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Palestinian TV Eases Hawkish Tone (abridged)

The seven-minute “Peace Song” is now a regular feature on Palestinian television. It is a novelty for a channel known for looped clips of children throwing stones at Israeli tanks and taking fire from “Zionist occupation forces.”

The change in tone could have profound importance for the peace process. One of the first tasks Israelis and Palestinians must perform under the U.S.-backed “road map” to peace is to end incitement. Both sides now agree the language of hate must be silenced.
Israelis have argued that anti-Zionist propaganda has fanned the flames of Palestinian violence. They cite sermons urging the faithful to kill Jews, songs on TV in praise of suicide bombers and school texts they say teach hatred of the Jewish state. “The message is Palestine is our homeland, it was taken away from us, we must take it back, and martyrdom is our weapon” say Yigal Carmon of the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute…
…Israel sees PBC as an important barometer of how the Palestinian political establishment is thinking about whether it is serious about the road map. Signs of change are in the air: Shortly after last month’s summit in Aqaba, Jordan, which saw the official launch of the road map. Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr wrote to TV stations and newspapers throughout the West Bank and Gaza urging more responsible journalism “at such a critical time.”
In response, PBC’s Mr. Ayyash called a staff meeting. “I asked my colleagues to soften the tone,” he says. New guidelines banned provocative music videos and interviews with “extremists and hotheads,” he says, and allocated more airtime to advocates of peace.
Media-monitoring groups noted the difference. PBC’s drumbeat of war gave way to talk shows, cartoons, shots of the Palestinian countryside and songs praising Mr. Arafat, as well as interviews with Israelis politicians – unheard of since the start of the intifada in September 2000.
Some monitors aren’t convinced the transformation is real. “Under tremendous pressure, they’ve cut down the volume of hate material, but the message hasn’t changed,” says Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, a non-governmental organization based in Jerusalem. Mr. Marcus says Palestinian summer camps continue to be named for suicide bombing shaheeds, or martyrs; PBC still shows maps of the whole of historic Palestine with no mention of Israel; and recently featured a song urging Palestinians to return to Jaffa, Jerusalem and Haifa to the “sound of the submachine gun.”