Download this story in Microsoft Word format here.
NEW YORK—“If your enemy says he will destroy you, believe him.”
Those were the words of Itamar Marcus, founding director of Palestinian Media Watch, when recently joined The Jewish Week Associate Editor Jonathan Mark on stage at the 92nd Street Y in New York City to discuss the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership’s use of culture, education, and media to influence its population.
Marcus has presented evidence of Palestinian incitement to the U.S. Congress’s Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, and has lectured to Canadian and European parliamentarians and international security officials.
Palestinian Media Watch (palwatch.org) is an NGO (non-governmental organization) dedicated to disclosure of the factual content of Palestinian media, founded by Marcus 14 years ago. Marcus said his purpose is simple: “To get a real sense of what is happening in the Palestinian world.”
Marcus made aliyah from New York and lives in Efrat. In an interview with JointMedia News Service, he recalled the first tapes he received of Yasser Arafat’s speeches while working for the Israeli government during the 1990s. In the midst of a highly visible “peace process,” the Palestinian leader, speaking on Arabic and Palestinian TV, called for jihad, saying any agreements with Israel were “temporary.”
When Marcus left the government, he initiated Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), and began to “tape all of official Palestinian TV, read the Palestinian newspapers every day.” What he found was an ongoing demonization of Israel and an ongoing denial of Israel’s right to exist.
Marcus’s tapes were brought to the 1998 Wye Summit and given to President Bill Clinton. Soon afterwards, an Israeli, Palestinian and American negotiating committee to deal with the problem of incitement was established. Marcus was appointed to the Israeli team, a position he held until Ehud Barak’s election as prime minister. “There was no significant progress” with the Palestinians, said Marcus. “The Palestinians are teaching their children hatred against Jews, and ultimately violence against Jews and Israelis,” he said.
The Palestinians, he said, “like to depict the conflict as territorial while hiding this horrific underlying ideology.”
Marcus remains a proponent of direct contact between Israelis and Palestinians, which he believes engenders respect and admiration for Israel as a democracy and a supporter of human rights. “The tragedy is that the Palestinians were much closer to peace with Israel before the Oslo Accords,” he said. “An ocean has developed because of hate promotion by the Palestinian Authority.” Marcus said chances for peace may have been better in 1996, when after decades of contact with Israelis, a poll of Palestinians showed that 78 percent considered Israel to be a democracy and a positive force for human rights.
Now, Marcus is concerned about the effect that the teaching of hatred and demonization will have on the ability to produce a peaceful outcome with the PA. Given the level of hate indoctrination, success—not only in negotiation, but actualization—remains challenging, he said. Stating that territory which was Israel proper before the 1967 war is not up for negotiations, Marcus explained that “settlements” located on disputed territory are. While Israel “has the right to anything that is part of the negotiations,” said Marcus, it must accept the possibility that disputed territories will be ceded to a Palestinian state.
“The only way to reverse the down trend in acceptance of Israel,” Marcus said, if for Palestinians to “drop the lies—the planned delegitimization conducted by the PA, and replace it with truth.” Marcus said Israel has helped the PA in many ways, including construction of its infrastructure, assisting its economic base, and developing its universities.
Asked by JointMedia News Service if a more honest Palestinian media could be created, Marcus said there are some people within the PA who are moderate, but none of them are currently in power. He recalled that 17 committees had met regularly for peace negotiations prior to the Oslo Accords and the Intifada. When one member of a Palestinian negotiating team revealed that he had instructed his own children to answer test questions truthfully—not calling Jews “evil,” as instructed by their teacher—he was replaced.
“The population is so poisoned by hate material and terror,” Marcus said. “There is suffering on both sides—the Palestinians don’t realize they have their own leadership to blame. They destroy truth and replace it with hate.”
Marcus said the way to heal this untenable situation is for the West to suspend funding to the PA, to not give a “penny of financial support or diplomatic support as long as structures of hate remain.” He acknowledged that the PA “will have to go through a period of crisis. If the western world keeps funding corrupt government, there is no future… They pretend that [Mahmoud] Abbas is a moderate while he honors terrorists.”
“You can’t have a political peace structure unless it’s proceeded by an educational peace process,” Marcus said. Both content and nomenclature, he said, are important. Marcus called attention to the Palestinian media designation of Israel’s Minister of Defense as the “Minister of War,” its labeling of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as the “Israel Occupations Forces,” and its use of the title “resistance fighter” for Palestinian terrorists.
“It’s almost too painful, too hurtful, for many Israelis and American Jews to fully comprehend,” said Marcus. Those yearning for peace “want to believe, so badly, that there is someone there on the Palestinian side. When you look at the Palestinians, adults and children, singing about Tel Aviv and Haifa being Palestinian, or when you see their demonization of Jews and the de-legitimization of Israel and Jewish history, if you accept that’s the official PA culture, then there’s no hope.”
PMW’s staff of 12 looks at all Palestinian media. Its purpose is not just to explore media, but also to study society, culture and education, and to “keep a finger on the pulse of the leadership and what they are teaching their kids,” said Marcus. “After more than a generation of hate indoctrination, only 7 percent of Palestinian teenagers accept that Israel has the right to exist,” he said. “For Israel to pretend otherwise is a disaster.”
“Bringing up Palestinian children to hate is stealing their future,” he added.