Topic | Choose topic/s and define your search
Affiliations / Personalities
Date Range

The personal story of PMW's Egyptian translator, as reported in Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot


Yediot Aharonot, Israeli daily,
feature article about PMW in weekend magazine
The Anti-Hate Unit
Seventeen Israelis at the research institute Palestinian Media Watch in Jerusalem monitor the Palestinian incitement that fuels the terror attacks, and report to intelligence bodies. They watch a 13-year-old girl reciting: "O Sons of Zion... barbaric monkeys," read about a tree-planting ceremony in Ramallah commemorating terrorists, and discover the good lives that terrorists have. Meira Ovadia, one of the institute's staff, isn't surprised: During her childhood in Egypt, no one told her she was Jewish and she was taught that the neighbors across the border were "people with big noses and a tail."



Meira Ovadia at the Jerusalem institute Palestinian Media Watch:
"Unfortunately, even when I explain nicely it doesn't help.
The Arabs generally answer me with curses:
'Shut up, smelly Jew,' 'You monkey, you pig'"  
Yifat Erlich, Dec. 18, 2015
What could be sweeter and more innocent than a doll? But it's not so sweet when the doll's face is covered by a headscarf and is holding a rock in its hand, and the cute toy becomes a tool for teaching violent messages to Palestinian children. Four thousand such inciting dolls were seized two weeks ago by the Israeli Customs Authority at the Haifa Port, but they're only the tip of the iceberg. Alongside wild incitement online, including detailed instructions for youth about how to stab people, there is also institutional incitement from the Palestinian Authority itself, which encourages violence and Jew-hatred among children.
Meira Ovadia has been monitoring the official Palestinian Authority television channel for 8 years already. For hours upon hours, she watches news broadcasts, guest shows and children's programs and translates statements relating to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. 
On May 29, 2015, for example, she saw on one of the children's shows a girl of about 13 years, her hair flowing over her shoulders, reciting the following poem: "O Sons of Zion, O most evil among creations\ O barbaric monkeys\ Jerusalem vomits from within it your impurity." Ovadia also saw that the girl received applause and a "Bravo!" from the host of the program, a lovely Palestinian woman who was carefully made-up and wore a blue head scarf.
But Ovadia is no longer shocked. The Jerusalem-based research institute Palestinian Media Watch, where she is one of 17 employees, has been monitoring media broadcasts and educational programming for almost 20 years, and the employees have encountered many expressions of incitement and bottomless hatred. Most of the employees have come from Arabic-speaking Israeli army intelligence units, and as such they prefer not to divulge their identities. Ovadia, whose mother tongue is Arabic, has no problem exposing her identity, but she does have a deep identity crisis.
Why doesn't Mom wear a veil  

Ovadia, now 25, was born and raised in Al-Ma'moura, a high-scale neighborhood in Alexandria, Egypt, under the name Maysa Abdallah. She lived there until the age of 15. Her wealthy family had a successful fashion factory, and for many years she lived comfortably. She didn't even know she was Jewish until 2005.
"Our parents didn't allow us to pray in a mosque or a church or visit friends' houses, and we never understood why," Ovadia says, with traces of a foreign accent slipping into her speech, dimples visible on her smiling face, and her eyes alight. "There were strange things at home that I didn't understand, like a meal on the Sabbath that my grandparents and parents insisted we eat together.
"My grandmother, who was very religious, also lit candles every Sabbath, but we, the kids, didn't know why. Grandmother would also tell us stories from the Bible, but they didn't interest us. I remember that I really loved the taste of the apple in honey, but I had no idea that it was connected to Rosh Hashanah.
"Our parents preferred not to tell us that we were Jews so that we wouldn't talk about it outside our house, so that we wouldn't be hurt. There were kids who suspected us and laughed at us. I was told that I looked Jewish, and when I answered them that I wasn't, they asked why my mother didn't wear a veil. I didn't know how to answer, so I told them that we were secular."
Until 6th grade, she studied in a Muslim Brotherhood school and after that she transferred to a Coptic Christian school. "I didn't like the Muslim school. I suffered there. I didn't want to wear a veil, and they forced me to. Every day we had to memorize entire chapters of the Quran by heart. Whoever didn't study or didn't speak nicely got beaten - serious beatings, not friendly pats. One time, I dared to stick my tongue out at one of the other students during a lesson, and the teacher hit my hand with a rod until my hand broke. I was taught to hate Jews, that they were creatures with horns, a long nose and a tail, and to hate Israel, the cruelest country in the world."
After the second Intifada broke out in 2000, solidarity with the Palestinian people and hatred of Israel were on the rise at the Muslim school that Ovadia attended. "On the wall in the classroom, there were two pictures. One was Muhammad Al-Dura, the child that, they explained to us, the Israelis had murdered. There was one picture taken just before he had died, and a second picture taken when he was already dead, on a stretcher. That's what was in front of the children's eyes - a child's corpse. My parents realized that there was no point in keeping us in that school, so we transferred to the Coptic school. That was much easier to handle. They also beat you there, but only for really serious things."  
In 2005, the family was forced to leave Egypt after masked men broke into their home, proclaimed that Jews were unwelcome in Egypt and that it would be best that the children not go to school anymore. "Five bearded men, with weapons and clubs, broke into the house," Ovadia recalls. "At first, they broke the glass of the electronic gate at the entrance, and then they came inside yelling 'Ald Al-Yahud,' 'the Jewish family,' and just started to destroy the entire house. They demanded to know where the men were, but none of the men - my father, uncle, and grandfather - were home.
"The attackers pushed my mother and she fell. We screamed. My brother and cousin were on the roof. The attackers went up there, trampled them and shot next to their heads to scare them. We heard the shots downstairs. It was horrifying. They left the house eventually, the police came, and we took Mom to the hospital."
Three days after the incident, the grandfather gathered his seven grandchildren and told them that they were Jews and that soon they would go to Israel and live in Jerusalem. "I couldn't understand where this had come from. To Israel? Why would I want to go to a country with people who had big noses and a tail? It was a total shock. The children reacted badly and were angry, but we left in the end."
"At the beginning, I pretended it was a trip. Ulpan was pretty good for me, but afterwards my cousin Dina and I transferred to the Amaliya High School [in Jerusalem], and it wasn't easy. We fought with the other girls all the time. Mostly I did. They called me Pharaoh. We had heavy Arabic accents, so they made fun of us. I was very insulted and I would hit the other girls. It took the teachers a long time to teach me not to hit. I couldn't stand the way the other girls talked and mostly disrespected the teachers. Maybe everything they taught me from a young age about the Jews affected me. The girls seemed ugly and cruel to me."
[Interviewer:] "But you didn't see horns and tails."
"You'll laugh, but the first time I went to Mea Shearim, there was some Haredi guy [religious Jew] - you know, with the whole outfit - that pressed himself against a wall in order to not come near me. I turned around to check that he didn't have a tail. Today, when I see what Palestinian children are taught, when I see seven year olds saying on air that Jews are apes and pigs, and the hostess of the program applauds them, I understand them. Once, I also thought like they did."
Quiet, you occupier
Her connection with Palestinian Media Watch started in high school. "I took the Arabic matriculation, and one of the employees at the [PMW] institute taught a class there once and asked every student to read part of a text. When he heard me reading, he told the teacher that I sounded like an Arab, and asked about me. The teacher told him my story, and he suggested that Dina and I come to work at PMW during summer vacation. I was 17, and ecstatic that I had a job. It was a joy. After high school I started working here full time."
Her acclimatization at the [PMW] institute wasn't easy. "I would argue a lot with the other employees. Because I didn't have Israeli friends, and because I didn't watch Israeli television, I was convinced that Israel was hurting the Palestinians for no reason. I hid the fact that I would cry about Palestinian suffering from the director of the institute, Itamar Marcus, but I would say to the other employees: 'The Palestinians lived here, and you came with weapons, kicked them out with force and took their homes.' One of the employees would argue with me all the time, and I would answer him half-seriously, 'Well, be quiet, you occupier.' The employees would laugh and say that you can take Meira out of Egypt, you can't take Egypt out of Meira.
Her exposure to the Palestinian television broadcasts during her work at PMW didn't contribute to forming her identity as an Israeli. "Every time I watched In a Hero's House, a program on official PA TV in which a different prisoner's house is visited and the terrorist's mother is interviewed - I would cry. I cried together with the Palestinian mothers about their suffering, and I didn't understand that they put these people into prison because they committed terror attacks. I thought that the Israelis were persecuting them for no reason. They don't explain on the program what happened before the arrest. It's like now, when PA TV portrays the 13-year-old boy who carried out the Pisgat Ze'ev stabbing attack, as a victim. They don't show that he stabbed someone, only that he was shot. That's how they present most cases, as if some Arab who didn't do anything was attacked in the street and shot for no reason.
"At some point, the other employees started to convince me to watch Israeli news. One of the employees would call me at 8 o'clock and remind me to watch the news in Hebrew. Today, I don't need a reminder anymore. In time, I also made Israeli friends, and four years ago I started to see things differently and support Israel."
Today, Ovadia tries to pass on her support for Israel to her Facebook friends in Egypt, Morocco and Yemen. "Unfortunately, even when I try to explain nicely, it doesn't help. I tried to explain to them that their media is showing them an incomplete picture, that a 13-year-old boy wasn't shot for no reason - he stabbed another boy his age and seriously injured him. When I ask them why they don't say that it's terror, they usually respond with curses: 'Shut up, smelly Jew,' 'you monkey,' 'you pig,' 'don't speak Arabic, you're contaminating our language.' People are very fixed in their ideas. They say: 'It's not terror, we'll keep stabbing you until you leave our land.'
"Even when I explained as nicely and politely as possible, no one agreed with me. I understand them. I used to be exactly where they are, but they had nobody to show them the other side, and that's what they've been told since a very young age."
The Palestinian child isn't guilty
"Education from a young age has a tremendous effect and Meira's story demonstrates this," says Itamar Marcus, Palestinian Media Watch's director. "What lies behind children who take a knife and go out to stab is many years of hate education. These aren't bad kids. They've just been convinced that that's what God wants: That the Jew is so vile and despicable, that he needs to be murdered. The average Palestinian child isn't responsible. He's a victim of an education system and a media that's teaching him to hate.
"The hate stems from two major streams of thought: A Palestinian nationalistic one that seeks to liberate what they call "occupied Palestine," which includes Haifa and Tel Aviv; and an Islamic religious one, which in my opinion is the more central one because it leaves a lasting impression. The religion-based hatred presents Jews as the murderers of Allah's prophets, the representatives of the Devil, and apes and pigs. At the national level, Israel has no right to exist, and on the religious level, individual Jews have no right to live because God commands that they be killed. The Martyr (Shahid) fights against "the occupation," but also gets a unique elevated religious status because he's considered to be fulfilling God's will. Until the world understands how serious the incitement in the Palestinian media and education system is, it won't stop, and we'll all pay the bloody price."  
Marcus (62), a resident of the Etzion Bloc, made aliyah (i.e., moved to Israel) from New York in 1974, but hasn't managed to get rid of his American manners. Even when he's making a strong point, he speaks quietly and sensitively. He founded Palestinian Media Watch in 1996 with donations from Jews and evangelical Christians in America, Canada and Australia. The donors continue to fund the institute today. He previously served as an advisor to the Minister of Religion Shimon Shitreet of Labor, "and because I was close to the Labor people, people who were against the Oslo Accords gave me videos of Arafat inciting to prove to me that the Accords were a bad idea. I gave the videos to MKs from Labor, and then a group formed that eventually became the "Third Way" party, that spoke out against Oslo. Peres also got these incitement videos, and he said, 'I don't care what Arafat says, I care about what he does.'  
"After the government fell, I decided to raise money and check if researching the Palestinian media was worth the effort. I raised some money and hired two employees, and that's how we started. We very quickly understood that there were two Arafats: the one who spoke about peace in English, and the one who encouraged terror in Arabic." 
[Interviewer:] "The PMW institute has been around for almost 20 years, and yet the world still considers the Palestinians to be victims." 
"Al-Mughrabi was arrested because of us"
Itamar Marcus, PMW director
"There's no doubt that ourinfluence on the Israeli media could be improved. Maybe there are people who prefer not to see things that go against their ideology.  Mahmoud Abbas' lies and hypocrisy are so obvious. Recently, everyone was exposed to it during his recent speech when he claimed that Israel killed the boy that committed the terror attack in Pisgat Ze'ev. But already two years ago, in an official PA ceremony, he said that Israel wants to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is obviously a lie. Every year, the PA commemorates an incident that happened 46 years ago, when a deranged Australian set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  
Just last August, PA TV aired a documentary about this incident, that said that the planners of the arson were high ranking Jewish officials, and that there's a meticulous Israeli plan to destroy the Mosque. The official PA daily published the libel that Israel built a model of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Ben-Shemen forest, and Israeli army special forces trained inside it how to take over and destroy the Mosque. We know that there's wild incitement going on in the Al-Aqsa Mosque itself. The Sheikh Khaled al-Mughrabi, who preached about killing Jews in his sermons in the Mosque, was arrested because we exposed his religious lessons, and he was indicted.
"For years, Mahmoud Abbas has been indoctrinating hatred in children and youth so that when he wants, he can throw a match and set the area on fire.  The spark that starts the fire is always the Al-Aqsa Mosque. And when does he light the fire? When he wants to put the Palestinian issue on the agenda again and when the polls show that he might lose power. In my estimate, soon Abbas will lower the flames to show the world that he's controlling the situation, but he'll make sure to continue cultivating hatred so that he can start up again in the future."  
(PMW note: This PMW assessment was correct. Two weeks later: 
"Israeli Security Officials: Abbas Cracking Down on Violence... The PA has markedly reduced incitement on its official media outlets, deployed personnel in the West Bank to prevent confrontations with the IDF, and resumed arresting Hamas operatives." [Ha'aretz Jan. 7, 2016])
Marcus makes sure to illustrate every other sentence with video clips, cartoons and quotes from the official Palestinian media. "Here," he swivels his computer screen and shows clips from the television show The Best Home, "This is the most invested children's program on their television. All the employees, the producers and the hostess are PA employees." 
It's worth it to be a terrorist
It's March 22, 2013. A yellow studio decorated with colorful circles. Red cushions on soft sofas. Dahli, a girl about 7 years old, recites a poem:  "Allah's enemies, the sons of pigs... They murdered children with guns, like snakes / They cut off their limbs with stones and knives / They raped the women in the city squares / They defiled Allah's book [the Quran] in front of millions." The girl is applauded by the TV host. 
May 14, 2014. 9-year-old Mohammed recites a poem he wrote by himself (sic, he did not, poem is by known author): "Our enemy, Zion, is Satan with a tail."
"This is all from the official television broadcasts," Marcus emphasizes. "Alongside the religious hatred of the Jew, there's also PA's non-recognition of Israel.  The program opens with a puppet talking, with a view of Tel Aviv in the background. The puppet explains to the children that it's not Tel Aviv, but occupied Jaffa that will return to Palestine. 
According to Marcus, a tree-planting ceremony honoring recent terrorists was recently held in Ramallah, organized by the Palestinian Education Ministry. An official statement released by the Education Ministry read:  "The [PA] Ministry of Education and Higher Education will hold an event tomorrow [Oct. 14, 2015] to plant olive trees and place signs on them with the names of the Martyrs (Shahids) of the ongoing popular uprising (Arabic: habba) for Jerusalem, in response to the barbaric attacks the Israeli occupation is carrying out against our people, students, and children. Likewise, this event is meant to illustrate the devotion of the ministry and its staff to honoring the Martyrs, among them school students, and to strengthen the sense of belonging to the land." 
"This isn't something new," Marcus clarifies. "The PA has 25 schools named after terrorists. This is more serious than any incitement. The pictures of these Shahids are hung up in the middle of the school, and the children learn to admire them. It's not a coincidence that 11 and 12-year-old kids are carrying out terror attacks." 
[Interviewer:] "And when you find this kind of information, do you call government officials?"
"In the past, we had a more direct connection with Netanyahu. I used to pass along material through his press advisor. Today, Netanyahu still uses our material, but it takes time until it reaches him. For the last five years, we've been participating in a meeting that takes place every three months at the Prime Minister's Office, which intelligence bodies also take part in. A few times, we've surprised them with our material. Sometimes I feel that with our small resources, we've become Israel's Foreign Ministry." 
[Interviewer:] "Perhaps you're emphasizing only the hate and in doing so, just intensifying it? What's the point of it all?"
"We also publicize positive developments. In the report [PA Education - A Recipe for Hate and Terror] we put out about the Palestinian education system, there's an entire chapter dedicated to positive statements. When there's a positive message on television, we publish it. And of course, there is value in exposing the negative material. We present it in European parliaments and in different forums in the United States and Canada, and we have great success there. The Europeans are horrified by what they see; afterwards they try to say that it has nothing to do with them, so we explain to them how much money their country gives to the PA. We show them that the hate education is funded by their money.
"We've succeeded in initiating important legislation in the United States that makes it more difficult to fund terror. Dutch, British and German parliaments had important debates and made important decisions after they were presented with our materials: The Europeans demanded that Abbas shut down the PA Ministry for Prisoners' Affairs, which transferred 15 million dollars every month to prisoners' families. That's a huge sum. But Abbas, typically, knows how to lie: He founded the Commission of Prisoners' Affairs, subordinate to the PLO, that transfers the money from the PA to the prisoners. We have proof of this.
"The monthly salary that a Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail receives can reach up to 12,000 shekels, while a PA civil servant's salary is 3,000 shekels. What message does this send to the youth? They see these prisoners released, they buy fancy cars, they build villas, so why not be a terrorist?
"I believe that putting economic pressure on the PA, enough that would cause an economic crisis, would cause the Palestinian people to change its leadership and choose a different path. There are many moderate Palestinians. I have several friends like that."
[Interviewer:] "Is there a Palestinian leader today who can lead to a different path?"
"I'm afraid not. Salam Fayyad was the only one who didn't take part in hate incitement, but he doesn't have public support. But there's no alternative: The only solution is new leadership that will start educating toward peace." 
[Translated from Hebrew,,7340,L-4740754,00.html]