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Full PMW study of Palestinian youth magazine - "Zayzafuna"

Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |
Chapter 14 of PMW's new book Deception:
The complete study of
the Palestinian youth magazine Zayzafuna

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

Chapter 14 of Deception: Betraying the Peace Process analyzes the messages in the PA-funded magazine for youth, Zayzafuna. Last week, PMW released the first section of this chapter, documenting the magazine's glorification of Hitler.

The exposure of this PA-funded expression of Antisemitism, and the fact that the magazine is also funded by UNESCO, elicited numerous responses, including condemnation of both magazine and UNESCO's involvement by the US Ambassador to UNESCO, the Wiesenthal Center and others. Condemnations that ultimately resulted in UNESCO's announcement that it will end its funding of Zayzafuna.

Now PMW is releasing the complete study of the magazine, which covers one year's issues of it. The introduction to the chapter follows below.

Click here to view the complete chapter 14 in PDF

Deception, Chapter 14:
Study of Palestinian youth magazine - Zayzafuna

The Palestinian Authority funds a monthly educational magazine for children called
Zayzafuna.[1] The magazine is made up of material written by the magazine's staff, and essays and poems written by children. Zayzafuna thereby represents the values of the educators and serves as a window into the minds of the participating Palestinian children.

Most of the content in Zayzafuna is positive and educational. It promotes family values, encourages children to read and to participate in building a modern, democratic society, and more. However, these positive messages are directed at Palestinian society, Muslims, Christians and Druze.[2] When it comes to portraying Israel and Jews, Zayzafuna changes its tone and includes items glorifying Jihad fighters against Israel and praising Shahada (dying a Martyrdom death for Allah) and the Shahids, the Martyrs.

In addition, the magazine portrays a world where "Palestine" has replaced Israel by referring to Israeli cities as places in "Palestine," denies Israel's right to exist by saying that Israel is on "stolen land," and demonizes Israel and Jews. Approximately one fourth of the children's submissions are on nationalistic topics, and among them are expressions of hatred that undermine peace and mirror the messages transmitted by the PA leadership through official media, PA education and other structures under their control.

The magazine is published by the Zayzafuna Association for Development of Children's Culture, and sponsored by the PLO's Palestinian National Committee for Education, Culture and Sciences.[3]

The magazine's advisory board is comprised of Palestinian Authority officials and educators, including PA Deputy Minister of Education Jihad Zakarneh, and former PA Minister for Women's Affairs Zuheira Kamal.[4]

The Zayzafuna magazine is part of a larger education program funded by the Palestinian Authority which contributed 90,000 Shekels ($24,370) in 2010 and 10,000 Shekels ($2,700) a month in 2011. Since August 2011, the magazine is also sponsored by UNESCO and the MDG Achievement Fund (MDG-F), a UN humanitarian foundation funded by the Spanish government.[6]

Positive messages are blended with hate and violence

What is striking about Zayzafuna is that the messages that encourage hatred and undermine peace are blended by the editors with the positive educational messages that make up the majority of the content. It is specifically because this is not a hate magazine, but in general a positive publication promoting good values, that the hatred expressed towards Israel and Jews is so damaging. Whereas promotion of peace and tolerance is common in Zayzafuna, it is not applied to Jews and Israelis. Indeed, the only references to Jews and Israelis are negative. For example, "those who are called the Jews" are the ones who "killed like this sword,"[7] and "the Jews adopted a policy of assassination... a Jewish plane killed him..."[8]

At the same time, Zayzafuna serves as a platform for calls for Jihad and glorification of Martyrdom: "The mighty Jihad fighter died as a Martyr and Jerusalem is proud of its heroes... Victory, victory, victory..."[9] and dreams of destruction of Israel: "They [Israel] used nothing but weapons to achieve their goal. And that is the greatest proof that they are cowards. 1948 was the year they entered our land... Oh Palestine, wipe away your tears for I shall not close my eyes until you are liberated."[10]

The most extreme expression of demonization of Jews is the inclusion of an essay by a teenage girl in which Hitler is presented as a positive figure to be admired because he killed Jews in order to benefit the world.

The girl in her dream asks Hitler: "You're the one who killed the Jews?" Hitler responds: "Yes. I killed them so you would all know that they are a nation which spreads destruction all over the world." Like the other hate messages, this appears in a story with positive messages by other admired figures, including a Muslim Nobel Prize recipient and a math scholar.

All the positive messages about coexistence and peace, which abound throughout the magazine, apply to everyone but Israelis and Jews. The implicit message of
Zayzafuna is that Israelis and Jews are in a unique category separated from other peoples and religious groups: For others - peace, cooperation and coexistence; for Israelis and Jews - hatred, confrontation and Jihad.

This overview includes material from issues of Zayzafuna from May 2010 through August 2011,[11] and focuses on messages relating to Israelis and Jews. A short summary of the many positive messages in Zayzafuna that are unconnected to Israel appears below in section 5 of this chapter.

To view the complete chapter 14 - PMW's full report on Zayzafuna in PDF, click here.

To purchase Deception: Betraying the Peace Process, click here.

The full report includes the following sections:

1. Hitler admired because he killed Jews
2. Glorification of fighting against Jews and Israel, Jihad and dying a Martyrdom death (Shahada)
3. A world without Israel - cities and areas in Israel presented as "Palestine"
4. Hate speech against Israelis and Jews
5. Positive messages

[1] Zayzafuna means a certain kind of tree, a Tilia tree. The magazine defines itself on the front page of every issue as "a monthly magazine for children - cultural, educational, informative and healthy - for children aged 8-15". []
[2] Zayzafuna, July 2011
[3] Published by The Zayzafuna Association for Development of Children's Culture
General Director: Sharif Samhan, Editor in chief: Abd Al-Salam Attari, Legal advisor: Lawyer Mufid Hamouda
Palestinian National Committee for Education, Culture and Sciences (a PLO body)
Founding Executive Council: Abla Sa'adat, Muhammad Shuqeir, Dr. Walid Al-Sharfa, Abd Al-Karim Ziyada, Dr. Farouq Khaled Al-Ahmad, Buthayna Duqmaq Esq. [Zayzafuna, February 2011]
[4] Advisory Board:
"Dr. Munir Fasha, lecturer and expert in children's literature
Dr. Mahmoud Al-Atshan, lecturer in Arabic language, Bir Zeit University
Zuheira Kamal, lecturer, former PA Minister of Women's Affairs
Jihad Zakarneh, lecturer, PA Deputy Minister of Education
Dr. Widad Al-Barghouthi, Dean of the Faculty of Journalism and Communications, Bir Zeit University... Abd Al-Hakim Abu Jamous, poet and journalist." [Zayzafuna, February 2011]
[5] Deputy Chairman of the Zayzafuna organization Abd Al-Karim Ziyada on the funding of Zayzafuna: "The magazine has advertisements, which cover some of the costs. For the year 2010-2011 we have subscriptions by students and schools, and that also helps [funding the magazine]. We are fortunate in that the Palestinian Authority and the Prime Minister [Salam Fayyad] have helped us this year with aid in the amount of 90,000 Shekels ($24,370) to cover the magazine and organization costs, and that has given us a push forward. Allah be praised, there is a new agreement for a monthly [PA] payment of 10,000 Shekels ($2,700) to cover the magazine [costs]." [PA TV, May 9 and 13, 2011]
[6] The August 2011 issue reported that UNESCO and the UN MDG-F had joined as sponsors of the Zayzafuna magazine. [Zayzafuna, August 2011]
In the October 2011 issue a note appears: "Opinions expressed in this magazine don't necessarily express UNESCO's views."
[7] Zayzafuna, May 2010
[8] Zayzafuna, April 2010
[9] Zayzafuna, May 2011
[10] Zayzafuna, April 2011
[11] The August 2010 and June 2011 issues are not available on the Internet and are not included in this report.