Despite public declarations that it is committed to the peace process, the Palestinian Authority is spreading a different message among its people, said the director of an Israel-based watchdog organization.
That message — conducted in the state-controlled media, in children’s textbooks, and even at sporting and cultural events — demonizes Israel and Jews and makes the prospects for a lasting peace even less likely.
“When one culture or group wants to destroy another it begins with this type of demonization,” said Itamar Marcus, founder of Palestinian Media Watch.
He appeared Nov. 17 at the student center on Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus. The program was cosponsored by Rutgers Hillel and Stand With Us, a pro-Israel advocacy group.
Marcus said Palestinian propaganda glorifies terrorists, compares Israelis to Nazis, and characterizes the struggle with Israel as a “ribat,” or a struggle for holy land.
“That is the problem,” he said. “In order for there to be a resolution, the land can be occupied. But, if the issue is religious [occupation] there can never be a compromise.”
According to such messages, “all of Israel is ‘occupied,’” said Marcus, meaning the territories and Israel itself. “They won’t say it in English, but in their own language, in their own papers and media, that’s how it is presented.”
Palestinian Media Watch was founded in 1996 to monitor the rhetoric of Fatah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority.
Marcus displayed crossword puzzles, songs, and cartoons extolling violence and the struggle to reclaim Palestine. The process to ingrain such messages from early childhood began after Yasser Arafat took over leadership of the PA in 1996, said Marcus.
“The message in schoolbooks is they must fight Israel until the end of time,” said Marcus, who said Israel’s founding is described in Palestinian media as “a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history” and Palestinians are portrayed as victims of the “racist Zionist enemy” whose goal is to “exterminate” Arabs.
Children’s programs feature puppets and cartoon characters that push violence.
“If kids are taught they have an eternal fight with Israel, then they have the power to undermine the peace process forever,” said Marcus. “This is the great tragedy of the Palestinian education system. If you ever want to have peace, you have to erase these messages of ribat — that we have to fight Israel for Islam. The truth is that may take generations.”