Klus: Czech media bias leading to dehumanisation of Palestinians

Tomáš Klus

Hundreds of Czech musicians and other artists have signed an open letter to the country’s leaders, urging them to push for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. The initiative takes inspiration from the Artists4Ceasefire collective in the US and is led in Czechia by singer-songwriter Tomáš Klus.

At the weekend Tomáš Klus and a group of over 300 musicians and artists published an open letter calling on the Czech government and president to push for an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza.

Photo: Michal Krumphanzl,  ČTK

They also held up a banner at the Anděl music awards reading Artists for Ceasefire, a reference to Artists4Ceasefire, a US group of actors and others making the same demand.

Klus, one of Czechia’s most popular singer-songwriters, says he started to take an interest in the plight of Palestinians in Gaza after being challenged on the issue by his wife, Tamara.

“I discovered that the one-sided nature of the information people have here is glaring. There are experts who see things from the Palestinian perspective, but they don’t get space in the media. I’ve been trying to balance out the level of information. And the suffering is intensifying so much that we had to show how bias here leads to the generalisation and dehumanisation of Palestinians.”

Photo: Mohammed Hajjar,  ČTK

Czech politicians expressed support for Israel in the strongest terms after Hamas terror attacks on the country in early October. Many ordinary Czechs also back Israel to the hilt and the kind of sympathy for the Palestinian victims of the bombardment of Gaza seen in other EU countries is largely absent.

Klus offers this take on why so many of his compatriots feel as they do on the conflict.

“One aspect is patriotic pride over the fact that in 1948 we armed the Israeli army. We feel that pulls us into Israel’s battle against terrorism. Also pro-Israel sentiment has deep roots and is supported by political parties. But I think xenophobia and Islamophobia also play a role; for Czechs, every Palestinian is a potential terrorist. But why that is the case is a matter for expert discussion.”

Tomáš Klus | Photo: Eliška Chocholová,  Czech Radio

The musician says there has been some positive response to the petition, which has also been signed by actor and singer Vojtěch Dyk, actress Tatana Dyková and rapper Vladimir 518. But he has also come in for a wave of abuse.

“The reactions from the mainstream have been vicious. People write that my children should be burned to death in ovens, like Israeli children. Or be beheaded. I’m amazed by the brutality and aggression that people can come out with. It saddens me too. Society needs to overcome this or we’ll dissolve in our own bile. But I still see us as the heart of Europe.”

Tomáš Klus says around 1,900 people had signed his group’s petition by Wednesday morning.

Tomáš Klus wrote this song Bezpečí doupěte, The Safety of the Hideout, in response to the Israel-Gaza war.