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To know what’s up, listen to what Palestininians say in Arabic

DON’T TAKE what Palestinian leaders tell you in private meetings at face value, but rather assess it in the context of what they are saying in Arabic to their own people. That encapsulates the central message of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israel-based research and lobby organization whose mission is to convey to the wider world the decidedly less sanguine reality of prevalent Palestinian attitudes towards, Israel, the peace process, Jews and the democratic West in general.

PMW founder and director, Itamar Marcus (pictured) was in South Africa last week to participate in an Israel Advocacy weekend organized by the SA Zionist Federation. He also spent time in Cape Town, speaking to the communal leadership there.

His presentations, based entirely on material sourced from Palestinian television programs, radio and print media, unambiguously and comprehensively exposed the depressing extent to which conspiracy theories, anti-Jewish demonization and the glorification of violence, in particular suicide terrorism, have become defining features of mainstream Palestinian culture and discourse.

Even, and perhaps especially children, were being exposed to this kind of ongoing incitement, a notorious example in this regard being the program featuring “terror mouse” Fafur.

This was a Hamas version of Mickey Mouse, initially used to propagate visions of Islam’s violent takeover of the world and eventually “killed” onscreen by brutal Israeli torturers when PMW’s successful expose of the matter made persisting with the character counter-productive.

Marcus clearly sees the role of PMW as being not just a recorder of information, but as a lobbying body that proactively seeks to disseminate that information to the relevant leaders and opinion makers around the world.

He is firmly of the view that the knee-jerk animosity towards Israel that one saw in so much of the foreign media was due to plain ignorance. Journalists and politicians simply did not know what Palestinian political and religious leaders, academics and the state-controlled Palestinian media were saying to their own people in their own language.

He had seen again and again how effective bringing this kind of information to people’s attention was. The beauty of it was that it was not even necessary to impose one’s own interpretation on the material, but simply to let it speak for itself. In his presentations to governments around the world - he has, among other things, addressed the European Parliament on four occasions - Marcus makes the point that the Western world is also in the firing line.

The Hamas ideology specifically states that the ultimate aim is not just to destroy Israel, but to overthrow and Islamize the Christian world as well. Why, he asks, would Christians in South Africa want to support something like this?

Has the comparatively stable situation that currently exists between Israel and the West Bank impacted positively on the Palestinian media? Marcus observes that while outright incitement to violence is now uncommon, incitement to hatred remains as virulent as ever.

This needed to be constantly brought to wider notice, particularly to those who believed that the key to achieving peace was further Israeli concessions, not changing Palestinian attitudes.

Marcus encouraged as many people as possible to take advantage of the resources PMW had made available (see, and to in turn assist the organisation by getting the relevant information into the public realm.