized Mazuz's decision, saying "he is not distinguishing between a political text and a poem, which has other rules."

"The Lieberman Paradigm" ran on the political analysis pages of Vesty.

Podrazhansky also criticized the nature of Israeli democracy, which he said was obstructing the freedom of speech in a "post-Zionist state."

"This investigation is a circus, not a war on racism," he said. "This is a dirty trick of the kind we haven't seen in years. It would be better if the police would first find all the corrupt politicians before searching for the poet."