Anti-Semitism in the Palestinian Media

An Interview with Itamar Marcus, Director of the Palestinian Media Watch research institute


Following the broadcast of an anti-Semitic program on Abu Dhabi TV this week, three Israeli radio talk shows interviewed PMW director Itamar Marcus on Monday, Nov. 19. The following is the translation of one of those interviews, distributed by PMW, which discusses the use of blood imagery in the Palestinian media.

Israel Radio "Round Table"

Question: Mr. Marcus, [referring to the anti-Semitic satire of Ariel Sharon on Abu Dhabi television] what influence would you say one satirical program of this sort has?

Itamar Marcus: A single satirical program would have limited influence upon viewers, however, the broadcasting of such programs, depicting Prime Minister Sharon as a murderer thirsty for Palestinian blood, is not a one-time occurrence. This message that Sharon seeks Arab-Palestinian blood is a recurring theme, appearing regularly in the Palestinian media. The Palestinian Authority audiences see this image day after day, week after week. There is little doubt that this continuous portrayal creates the image of Sharon as a monster.

Question: You are saying that this sort of thing is not only broadcast in Abu Dhabi, but in the Palestinian media as well.

Marcus: Yes, this message is one communicated repeatedly in the Palestinian media. Let me give you an example. Just a few weeks ago, a caricature of Prime Minister Sharon appeared in one of the Palestinian dailies, depicting him having a celebratory drink with American President George Bush. The two leaders were toasting one another and on the bottle were the words "Palestinian Blood". Another example: During the Israeli election campaign they published a caricature portraying Sharon and Barak together in a bathtub filled with Palestinian blood. This motif of Palestinian blood - of Israelis celebrating when it spills, of Jews drinking and bathing in it - is a recurring motif in the Palestinian media.

Question: This seems to be a motif taken from the past, the idea of the blood libels made against the Jews, claiming Jews used the blood of Christian children for their Passover rituals. This seems to be a return to those kinds of blood libels and accusations.

Marcus: Indeed. We constantly find pictures and imagery of blood, even of toying with blood. Let me give you an appalling example. A little over a year ago, a film appeared on Palestinian Television in which actors depicted Israeli soldiers raping a Palestinian girl. In the scene, "Israeli soldiers" on patrol come across a Palestinian girl and her parents. The "soldiers" stop their patrol, drag the girl from her parents, and then throw her on top of the jeep where they rape her. When her parents attempt to intervene, a "soldier" stabs the mother with a knife after which he wipes the blood onto the palm of his hand and plays with the blood on his fingers, "toying" with the blood, stroking the blood.

Question: This bodes ill for future generations [of Palestinians], if they are sitting and watching these programs.

Marcus: Yes, it is most disturbing - especially since such messages, the portraying of Israelis as evil monsters, are common on Palestinian television's children programs as well. In one very disturbing film, broadcast on a children's program a number of months ago when the violence was at its height, a young girl is seen returning from school, a book-bag draped over her shoulders. Suddenly, real footage of an IDF helicopter is shown, and then it flashes back to the girl who is now running. Next we see the helicopter shooting a missile, and then the girl falls dead, and her schoolbag flies off to the ground. Here we see how on a children's program, Israeli helicopters are depicted as intentionally targeting young children, no more than seven or eight years old.

One prominent objective of the Palestinian print and broadcast media is to promote hatred and fear by presenting Israelis - even to the youngest viewers - as monstrous, ready and willing to kill them at any time.

Question: What can be done to prevent these kinds of broadcasts?

Marcus: I do not think that it is possible to prevent this kind of programming. After all, we have allowed the Palestinian Authority control over its own media, as well as over its own edcation system, and the motifs discussed here appear, though not as explicitly, in Palestinian textbooks as well. Indeed, we have examined all of the books used in the Palestinian Authority school system and Palestinian schoolbooks are full of problematic material. They teach hatred and promote anti-Semitism. There are those who suggest that we destroy the Palestinian broadcasting ability. However, were we to terminate their television broadcasts, this would merely compound the hatred, while the Palestinians still would have other means of communication at their disposal to teach the same messages. Furthermore, their television programs serve as our window into their internal world. It is essential for us to be able to know what is happening in that world. In particular it is important to learn if there is a change for the better - if they were to introduce education for peace, for example.

Question: Do you believe that there are figures in the Palestinian Authority who oppose this type of programming, people who think differently, who think positively in regard to education for peace?

Marcus: It is difficult to imagine that there are individuals who are openly opposed to these kinds of broadcasts. If these individuals exist, they are not heard as the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian media are ruled completely from above. It is not possible for anyone to object. And we have seen these motifs recurring over a period not only of months, but of years. Although there is fluctuation in the frequency and intensity of the messages related to current events, there has been no genuine change since we initiated our media watch five years ago.

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