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Expert on Palestinian media examines cultural peace barriers

Meg Barone  |
The latest effort to negotiate a peace plan in the Middle East will likely be as futile as past efforts until the Palestinian Authority abandons its hate education and adopts peace education, according to Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch.

Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, who co-authors PMW news bulletins, spoke Sunday at the Westport Woman's Club, telling more than 100 people who attended about the real obstacles to peace in the Middle East.

Marcus and Zilberdik said they question whether the Palestinian Authority has truly embraced the peace process. Both speakers showed examples from Palestinian culture, news, education and sports that showed ruling Palestinians undermining the peace talks by spoon-feeding messages of hate and violence directed at Israel and Jews.

They said the dialogue in English is a far cry from what they are saying in Arabic.

"What they're saying to children will determine if there will be peace in the next generation," said Marcus, who examines Palestinian sports pages, entertainment, television news and games shows, music videos, poetry, and even crossword puzzles to get the pulse of Palestinian society.

Marcus said he finds a troubling glorification of terrorists, indoctrination of children, demonization of Israelis and Jews, and incitement of hate and violence in the Palestinian media.

As examples, Marcus and Zilberdik showed video clips of children singing an anti-Israeli song, a puppet show in which a child killed President George Bush and turned the White House into a mosque, a Hamas Mickey Mouse telling children "Islam shall rule the world," and a militaristic dance and song routine with rifles that was rebroadcast several times last summer during peace negotiations that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is trying to broker.

"We don't see any kind of peace plan coming from the Palestinian Authority; no reconciliatory language or anything that would point to peace," said Marcus, who has lectured at conferences, universities and to senior security officials worldwide. He provides analysis on CNN, FOX News, BBC and other media.

Some of the messages are blatant and others more subtle, Marcus and Zilberdik said.

Zilberdik played a clip of a Palestinian TV show in which a female host told a child several times that Jews are their enemy and Israeli soldiers "are wild animals."

Marcus said a soccer tournament, two girls' schools, a square in the town of Ramallah and a street were all named in honor of a female terrorist who killed 37 Israelis in 1978. They said Palestinian leaders have also told its citizens that Jews are supporting the spread of AIDS, prostitution and drugs in the Palestinian population, harvesting organs from Palestinians and experimenting on Palestinian prisoners.

"There have never been any complaints from the Red Cross" about such treatment of prisoners, Zilberdik said.
Marcus said one Palestinian religious leader talks about inciting World War III, and he packages it as a necessary means of Muslims saving the world.

"This is a very problematic ideology, not just incitement, but belief," Marcus said.

Many in the audience found the presentation chilling.

"What struck me was how the anti-Israeli propaganda is being fed to children via puppet shows, cartoons and textbooks. These little kids are singing (hate) songs like we would sing "Ring Around the Rosie,' It's rhetoric, spoon-fed. Kids are impressionable," said Liz Kaner of Westport.

"If the American public could hear the original Arabic and understand it, their views of what's going on would be tremendously different," said Paul Danzer, of Norwalk.

Marcus said Palestinian Media Watch wants to reframe the conflict. He said some people, including political figures around the world, view Israel as the bully or aggressor in the Middle East until they see PMW reports.

Marcus said he wants the Palestinian Authority to eliminate the hate education and replace it with messages that will prepare people for peace, "so we can have peace in the next generation."