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PMW Director Itamar Marcus interviewed by The Jewish Week

Stewart Ain  |

Keeping An Eye On PA Hate Messaging

by Steward Ain

Itamar Marcus is director of Palestinian Media Watch, a nonprofit that examines Palestinian ideology and policy. He ‎founded it in 1996, and three years later the Israeli government appointed him its representative in negotiations with ‎the Palestinian Authority on incitement. Born in New York and now a resident of Efrat on the West Bank, he was ‎interviewed here while on a speaking tour for the pro-Israel group StandWithUs. This is an edited transcript.‎

Q: How has the Palestinian media changed since you began monitoring it?‎

A: Palestinian media changes whenever the leadership has different messages it wants its people to receive. When ‎we started in 1996, there was a lot of demonization of Jews and a denial of the right of Israel to exist — but there were ‎very few calls for violence. Beginning in the summer of 2000 we noticed a change and published a report saying the ‎atmosphere on Palestinian television hinted at the outbreak of war. That report came out two-and-a-half weeks before ‎start of the intifada that lasted until 2004.‎
For the next four years, the Palestinian media was filled with calls for violence and genocide against Jews and of a ‎religious war against every Jew in the world. It continued until 2005 when [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas ‎came to power.‎

What is happening in the Palestinian media now?‎

On Oct. 17 it resumed calls for violence. The most important came from Abbas himself. He made a speech calling on ‎Palestinians to prevent Jews from going to the Temple Mount “in any way whatsoever,” and he said the presence of ‎Jews there would defile holy Islamic land. That was the signal — together with other material in the Palestinian media ‎‎— that led to 11 Israelis being murdered by cars and being butchered in the massacre in a [West Jerusalem] ‎synagogue. But because of international pressure, the calls for violence appear to have stopped.‎

How strident are the messages?‎

The hate messaging in recent years is as vicious — even worse — than the [Yasir] Arafat days. We’ve seen children ‎on Palestinian television repeating a poem that says, “My enemy Zion is Satan with a tail.” Recently, a boy on ‎Palestinian television read a poem with the words, “Oh you [Jews] who murdered Allah’s pious prophets, you have ‎been condemned to humiliation and hardship. Sons of Zion, most evil among creation, barbaric apes and wretched ‎pigs.” In the past, they denied Israel’s existence. Now children compare Jews to apes and deny the humanity of Jews.‎

Has anything you have heard surprised you?‎

There was a positive surprise in September when an article in the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority ‎praised the employment policies and ethical behavior of Israelis who employ Palestinians in the West Bank. It said ‎that whenever Palestinian workers have an opportunity to work for Israelis, they are quick to quit their jobs with ‎Palestinian employers. And it said the only cases in which a Palestinian worker does not receive the salary his ‎employer promised is when the middleman was a Palestinian.‎

What is the most shocking thing you have heard?‎

In the last four months, official Palestinian Authority media repeated three of the most infamous blood libels that ‎have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jewsthroughout history. During the Gaza war, the official ‎Palestinian Authority daily wrote: “Israel’s God demands, according to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that they ‎offer him sacrifices during Passover of matzah made from the blood of our children.”‎ ‎In addition, they accused Israel of injecting poison into the water wells in Gaza during the war.‎

What response has your work generated?‎

We present this material to governments throughout the world and we work closely with the Israeli government, ‎meeting with the prime minister’s office quarterly for the last five years. We also brief members of many country’s ‎parliaments, as well as members of Congress. A f
ew years ago, we recommended six changes in American anti-terror ‎funding laws. Five were passed a few weeks later and the sixth was partially accepted.‎