The Hamas TV channel Al-aqsa has been broadcasting an "educational" programme for 7-13 year-olds called "Tomorrow's Pioneers" for almost a year now. Watching young presenter Saraa Barhoum talking to a big teddy animal on a colourful set, you'd think it was like any other children's programme. But if you understand what she's saying, you might find subject topics a bit different from those going on on Button Moon. That's because the content of the show is saturated with Hamas ideology. The result? Endearing cuddly characters with squeaky voices conveying anti-Zionist and anti-occidental messages, hailing Muslims and conversion to Islam and encouraging the holy war and martyrs.
"The future suicide bombers (...) will be these very children"
Marcus Itamar, Palestinian director of Media Watch, an Israeli organisation that monitors Palestinian media:Hamas is guilty of stealing its children's childhoods by using TV programming to teach hatred, violence and the love of a martyr's death. These are unacceptable messages even for adults - but on a children's' programme they are all the more evil. "Tomorrow's Pioneers" has been particularly insidious by using charming and lovable cartoon characters, like the Mickey Mouse copy, the Bee and now "Assud" the Rabbit. Children are attracted by the colours and the images while they learn that Spain and Portugal must "return" to Islam, Assud the Rabbit wants to kill and eats Jews and Danes, and they; the children will return the Islamic nation to its past glory.
The producer of the programme explained on Hamas television that teaching Islamist supremacy - the goal for Islam to rule over other religions - is legitimate because Christians and Jews experienced better conditions in the past and will live under better conditions again in the future when under Islam's rule and domination. Thus this Islamist supremacist ideology, he claims, is not a hate ideology but a caring ideology - wanting to bring goodness to the world by conquering others.
The future suicide bombers in Spain, throughout Europe and Israel, will be these very children who are growing up on this hatred before they are old enough to even understand how evil it is.
I attended a press conference on Palestinian education at the US Senate, where Hillary Clinton said that this kind of material was "profoundly poisoning the minds of these children." Need anyone add to her words?"
"How many Palestinian children watch these cartoons, and how many children are abused, humiliated, violated, imprisoned, tortured and killed on a daily basis by Israeli military forces?"
Falastine, a young Palestinian from Nablus:Eighteen civilians were killed in the last Israeli attack on Gaza, nine of which were children". This is the headline in every newspaper and news broadcast here in Palestine and many other parts of the world today. It might help to make sense of what I'm about to say.
I totally agree with the people that say that these Hamas cartoons on the Al-aqsa channel are a form of child abuse. And in many senses, they do teach and preach violence. But the point is: how many Palestinian children watch these cartoons, and how many children are abused, humiliated, violated, imprisoned, tortured and killed on a daily basis by Israeli military forces? In my family and neighbourhood, I've never heard of any child watching these cartoons. But almost every child I know, including myself as a child and an adult, has been directly exposed to Israeli violence in many ways. Who's teaching violence now?
I totally disagree with the content and the context of the cartoons made by Hamas. And if I had children, I'd never let them watch them. I realise that this kind of cartoon is thoroughly and abusively directed towards children. But why would a child sit and watch a program preaching violence and destruction unless they already had a permanent scar in their psyche? I assure you that this scar, this background of violence, is already in place. And it's caused by something called IDF [Israel Defence Forces].
I'm not trying to ignore or deny the fact that there is religious extremism and a culture of violence in parts of Palestinian society. But what's nourishing and reinforcing it? That's a question that you'll need to answer objectively."
Mickey-Farfour, the first cuddly toy to fight in the holy war
Broadcast 29 June 07. Posted by MEMRI 27 Aug 07
Farfour's grandfather gives him a document proving that Palestine belongs to the Arabs. But he's interrogated and beaten in order to force him to hand the file over. When he refuses, he's thrown in prison.
Nahoul the bee
Broadcast 13 July 07. Posted on YouTube by MEMRI 15 July 07
Nahoul the bee replaces Hamas Mickey Mouse "Farfour" (who's been put in jail, see below) - and vows to continue on his path of martyrdom and jihad.
Assoud the rabbit
Broadcast 22 Feb. 08 and posted on YouTube on Feb 25 by US-based organisation MEMRI (The Middle East Media Research Institute TV Monitor Project)