At certain moments, while watching a scene from a program broadcast by Palestinian television on October 25 of last year, it is difficult to believe that this is the official television channel of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, and not that of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad.
And yet, the program in question features a “field report” by Palestinian television from Tulkarem, in order to relate the wonders of the master terrorist Abbas a-Said, who is jailed in Israel and was sentenced to 35 life sentences.
This is a man who was considered at the beginning of the previous decade the head of the military wing of Hamas in the town, and responsible for two of the harshest suicide bombings Israel has ever known, including the attack on the Park Hotel in Netanya and on the night of the Passover Seder in 2002.
The reporter, who works at a program dedicated to the families of prisoners, did not spare the superlatives: “We are outside the home of the warrior hero, the commander, the lion of the prison, Abbas a-Said.”
And the play continues. The reporter turns to two freed women prisoners sitting in the house of a-Said and asks them: “How do you feel now that you are sitting in the house of the leader, the hero, the defeater of the enemy, the vanquisher of the prison and the lion of the investigation?”
One of them, Dia al-Jiosi, responds that a-Said was a role model “for us.” Later the reporter goes out to interview the neighbors of the “hero.” One of them explains that a-Said is “the crown on our head that brought the redemption to the nation, without a doubt he made us proud,” said the neighbor.
Apparently, this example is not atypical on official Palestinian TV, even in the age of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ rule. Nan Jacques Zilberdik, an analyst at Palestinian Media Watch, explains that on Palestinian TV “there is no message of peace with Israel.”
Zilberdik, who was born in Denmark, recently published, together with PMW Director Itamar Marcus a book called Deception, which monitors Palestinian media from one year beginning May 2012, with an emphasis on television broadcasts. The book’s findings, in some cases, trigger concern, in most others nausea.
Palestinian Media Watch, it should be noted, was recently mentioned as a right-leaning group which supplies the Prime Minister’s Office information on Palestinian media. However, a closer look at both the book’s findings and the broadcasts themselves reveals that, regardless of political inclination, the heads of Palestinian television are far from reaching out with a message of peace.
“There’s no education toward peace,” said Zilberdik in a conversation with Haaretz.
“The new Palestinian generation, who watches Palestinian television, does not hear that Tel Aviv or Ashkelon are Israeli cities. It hears about occupied cities that must be liberated. There is no discourse on compromise or concessions. In the Israeli media, on the other hand, one does see such discourse.”
Zilberdik said that the criteria according to which the Palestinian television programs were examined were those that the Palestinian Authority agreed to in the past: An end to violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of signed agreements.
“For example, we found in the Palestinian Authority’s Zayzafuna magazine, a story about a young girl who meets four characters – the fourth is Adolf Hitler. He explains to her what is the killing of Jews and what needs to be done, but there isn’t even a comment on behalf of the editorial staff on who is Hitler and what he is responsible for.
Zilberdik agreed that the content of the Palestinian television programs did change from the even darker days of the beginning of last decade, when there was overt incitement and calls for suicide attacks and violence.
“Today there is no incitement to killing Jews, but they do praise those who carry out terror attacks,” she said.
The recurring example is the female terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who turned into a symbol in the Palestinian media, for reasons that aren’t clear. Mughrabi, who murdered 37 Israelis in a 1978 attack that became known as the Coastal Road Massacre, is mentioned time and again in Palestinian television as a hero.
For example, Palestinian television marked the birthday of Yasser Arafat on August 4, 2010, and broadcast several songs that praised Mughrabi. About a month afterward, in an official Fatah event broadcast on Palestinian television, band by the name of Al-Ashkin (“The Oppressed” in Arabic) appeared singing songs praising the way in which the Palestinians “attacked the Zionists with weapons.” The band sang “finger on the trigger” loudly.
The person responsible on for Palestinian television and radio broadcasts is Yasser Abed Rabo, one of the most well known members of the Palestinian “peace camp.” Abed Rabo stands behind the Geneva Initiative, and was chastised many times by Palestinians due to his willingness to make exaggerated concessions. And maybe from this point it is difficult to explain this phenomenon and that which takes place on Palestinian television. In fact, it is the PLO station, which is ostensibly supposed to support the idea of “two states,” that continuously praises terrorists that killed Israelis. Another problem that arises from the viewing of the broadcasts is the utter disregard for the existence of the State of Israel. Time after time, and especially on shows targeted at teenagers, the hosts, singers or guests say that cities such as Acre, Haifa, Lod, Ramle and even Tel Aviv are part of occupied Palestine. For instance, on August 25, 2010, the host of a children’s television show says that Lod, Haifa and Acre are occupied cities. In June of the same year, another host whom is speaking with the son of a prisoner asks him “the Jews are our enemies, right?” Suffice it to say that she refers to Israeli soldiers with much harsher words – “animals.” And in October 2010, the station takes pains to interview several Jordanian experts on the Middle East who explain that “the Jews are hated everywhere they have been due to their love of money.”
Zilberdik claims that the incitement in the Palestinian media is not revealed in the Israeli media, and certainly not in the international media. “The international community is not aware of the glorification of terrorists or Holocaust denial in the Palestinian media. It is easier to check whether there is building in the settlements than it is to track incitement on the side of the Palestinians. I do not identify with the right-wing in terms of politics. When I arrived in Israel from Denmark I voted for Meretz. But it is impossible to ignore what is happening in the Palestinian media. There is no education toward peace or even a discussion of such issues. The only thing that is heard is that they “will not give up.” That is all.”
Abed Rabo’s refused to respond to the allegations, as did journalists who work for Palestinian television.