A front-page feature on April 1, 2008 in both the New York Times ("Hamas's Insults to Jews Complicate Peace Effort") and the International Herald Tribune ("Hamas ratchets up anti-Jewish rhetoric") highlights the serious issue of Palestinian indoctrination with detailed examples of Hamas incitement in childrens television shows and in mosques. The article, by former Jerusalem bureau chief Steven Erlanger, quotes many of the hateful statements delivered by Hamas imams and media, such as "Jews are a people who cannot be trusted," and Jews are "the brothers of apes and pigs." He also reports on the incitement directed towards recruiting children into joining the "resistance," including a Mickey Mouse-like character and his bee and rabbit successors. Assud, the rabbit, proclaims: "We will liberate Al Aksa mosque from the Zionists' filth. We will liberate Jaffa and Acre." (Jaffa and Acre are cities within Israels pre-1967 borders.)
Interestingly, Erlanger wrapped up his tenure in Jerusalem last month and left for Paris. In his nearly four years as Jerusalem bureau chief, he gave scant attention to the key issue of Palestinian hate indoctrination against Israel and Jews. In fact, not even when he covered the "lost generation of Palestine: its most radical, most accepting of violence and most despairing" on March 12, 2007, did he discuss incitement as a factor in their radicalization. (In the 3,400-word feature, he devoted only one sentence to indoctrination, presenting it as an Israeli "claim.") Thus the obvious question: why now? Why did the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times wait until he was no longer in the region to address this deep-rooted problem in Palestinian society? Did he not feel safe to report on incitement while he was working in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?
The Hamas-PA Divide
Erlanger's central argument in today's article is that while the Palestinian Authority has made significant strides in curbing incitement, Hamas is completely unrestrained:
Such incitement against Israel and Jews was supposed to be banned under the 1993 Oslo accords and the 2003 road map peace plan. While the Palestinian Authority under Fatah has made significant, if imperfect efforts to end incitement, Hamas, no party to those agreements, feels no such restraint.
Since Hamas took over Gaza last June, routing Fatah, Hamas sermons and media reports preaching violence and hatred have become more pervasive, extreme and sophisticated, on the model of Hezbollah and its television station Al Manar, in Lebanon.
Emphasizing the distinction between levels of incitement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, Erlanger reports:
While the Palestinian Authority of Fatah also causes some concern its textbooks, for example, rarely recognize the state of Israel Yigal Carmon, who runs Middle East Media Research Institute, said Hamas and its media used the kind of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish language you don't really hear any more from the Palestinian Authority, which hasn't talked like that in a long time.
In fact, there are recent examples of extreme incitement on the part of the PA.
Ahmad Dahbur, until recently the undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture, in the PA-controlled Al Hayat-Al Jadida, described recently assassinated Hezbollah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh as an extraordinary hero . . . a beacon of light. (reported and translated by Palestinian Media Watch). Dahbur promises revenge for the killing of Mughniyeh, who was responsible for the killing of 241 American soldiers in 1983 and for attacks on the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, stating:
We hear of the Mujahideen's [Jihad fighter's] pledge to the combatant Shahid [martyr], that they will avenge his blood. . . . May his blood serve as the ink for a new document of fraternity, which will unite the Jihad's fighters . . . And from Lebanon to all the Arabs "Hail the victory of the Mujahidun! [Jihad fighters] (Feb. 14, 2008, translated by Palestinian Media Watch)
On March 14, 2008, the Palestinian Authority controlled newspaper, Al Hayat-Al Jadida, described the terrorist who massacred eight yeshiva students in Jerusalem on March as a groom, and called his burial a wedding celebration. PMW reported:
The story in Mahmoud Abbas' Al Hayat-Al Jadida goes on to evoke the neighborhood Jabal Mukbar's week of anticipation . . . preparing themselves for the wedding procession.
The term wedding is the expression commonly used in PA society, and in schoolbooks as well, to describe the death of Shahids Martyrs for Allah.
On Dec. 20, 2007 PMW reported:
A music video depicting a Shahid (Martyr for Allah) being greeted in Paradise by the Dark Eyed Maidens (Virgins) has returned to Palestinian Authority (PA) television. . . .
The clip portrays a woman being shot in the back by Israeli soldiers. She is immediately transported to Paradise, where she joins other Maidens wearing identical long white gowns, all joyously dancing, waiting to marry their Shahid. The next scenes depict her male friend visiting her grave, after which he is also shot by Israeli soldiers. His Shahada- Death for Allah is immediately rewarded, and he is transported to heaven, where all the "Maidens" -- including his lover -- turn to greet him.
A new music video began to appear on PA-controlled television in October 2007 promising the liberation of cities within Israel in other words, the destruction of Israel. The lyrics include:
From Jerusalem and Acre and from Haifa and Jericho and Gaza and Ramallah
From Bethlehem and Jaffa and Be'er Sheva and Ramle
And from Nablus to the Galilee, and from Tiberias to Hebron
The message of this PA music video is identical to that of Hamas' Assud the rabbit, mentioned above.
Erlanger notes that Hamas' "charter is a deeply anti-Semitic document and cites a famous forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as truth." He then quotes a Hamas spokesman who is dismissive of this point: "[O]ur battle is not with Jews as Jews," the spokesman claims, "but with those who came and occupied us and killed us. [After all], the Jews who recognized the evil of the occupation stayed outside and refused to come to Palestine as occupiers."
Of course, Hamas' charter makes no such distinction. Instead, it cites the Islamic hadith:
The Prophet, Allah's prayer and peace be upon him, says: "The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,'
Despite minor shortcomings, the New York Times is to be praised for shedding important light on Palestinian hate indoctrination, a core issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. News outlets have for too long neglected the subject.
The timing of the article raises serious questions, though, about whether Erlanger felt the need to censor himself for his own safety and/or for continued access in the Palestinian areas. This is not unconceivable. After all, Eason Jordan, the former chief news executive of CNN, admitted
that the network refrained from reporting on human rights abuses in Iraq for fear of jeopardizing access to Saddam Hussein's government.
And Riccardo Cristiano, of Italy's RAI television, sent an infamous letter to his Friends in Palestine denying that his network released footage of the October 2000 brutal lynching of two Israeli reservists. We emphasize to all of you that the events did not happen this way, because we always respect the journalistic rules of the Palestinian Authority for work in Palestine, the Italian reassured, and clarified that Mediaset, a competing Italian station, had distributed the footage.
After the publication of Cristiano's confidential letter, Mediaset's correspondent was recalled to Europe in a move to protect her life. Perhaps Erlanger, now in Paris, also found that reporting a story potentially damaging to the Palestinian cause is imprudent for a journalist working in the Palestinian areas. All this raises the larger question of how readers can obtain an accurate and complete picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when correspondents on the ground may be unwilling or unable to report essential information.