It's not every day that I welcome anti-Semitic rants on the front page of a newspaper. But last week I was surprised, and yes, perversely pleased, to read on the first page of The New York Times that Jews are the "brothers of apes and pigs."
Let me explain. The article in question was documenting the extreme anti-Jewish and anti-Christian pronouncements seen on mainstream Hamas-run television and in Gaza mosques. The article states "Hamas sermons and media reports preaching violence and hatred have become more pervasive, extreme and sophisticated…" and are "intended to indoctrinate the young to its brand of radical Islam, which combines politics, social work and military resistance, including acts of terrorism…"
Thanks to the work of the Middle East Media Research Institute, which translates and disseminates media from the Muslim world via the Internet, you can see shocking examples of programs aimed at children in which suicide bombers are glorified, "martyrdom" embraced, and "resistance" exalted. It's not only Israel or Jews that are targeted with such unsettling propaganda. A recent program on Hamas television showed two puppets, one representing a Palestinian child, the other President George W. Bush, complete with boxing gloves and an army coat. After alleging that America and the "criminal Zionists" killed his family, the boy puppet announces he is going to take revenge and kill the president. The White House has been turned into a mosque, the boy says, and then fatally stabs the president with the "sword of Islam."
The channel often uses puppets and cartoon characters to reach a young audience. It is not an exaggeration to say it is like turning on Sesame Street and having Big Bird discuss the merits of suicide bombing.
On one program, "Tomorrow's Pioneers," hosted by an 11-year-old girl, a Mickey Mouse-like character was shown being killed on the program by supposed Israeli agents. The mouse's replacement, a bee, also died, replaced by a rabbit who wants "to get rid of the Jews, God willing, and I will eat them up, God willing." The rabbit asked his young host at one point, "We are all martyrdom-seekers, are we not?" Her chilling response: "Of course we are. We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our homeland. We will sacrifice our souls and everything we own for the homeland."
Hamas is copying the successful example set by the Islamic radical group Hezbollah, which operates a highly-professional propaganda and public relations effort via their satellite television channel, Al Manar in Lebanon. There, too, the focus is on drumming up support for attacks against Israel and demonizing the Jewish state. A key element of Hezbollah and Hamas propaganda strategy is to discredit and demystify Israel's vaunted military, to make Israel appear vulnerable and weak. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah famously compared Israel's military to a weak, delicate spider's web. MTV-like videos set to martial music show gruesome images of Arabs killed and wounded in fighting Israel over and over again, keeping the desire for vengeance at fever pitch.
The power of mass media to influence and manipulate can be used for good, or for evil. The thought of an 11 year-old TV personality promoting "martyrdom" operations - that is pure evil.