A familiar quality of unreality pervades much of the news and commentary about the ascendance of Hamas in recent Palestinian elections.
Note is endlessly made of the fact that Hamas, with its clinics and other welfare operations, is less "corrupt" than the old-guard Fatah chieftains, providing needed services the Palestinian Authority neglected. And many news stories duly report that the radical Islamic organization specializes in suicide bombing and rejects Israel’s existence.
But as to why Palestinians en masse are comfortable choosing a leadership engaged in the defamation and murder of innocent Jews – including children, teenagers and the elderly – very little is said.
Harold Evans, writing in London’s Times several years ago, observed: "Everyone talking about Palestine or terrorism is talking in a vacuum, for nothing can be understood without proper appreciation of the way minds have been poisoned." ("Anti-Semitic Lies and Hate Threaten Us All" June 28, 2002)
He had it exactly right. Without addressing the mind-poisoning, there can be no clear understanding of events. Yet, as throughout the Oslo years of journalistic indifference to Palestinian Authority indoctrination of its people in hatred and rejection of Israel, so too current reporting gives scant attention to the calamitous effects of inculcated Jew-hatred in shaping events related to Hamas and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Islamist group has long made clear the importance of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel indoctrination, which occurs intensively throughout its network of charities, schools, mosques, clinics and summer camps. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center cites a typical leaflet found in the office of a Hamas "charity committee" in Tulkarm entitled "Jewish hatred of the human race." In it, Jews are described as enemies of Islam and its values and murderers of the prophets. The Hamas Charter itself is anti-Semitic, citing, for instance, the "Nazism" of Jews and blaming them for the world wars as well as the French and communist revolutions.
From earliest childhood, lurid messages demonize Zionists and Jews as evil and extol the joys of martyrdom attained in killing them. Hamas is in the forefront of Palestinian groups exploiting the Internet to disseminate propaganda, with approximately 20 sites in seven languages. A children’s on-line magazine called "Al-Fateh"(www.al-fateh.net) – meaning the conqueror – juxtaposes child-like cartoons and stories with shocking images of violence. Issue number 38 of Al-Fateh, includes a photograph of the decapitated head of a female suicide bomber. The caption reads "Zaynab Abu Salem who carried out the suicide bombing attack. Her head was severed from her pure body and her headscarf remained to decorate her face. Your place is in heaven in the upper sky, Zaynab ... sister [raised to the status of heroic] men." Abu Salem had killed two Israeli border policemen and wounded 17.
Menashe Komemi, 19, who helped support a family in which a disabled father was unemployed, and Mamoya Tahio, 20, an immigrant from Ethiopia, lost their lives trying to protect those around them against the female terrorist.
Terrorism specialist Matthew Levitt writes of a Hamas "incitement machine" in the Winter 2004 Middle East Quarterly, describing, for instance, a kindergarten graduation run by a Hamas charitable association. The event "featured 1600 preschool age children wearing uniforms and carrying pretend rifles. A five-year-old girl reenacted attacks on Israelis by dipping her hands in red paint, mimicking the bloodied hands Palestinians proudly displayed after the lynching of two Israelis in Ramallah."
He describes an Islamic school in which "11-year-old Palestinian student Ahmed states, ‘I will make my body a bomb that will blast the flesh of Zionists, the sons of pigs and monkeys ...I will tear their bodies into little pieces and cause them more pain than they will ever know.’" His classmates shout in response, "God is great" and his teacher adds "May the virgins give you pleasure."
The depth of hatred instilled from a young age is such that mothers push their own sons to suicide-murder. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has translated an interview with Umm Nidal Farhat, a woman whose three sons, raised on incessant hatred, joined Hamas, one of them killing five Israelis before being shot, the others engaging in other anti-Israel actions and killed by Israel. Her own remorseless expression of hatred is chilling – and she was just elected by her fellow Palestinians to the Palestinian legislature. Farhat declares in the interview that even women and "old people" are occupiers and "all means are legitimate" against them.
She says: "I am proud and honored to be a terrorist for the sake of Allah."
Why, one wonders, do so many reporters consistently neglect the mind-poisoning that profoundly affects Palestinian views and actions? Why do American journalists, whose own society promotes acute awareness of the power of stereotypes and insensitive language to damage others, seem impervious to the grotesque demonizing of Jews and Israelis and the deadly toll that hatred continues to take?