CNN reporter Rula Amin’s zealous pro-Palestinian bias was conspicuous once again on January 19th. Recounting Israeli destruction of several floors of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation in Ramallah, in the wake of the Palestinian murder of Jewish guests at a Bat Mitzvah in Hadera, she presented only angry, distraught Arab speakers denouncing Israel. (The radio arm of the PBC resumed broadcasting almost immediately from another locale and the main headquarters of the television division located in Gaza was untouched, permitting most of its programs to continue.)
Amin’s only nod to Israeli views was a perfunctory: “Israel says the Voice of Palestine is used by the Palestinian Authority for incitement against Israel and Israelis.” She quickly added: “Palestinian officials say they only report what Israel does.” Amin omitted mention of even one example of the incendiary content Israelis have long protested.
Indeed, among the most disastrous developments in the pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians must surely be counted the creation of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation. Established in the early years of Oslo, both the television and radio arms soon became potent vehicles for amplifying anti-Israel propaganda in a way that had not been possible previously.
From the outset, PA television has offered sinister fare. One 1998 Palestinian children’s series presented sweet-faced little girls singing songs about becoming suicide bombers and drenching the ground with blood in the march to Jerusalem. Against a backdrop of Disney figures, teachers exclaimed “Bravo, bravo!” to those most ardently pledging themselves to violence. Declarations of devotion to martyrdom and extolling of past terrorist killers of Israelis were commonplace.
More recently, as Palestinian negotiators at Camp David moved toward abandoning peace talks in the summer of 2000, PA television turned to graphic images of old Intifada clashes and funerals. Martial music accompanied inflammatory footage.
With the outbreak of rioting in September 2000, Palestinian broadcasting continued to stoke violence. A news story by USA Today’s Jack Kelley about the Voice of Palestine radio described in dramatic fashion agitated VOP radio reports claiming Israel was bombing and killing children in Bethlehem. Yet on visiting that town, all was quiet. Similar fraudulent reports charged “settlers” were “shooting Palestinian women” in Hebron, where no such violence had occurred. In Nablus Israeli troops were alleged to be “burning homes” where, again, no such thing was happening.
One report, according to Kelley, even claimed “hundreds of jets and helicopters are taking off from the aircraft carrier belonging to the criminal occupation force.” Israel has no aircraft carriers.
PA television has regularly delivered as well incendiary Friday sermons by religious leaders. One day after the Ramallah lynching of two Israelis, Ahmad Abu Halabiya, a member of the PA-appointed Fatwa Council, called on listeners to find and butcher Jews “no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them.”
One week after the Dolphinarium bombing on June 1, 2001 in Tel Aviv in which 21 people, mainly young girls, were killed, PA television carried the sermon of Sheik Ibrahim Al-Madhi. He said: “Blessings to whoever waged Jihad for the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever raided for the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever put a belt of explosives on his body or on his sons’ and plunged into the midst of the Jews, crying “˜Allahu Akbar…’ “
In July, a Friday sermon on PA TV exhorted Palestinians to train their children in the “love of Jihad for the sake of Allah and the love of fighting for the sake of Allah.” Sheik Ibrahim Al-Madhi told his audience that “local” Jews not from other countries, and Christians, could live as “Dhimmis” among the Muslims – as unequal, subordinate peoples.
In August on PA television, Sheik Isma’il Aal Ghadwan admonished listeners to seek martyrdom, holding up as a model those who offered their own mutilated bodies as tokens of sacrifice. He said:
The sacrifice of convoys of martyrs [will continue] until Allah grants us victory very soon. The willingness for sacrifice and for death we see amongst those who were cast by Allah into a war with the Jews, should not come at all as a surprise… (All translations are from MEMRI, Middle East Media Research Institute)
One Palestinian broadcast that made news in 2001 on American television was that containing, in the words of NBC correspondent Martin Fletcher, a “commercial” for child martyrdom. In vivid re-enactments, Palestinian boys and girls were shown to put down their “toys” and pick up rocks and follow the path of martyrs. In the video, paradise awaiting after death is depicted as an inviting, green, sunlit meadow where friends meet and play.
That CNN – and many other media outlets – should report Israeli attacks against PA broadcasting structures without so much as a mention of the vile hatred emanating from its airwaves, poisoning the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike, is testimony to the determination of some outlets to purvey a distorted, anti-Israel image of the conflict no matter how divorced their coverage may be from the conflict’s realities.
This originally appeared as an EYE ON THE MEDIA column in the Jerusalem Post, February 1, 2002.