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PA weighs ending media incitement

PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) met recently with the head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Authority and asked him to check all programs aired on state television to prevent the broadcast of inciting material, a Palestinian official said Monday.
However, they stopped short of an order to stop incitement in the Palestinian media – a key Israeli demand – the official said, with Palestinians and Israelis differing over what constitutes incitement.
The Palestinian Authority has always claimed that the Israeli media also incites.
On Monday, the London-based Arabic daily A-Sharq al-Awsat reported that the Palestinian leadership had ordered PA-controlled media to stop all incitement against Israel and Jews. The directive applies to video clips, songs and music videos calling for the continuation of the armed intifada, the paper reported.
The report was not mentioned in the Palestinian press, nor was it made public in any official Palestinian announcement.
“If Abu Mazen wanted to issue such an order, he would announce it here, and not through a London-based paper,” a source close to Abbas said.
Israel has deemed an end to incitement as a a sine qua non of its relationship with the new Palestinian leadership.
Last week, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would consider Palestinian efforts to stop incitement against Israel as a sign of goodwill sufficient to restart political negotiations, dropping a previous demand for an immediate crackdown on Palestinian armed groups.
But Israelis who monitor Palestinian television said Monday it was premature to tell if any real changes were in the works to stop Palestinian media incitement.
“It's really too early to say,” said the director of Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Yigal Carmon. “This is something that needs to be watched over time.”
Carmon noted that the only sign of change he had seen so far was that a weekly televised Palestinian sermon, which he labeled “the mother of all incitement,” was not broadcast last week for the first time in more than four years.
Itamar Marcus, the head of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Media Watch, said Monday that the only shift he has detected in the Palestinian media since Yasser Arafat’s death two weeks ago was from incitement to violence to incitement to hatred.
He noted that the incitement to hatred now being broadcast, along with the glorification of Arafat as a super-shahid, was similar to that which existed before the outbreak of the intifada four years ago, which, he said, was no less dangerous than incitement to violence.
“The incitement to hatred is what created the infrastructure for four years of violence,” he said.
He cited a Palestinian television rebroadcast from earlier this week of an hour-long program about refugees, replete with children singing and dancing about not forgetting their homes in Haifa, Acre and Jaffa.
The children, who were shown holding keys in their hands, sang, “You cannot stop us, we will return.”
In another broadcast last week, Marcus said, a history professor interviewed on Palestinian television likened Israel to a parasite that kills a snail and goes and lives in its shell.