Israel Resource Review 20th June, 2005


Official PA Media
How Rice Was Received, Welcome afforded to Hamas
Dr. Michael Widlanski

The Palestinian Authority welcomed US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to the Middle East this weekend in five main ways:

  • Reporting the Rice visit with accompanying pictures of her with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas;
  • Showing and reporting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas saying [in an Israeli tv interview] that he would not "get into a civil war to seize weapons" from Hamas and other groups;
  • By continuing to treat Palestinian attacks on Israel as acts of heroic martyrdom;
  • And by airing of a long interview with the leader of the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas who claimed that the United States was leading an anti-Islamic "crusade" that had left thousands of Muslim martyrs.

Picture of "heroic martyr" in Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, run by Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement. Picture shows him glancing at copy of Quran, and article says Fatah and Jihad units attacked Israeli soldiers in response to Israeli "pollution" and "desecration" of copies of Quran in alleged incident in Israeli jail.

PBC interview with Hamas (broadcast several times)

"This is a new Crusader war, a new war of crusades that Bush is leading," declared the Hamas leader, Muhammad Al-Zahar, speaking on the official Palestinian network (PBC) run by Palestinian leader Amhmoud Abbas, the successor to Yasser Arafat.

The Palestinian Hamas leader repeated several times that U.S. President George Bush was leading a new stage of Christian crusades against the Islamic world, and he even repeated his claim in English, interspersing the term "CRUSADES" with the Arabic term "hamla salibiyya."

In an hour-long interview show aired Saturday and Sunday on the Palestinian Broadcast Corporation (PBC) local and satellite channels, the Hamas leader claimed that President Bush's "crusade" had already led to the deaths of 70,000 Islamic martyrs.

The comments were parallel to more than half a dozen speeches attacking the United States by official mosque speakers on Palestinian radio and television in the last month-none of which has been publicly disavowed by the Abbas regime that controls the mosque speakers and pays their salaries.

The Hamas leader also targeted Israel in his remarks, saying that his movement's continued armed activities against "the Zionist enemy" were not a violation of the "tahdiyya"-the so called "lull" or "cooling-off period."

Hamas leader Al-Zahar thanked PBC [controlled by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas] for its courtesty and support, telling viewers that he, too, was concerned about "security chaos" [Arabic: fatalaan amni] in the Palestinian Authority [PA], but he stressed that "resistance to the enemy" [i.e. Israel] was not the cause.

Al-Zahar hinted broadly that it was internal Fatah rivalries and corruption that were the cause of internal security problems.

"The reason that America and Europe have referred to Hamas and to other resisting factions as terrorist organizations has to do with the media of the Zionist enemy state and of the Zionists in other parts of the West," said Al-Zahar.

"It is based on ignorance. …The fact that this Administration [Bush-MW] has called the Palestinian resistance terror after 9-11, and that it continues its aggression in Iraq….this cannot be based on information. …For Bush, this is a new campaign of Crusades."

Official PA media coverage of attacks on Israel

The broadcast media of the Abbas regime, PBC television and Voice of Palestine radio, referred to Palestinian men who were killed attacking Israelis on Saturday and Sunday and Monday as "martyrs" [shouhada] and "heroic martyrs" [mustash-heedeen].

The Abbas regime's broadcast media did not state any misgivings about the attacks being violations of the "tahdiyya" or "cooling-off" period. For example, the PBC morning and afternoon (Sunday June 19) news shows referred to a Palestinian killed in Rafah as he attacked Israeli troops building a barrier wall around the treaty-authorized "Philadelphi Corridor" between Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Similarly, on Monday June 20, both PBC and V.O.P. referred to an "armed attack" that killed a settler and left one Palestinian martyred in an act of "istish-haad"-"heroic martyrdom."

There was similar coverage on the front pages of the three major Palestinian newspapers-all of which get subsidies and guidance from the Abbas regime, and two of which (Al-Ayyam and Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda) are actually part of Abbas's Fatah movement. One newspaper, Al-Ayyam extolled the attack as the epitome of heroism and cooperation between Fatah and Islamic groups.

"The resister Lutfi Wadi of the 'Brigades of the Martyr Ahmad Abu-Reish' [Fatah], and a resident of Khan Younis, was heroically martyred yesterday," declared Al-Hayat, "when he went to the rescue of another resister as the two of them were carrying out a joint operation between the '[Jerusalem ] Battalions' belonging to Islamic Jihad and the 'Abu Reish Brigades' belonging to Fatah.

Plots on Jerusalem

Voice of Palestine radio opened its broadcasts Monday (June 20) with charges that Israel was again plotting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque to make way for "the supposed Jewish Temple."

The charges came from Kamal Khatib, the deputy head of the Israeli Islamic Movement {"The Islamic Movement inside the Green Line" as V.O.P. called it}.

The charges were reinforced on PBC television where they were matched with video clips of the PA Minister of Islamic Endowments, Youssef Salama, speaking of Israeli machinations against Al-Aqsa during an Arab League conference in Egypt.

[Note: It is worth remembering that both the 1996 "mini-war" over the "Temple Mount tunnel" and the current Palestinian-Israeli War of Attrition (that began in September 2000) both involved tremendous incitement by the Israeli Islamic movement.]

Background analysis:
Abbas's appearance and image

PLO Chairman and PA President Abbas looked weak and indecisive in his press conference with Rice, constantly and compulsively consulting his text notes. Several times in the past weeks, PBC has voiced over his comments or played music while showing photo-news-reels of him greeting visitors, inspecting troops or patting babies. This kind of treatment is reminiscent of the last days of the Arafat regime.

At the same time, there are increasing instances of cartoons making fun of the "security anarchy" inside the Palestinian Authority.

For all of Abbas's talk about the need for internal security, he has never pointed an accusing finger at Hamas, Jihad or his own Fatah militias, some of which actually run joint operations against Israel [see Al-Ayyam].

Hamas-PLO relations

All three Palestinian dailies and PBC television quoted Abbas's interview with Israeli television, using as the headline Abbas's refusal to seize Hamas weapons.

From Palestinian newspapers

Al-Quds and Al-Ayyam show maps of the Temple Mount where Israel has stationed cameras at all entrance and exit point in order to try to prevent attacks on Al-Aqsa.

Al-Ayyam: This newspaper reported that the Rafah border corridor attack was a joint Jihad-Fatah operation [with possible Hamas participation]. It also gave a front page article to comments by jailed West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi that it was the "Palestinian resistance" that had forced Israel out of Gaza.

[top of page pictures similar to Al-Quds]

Report compiled by Michael Widlanski Associates.
Commissioned by the Center for Near East Policy Research.
[Permission to quote or reprint from article conditional on citing Michael Widlanski or Michael Widlanski Associates.]
Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post.

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