Arabs, Cats and Rabbits Compared

Russian poet Gershon Trastman was exonerated on charges of incitement over a poem he wrote which compared Arab women to "rabbits" and "cats."

David Lev,

Lieberman
Lieberman
Israel news photo: Flash 90


Do not be insulted fellow Jews, they fulfill the commandment of 'be fruitful and multiply' far better than we do.
Russian poet Gershon Trastman was exonerated Thursday on charges of incitement over a poem he wrote for the Israeli Russian language newspaper Vesti, which compared Arab women to "rabbits" and "cats." The poem appeared as part of an article on the demographic balance between Arabs and Jews in the land of Israel.

In the poem, Trastman wrote, among other things, that "the number of Arabs in Israel has passed one million and continues to grow. They are everywhere. Do not be insulted fellow Jews, they fulfill the commandment of 'be fruitful and multiply' far better than we do.

"The rabbit and the cat do not match the sexual desires of our 'cousins,'" Trastman wrote, and that desire translates into the high birth rate in the Arab sector, the article, titled "(Foreign Minister Avigdor) Lieberman's Paradigm and the Arabs of Israel."

The poem, the Tel Aviv court hearing the court Thursday said, was "full of phrases that arouse our disgust" - but could not be considered incitement. 

The state had contended that comparing Arabs to prolific offspring-bearing animals like cats and rabbits was "racist, because they are classified in a negative way, due to their ethnic affiliation." Trastman's attorneys said that charging him with racism and incitement is unfair, because the topic was a valid and much-discussed one, "based on the threat to the character of the democratic Jewish state," his attorneys told the court.

In its ruling, the court said that while the poem – and the accompanying Vesti article – would make any Israeli angry, and "has an edge of racism to it," the state had not proven that Trastman, a friend of Lieberman's, had intended to insult Arabs or cause incitement. "We cannot ignore the fact that the article and poem deal with an issue that is raised from time to time in the public sphere and on television screens, where experts discuss the statistics involved and security officials discuss the risks of the 'demographic problem' as it relates to the birthrate of Israeli Arabs. The range of opinions on this matter is wide ranging and at times the debate can be sharp, since it involves issues whose solutions naturally raise serious debate," Judge Hadassah Naor wrote.

The poem and article, she wrote, are controversial, but "there can be no debate that the laws of freedom of speech apply to them, as they do to all opinions – those we like and those we do not."




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