PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES - ISRAEL

Hamas advocating dialogue through children’s cartoon?

Hamas owned al Asqa TV is known by many for promoting anti-Semitic values to children through its use of cuddly animals such as "Assoud the ‘holy war' rabbit". Last month however, the channel aired a cartoon which seemed to be advocating dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian kids. Too good to be true? When the Jews in it look like devils, yes. Read more and watch the clip...

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Hamas owned al Asqa TV is known by many for promoting anti-Semitic values to children through its use of cuddly animals such as "Assoud the ‘holy war' rabbit". Last month however, the channel aired a cartoon which seemed to be advocating dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian kids. Too good to be true? When the Jews in it look like devils, yes.

The cartoon was aired as a part of the children's programme, "The Pioneers of Tomorrow". It features a conversation between a Palestinian boy and a young Israeli Jewish settler. Through their dialogue and interaction, the Jewish settler learns to question everything negative he had been taught about Palestinians. 

But while the cartoon is seemingly hinting at the benefits of dialogue, it is marred by the use of negative stereotypes - as one of our Observers points out, the Jews hardly get a fair deal in the cartoon.

Extract from "The Pioneers of Tomorrow", Al-Aqsa TV, Gaza. Translated by Israeli founded, US based Middle East Media Research Institute, Memri TV, Dec. 4, 2009

“Palestinian children need to learn about Israeli suffering too”

Aziz Abu Sarah is a Palestinian writer and peace activist who grew up in Jerusalem. He recently moved to the US, where he lives in Virginia. 

Palestinian children do not need self-aggrandising messages about Palestinian existence in the face of suffering, and they do not need to internalise stereotypes about the depravity of Israeli Jews. Instead, they need to learn about the faults and the suffering of both sides. Just as the Palestinian boy in the cartoon tried to communicate his suffering to the Jewish boy, Palestinian children need to learn about Israeli suffering. Israeli children should also learn about Palestinian suffering, but Palestinians must realise that the self-righteous tones of the boy in the video will only hinder communication."

“Labelling the Jewish people as bloodthirsty will only provide ‘the enemy’ with more enemies”

Kobi Skolnick is a former settler and peace activist who now lives in New York, US. 

As I was thinking about the cartoon, I had a flashback to my teenage years. (...) I was walking in the streets of Jerusalem with a thick black marker writing on the walls ‘Death to the Arabs' and ‘Long live Kahana' [a Jewish extremist leader who called for the expulsion of Arabs from historical Israel]. I was a young teenager looking for a strong identity and a sense of meaning. I had no moral problem with Palestinians getting hurt and in fact had participated in such attacks. I had a strong enemy image of cruel Arabs killing children.

Yet, with time and experience, I learned to break this image.

Clearly, Hamas' manipulation of facts and labelling the Jewish people as bloodthirsty would result in more foot soldiers fighting ‘the enemy', but at the same time would provide ‘the enemy' with more enemies - just a continuation of the vicious cycle of violence and self-fulfilling prophesies."

“The older brother, with his red eyes and goatee, literally looks like Satan”

Roi Ben-Yehuda is a writer from Israel, currently based in New York.

From an Israeli, Jewish and humanistic perspective, this is a disturbing cartoon. The faces of the Jews are all evil looking: they have angular shapes, scowling eyebrows, and thin mouths. This is in contrast to the rounded facial features of the Palestinian boy, which make him look friendly and unthreatening. Moreover, the film uses some subliminal techniques to carry the anti-Semitic messages home. The opening close-up of the Jewish child, for example, appears (for a second) to have blood dripping from his mouth. While the older brother, with his red eyes and goatee, literally looks like Satan. The physical posture, vocal intonations and actions of the Jewish teacher and father clearly portray them as sinister and diabolical characters. All together, the cartoon depicts the Jews as fearful yet demonic figures who, on the one hand, believe it is necessary to fight against the evil Palestinians, and on the other hand, actually enjoy killing their neighbours.

Ironically, this is exactly the type of negative misrepresentation the cartoon criticises the Jews for originally engaging in vis-à-vis the Palestinians."