Skip to main content

Hamas messages must be challenged, watchdog says

The recent Hamas victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections does not represent any real change in terms of policy toward Israel, according to Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch.
All these principles from the Hamas charter [like Israel and Jews not having the right to exist] were actually being said all along by the Palestinian Authority in their textbooks [and on the PA's official television station], Marcus said.
If people had just been listening, they would have known that this was the direction in which their supposedly moderate leadership was leading the people, Marcus told a capacity crowd at Kehillat Shaarei Torah last week.
"We [are] not getting different leadership in terms of its ultimate goal. We [are] getting leadership that says it openly.
"For peace to exist," he said, "the Palestinian Authority will need a completely different leadership.
"If the western world isolates them to the point where leadership begins to collapse, then we have the potential for beginning a peace process I [do not] think it will happen with any of the leaders we [have] seen.
"Even if Iraq and Saudi Arabia fund the PA, without western political support, there could be such a collapse," Marcus believes. "If we continue to give them money and political support, we [are] not going to have peace."
His Jerusalem-based organization has spent the last eight years monitoring Arabic-language media including sports pages, entertainment news and crossword puzzles to learn what Palestinians have been saying among themselves, and particularly what message they were giving their children.
Marcus who was a member of the Israeli delegation to the Tri-lateral (American, Israeli and Palestinian) Committee to Monitor Incitement, established under the Wye Accords has presented PMW findings in Europe, the United States and Israel. He said that many Israeli politicians were not previously familiar with the material.
The organization, which currently operates on a $250,000 (US) annual budget, is trying to obtain more funding to expand its efforts.
In his presentation, Marcus cited a slew of everyday examples, all sanctioned by the former leadership of the Palestinian Authority: a teenagers soccer tournament in which each team was named for a suicide bomber; a UNICEF-supported summer camp named for Wafa Idris, the first female suicide bomber; a Grade 10 history text published in 2004 that cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a czarist-era hoax alleging a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world; historical television programs portraying Jews as monstrous, almost sub-human caricatures; new school textbooks in which it appears that Israel doesn't exist; music videos that encourage violence; crossword puzzles with clues like Jewish character trait for the word treachery; and even a show for preschoolers in which a Muppet-like character talks about using an AK 47 [assault rifle] to commit a massacre.
"The message is incessant: Israel has no right to exist," said Marcus.
"It will be difficult for Hamas to soften its message because its ideology is religion-based," he said. "They are sincerely religious. To say Israel has a right to exist is [for them] a rejection of Islam. I [do not] believe they are going to do this. The Hamas charter is literally a call for genocide in order to get to redemption."
Marcus showed a PA television diatribe by a Palestinian Muslim religious leader, who referred to Israel as a cancer...
"To the world, [Palestinians] talk about the occupation. To their own, they talk about [the] existence [of Israel]," he said.
"The messages that Israel and Jews have no right to exist and that Palestinians must be willing to die for Allah must be challenged," he said.
"Eventually the western world must recognize that if they want to promote peace, there will not be a peace process on paper until there [is] a peace process in education as well, because only then will we be able to have serious peace into the next generation."