Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch, worries about the radicalization of the Palestinian people, particularly the youth.
In a recent phone conversation from Israel, he described textbooks, children’s shows, and even summer camps that glorify terrorists, demonize Israelis, and erase Israel from maps.
The result is a shift in attitudes that he blames squarely on the Palestinian Authority, whose often-incendiary media and textbooks his organization has been monitoring and analyzing since 1996. “We have been trying to point out for years that the Palestinian Authority internally, in Arabic, has always been radical,” notwithstanding recent media reports suggesting otherwise, he said.
Marcus will describe the gap between Western and Palestinian media when he joins a panel of experts at an Israel Advocacy Summit in Whippany on Sunday, Feb. 3 (see sidebar).
“The myth that the Palestinian Authority is moderate is just that, a myth, when it comes to internal Arabic affairs,” said Marcus, who was raised in New York and now lives in Efrat.
He offered examples from PA-owned media outlets glorifying terrorists like Ibrahim Hamed, who is serving 54 life sentences for bombings, including attacks at Café Moment in Jerusalem and the cafeteria at The Hebrew University. He cited an essay in a children’s magazine in which a young girl recalls a dream in which Adolf Hitler called the Jews a scourge on humanity. On a PA-sponsored children’s television show, he said, children are taught that “Zion is the enemy, a Satan with a tail.”
Palestinian Media Watch has presented this evidence to lawmakers in the United States, the European Union, Britain, and Australia, sometimes with effective results. For example, shown the children’s magazine, UNESCO leaders withdrew their funding; moreover, Marcus said, representatives from a number of Western European nations “have been horrified when they see what they are funding.”
Marcus agrees with recent reports that the PA is weakening as Hamas regains strength, suggesting that for many Palestinians, there is ultimately little difference between the two. Where some analysts say the PA has lost credibility because it has been unable to deliver on promises of statehood, Marcus says the real reason is to be seen in its message.
“The Palestinian Authority is weakening because they have not given the people a choice,” he said. “They offer only the same message of hatred” as Hamas.
And he thinks that a moment when peace was possible may have passed. “When Israel’s essence and the Jewish people’s essence is constantly targeted, hatred will not go away with a border adjustment,” he said.
Asked about the voice of moderate Palestinians, he said, “There are such voices, but the Palestinian Authority squashes them.”
He cited Hamadi Jebali and Khaled Abu Toameh — former writers for Al Fajr, an Arabic daily newspaper formerly published in Jerusalem — who have complained that the paper is a house organ for the PLO. Marcus also pointed to a recent Palestinian television talk show in which the sound was muted every time a guest offered even mild criticism of the PA.
Marcus said he believes the best response is exposure and to work toward getting countries around the world to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority in no uncertain terms until the culture of hatred that exists is changed.