Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Beat-Up Goes On

How to Do It by Michael Leunig

Take a woman. Take a child. Take a man.
Treat them with contempt. Drive them off their land...
Kill their loved ones & their respected elders.
Take away their rights & their defences.
Destroy their homes, their trees, their sacred places
And all that they hold dear. Call them mad.
Slander those who pity them.
Malign them. Degrade them.
Torment & exclude them.
Make them poor.
Make their lives impossible.
Persecute and oppress them.
That's how you do it.
That's how you do it!

"A children's television program regularly features disturbing topics such as death, destruction and martyrdom.* It's broadcast by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip... " That was the 7.30 Report prattler Ali Moore introducing Kids TV causes a stir in Israel on 17/7/08. Apparently, it's OK for Israel to blockade, starve, shell, rocket and shoot up the people of the Gaza Strip on a daily basis, but not for their elected government to reflect any of this on kids' tv.

[*1,050 Palestinian children killed since September 2000; 72 in 2008]

Ali prattled on, "Israeli soldiers fire into the air whenever a Palestinian gets too close to the border fence." Now that will have been some consolation to the 3 Palestinian famers who got "too close" last month and were shot in the legs. And on, "Meanwhile, critics have accused Hamas of using its television arm to prepare children to be suicide bombers." Critics, eh? Now who could they be?

The prattler then introduced the ABC's Middle East correspondent Matt Brown, who led off with: "Sarah [sic] Barhoum is no ordinary 12-year old. This straight A student is already a television star, hosting her own program on a TV station run by the Islamist militant group Hamas. Every Friday after prayers Sarah [sic] Barhoum presents 'Pioneers of Tomorrow' on Hamas' Al-Azhar TV." Brownie's confused Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV with Egypt's Al-Azhar University, but that's a mere bagatelle.

'Sarah' was quoted saying, "I want to tell the whole world that Palestinian children live with the effects of a siege, killing and destruction." As you would if you lived in the world's largest concentration camp and were old enough to string 2 words together. But Brownie couldn't help himself, cutting in with "Al-Azhar TV's childrens' program comes with a hard propaganda edge." It was a real 'Bah, humbug!' moment. "In this skit," he continued, "Nahoul the Bee is desperately ill and pays the ultimate price for the Israeli blockade and Egypt's decision to cooperate with it. After his death, Nahoul was replaced on the show by his rabbit brother Assud, which means lion. Assud's fate, according to Hamas, will reflect the fate of the Palestinian people." When Assud was asked why he was called Assud, he explained that although a rabbit is a coward, "I, Assud, will get rid of the Jews, Allah willing, and I will eat them up, Allah willing, right?" Jeez, Louise, you're supposed to think. Brownie's right. This bunny's a bloomin' anti-Semitic, jihadist cannibal! No wonder those "critics" are a-tremble. So this is what Hamas are dishing out to the kiddies of Gaza! Or is it?

I hate to be picky, but 'bee' in Arabic is nahla, not nahoul, and 'lion' is asad, not assud. So where is Brownie getting 'nahoul' and 'assud' from? Then there's the bit about getting rid of the Jews. If Israel proclaims itself to be a 'Jewish' state, and its armed forces are raining death and destruction on your people, you're going to want to get rid of... the French? And as for eating them up, what else would you expect a lion to do? Finally, Allah willing (inshaa'allah) just happens to be what most Muslims tack onto the end of just about any sentence, as in, 'I'll see you tomorrow, Allah willing'. It's not peculiar to your spittle-flecked, sabre-wielding, infidel-hating jihadi in full flight. There, Assud doesn't look quite so scary now, does he?*

In terms of where this was all going, the penny finally dropped when an Israeli "critic" from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) was trotted out. The smell of Hamas bees and bunnies was immediately overwhelmed by that of Israeli rat.

Described coyly by Brownie as a "private think tank", MEMRI is a Zionist propaganda arm which parades (on its website) as an "independent, nonpartisan" organization that "explores the Middle East through the regions media." A reference to "the continuing relevance of Zionism to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel" was reportedly deleted some years ago. One critic has dubbed it selective MEMRI.

MEMRI was co-founded by Yigal Carmon, an Israeli intelligence agent and counter-terrorism advisor to former Israeli PMs Shamir and Rabin, and US neocon Meyrav Wurmser. Its modus operandi is to cherrypick the Arab/Iranian media for anything that can be used (or construed) to paint the Arabs (and Iranians of course) in the worst possible light, translate it, and disseminate the product to politicians, academics and journalists such as Matt Brown. You'll find an English translation of the above program, for example, on MEMRI's website, but interestingly, you won't find the original Arabic to enable a cross-check of its accuracy. Nor, tellingly, will you find any nasties from the Hebrew press. Any journalist worth his salt would take MEMRI with, well, a grain of salt. Brownie, however, seems to be on a salt-free diet.

What really caught my attention, though, was the MEMRI "critic" himself, one Menahem Milson, telling us that "[Hamas TV] idolises death and killing and what they call martyrdom." Talk about a blast from the past. This guy has the kind of form that makes all that blather on MEMRI's website about its independence and nonpartisanship positively risible. Back in 1981 Milson had been hand-picked by then defence minister Ariel Sharon to head up a new civilian administration in the occupied Palestinian territories, the centrepiece of which would be a confederation of villages, known as the Village Leagues, which Sharon hoped would dance to Israel's tune as collaborationist 'moderates' in opposition to the 'radicals' of the PLO. Sort of today's Fatah 'moderates' vs Hamas 'extremists'. Milson at the time was a professor of Arabic literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Like his master, he was of the view - still heard today on the Israeli right - that Jordan is really Palestine, while the West Bank, rebadged as Judea and Samaria, is an integral part of Eretz Yisrael. All talk of a Palestinian state in the territories was verboten. And while the settler movement took root in the occupied territories, Sharon and Milson diverted international public opinion with talk of autonomy for the Palestinians while suppressing those who advocated Palestinian statehood. As it happens, Milson's Quisling quest fizzled and he was succeeded as civilian administrator in 1982 by Colonel Yigal Carmon, who had no better luck. Yes, that Yigal Carmon - the co-founder of MEMRI. What a coincidence!

Second "critic" off the rack was a Palestinian, Hazem Abu Shanab, from Gaza's Al-Azhar University. Brownie introduced him thus: "Al-Azhar [sic] TV is not only raising the ire of Israelis, but of many Palestinians as well." Two questions here. Is there anything pertaining to Palestinians that doesn't raise the ire of Israelis? And just how many Palestinians is he referring to? Abu Shanab's soundbyte was singularly unenlightening: "He is not a child anymore, he's something different. He's a person with hatred, with different emotions, with a different way of thinking." For starters, who the hell is "he"? Assud, we assume. So is it too much to expect Brownie to have told us that Gaza's Al-Azhar is - ahem - Fateh-aligned?

Sharon's former offsider then chimed in to tell us that Saraa's "program is aiming at very young children with messages that are filled with images and expressions of death, martyrdom, killing... It's the repetition of certain cliches: the filth of the Jews. The Jew is not to be trusted. He is murderous. He is deceptive." OMG! We Israelis fill their lives with death and destruction, and they have the gall to talk about it, and even call us murderers! Some people have no gratitude.

Prattler Moore signed off with the comment, "Extraordinary program." And she's right. Extraordinary for its failure to provide any kind of historical context (the majority of Gazans were ethnically cleansed from what is today called Israel by Zionist forces in 1948 and have been denied the elementary right of return, accorded all refugees by international law, for over 60 years), its sloppiness (Al-Azhar/Al-Aqsa, etc), and its provision of a platform for Israeli propagandists to malign and misrepresent their brutalised victims without let or hindrance. In sum, Kids TV causes a stir in Israel came with a hard propaganda edge.

[*To see just how far this kind of thing can be sexed-up, you might like to check out the UK's Daily Mail. Here's the DM header: Hamas launches TV Bugs Bunny-lookalike who declares 'I will eat the Jews' (12/2/08). Saraa Barhoum is described as a "sweet looking girl in a headscarf" and "winsome Saraa". She is said to have hailed Nahoul as a "martyr" - "in the style of Hamas suicide bombers who are promised they will marry 72 virgins in paradise". In the MEMRI transcript, Saraa agrees with Assud that "We are all ready to sacrifice souls and everything we own for our homeland," but there is no talk of suicide bombing or 72 virgins. Assud, dubbed "the Bomber Bunny," is described as "swearing to devour the Jews with his bare rabbit teeth," but the fact that he's playing the lion is omitted. The program is alleged to have "ended with the catchy song: 'We will never recognize Israel'", but there is no mention of this in MEMRI's transcript. Saraa and Assud are alleged to have "urged their young audience to liberate Tel Aviv," and to "liberate our homeland from the Zionist filth." The MEMRI transcript, however, mentions only liberating Al-Aqsa mosque "from the filth of those Zionists." Assud's return to Palestine with the "Key of Return" to "liberate our Al-Aqsa Mosque," present in MEMRI's translation, is absent from the DM story. Finally, there's a huge difference between the DM's "Zionist filth" and MEMRI's "the filth of those Zionists." Not to mention the difference between that and the probably more accurate translation, 'the defilement of those Zionists'. The DM, incidentally, supported both Mussolini and Hitler right until the outbreak of war in 1939.]

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