PA Television Encourages Conflict, Not Peace

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - For the past seven years, while actively involved in peace negotiations with Israel, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has promoted conflict through the PA's official television station, the head of a respected media watchdog organization has said.

Itamar Marcus, director of the Palestinian Media Watch and Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, charged that there is a "tremendous amount of hate depicted against Israel" in the programming of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation.

Marcus pointed to what he called "fillers" shown daily between programs for varying amounts of time, as examples of material promoting ongoing violence and ill-feeling.

The edited clips are a montage of archival news footage from times of the most violent street conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Scenes of Israeli soldiers firing tear gas or rubber bullets at rock-throwing Palestinians are interspersed with shots of bloodied or dead Palestinians, played against militaristic background music.

One particularly effective edit shows an Israeli soldier shooting in the direction of stone-throwing men, followed by an image of a little girl falling, giving the impression that the soldier shot the child in the back. Only on closer review it becomes clear that the two events are not connected.

The clips characteristically show Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinians, dead Palestinians and Palestinians "fighting back bravely," Marcus said.

They send out two messages: the land of Israel does not belong to Israel, which has no right to exist in all the land of "Palestine;" and Israelis are "evil," he added.

"Israel's destruction [therefore] is both justice as well as self-defense."

Other programming Marcus cites from this summer's TV schedule are children's programs, which teach young Arabs that the entire map of Israel - including the Israeli cities of Tiberius, Haifa and Jaffa. - is really the country of Palestine, waiting for liberation.

For adults, every Friday there is a religious broadcast, in which leaders preach that the Muslim land of Palestine is one and cannot be divided; or that the Palestinian people will be at the forefront of the war against the Jews until the end of time.

In one culture program, a Palestinian artist describes one of his paintings in which Israeli soldiers in uniform are crucifying Jesus Christ, who is depicted as a Palestinian.

As a provision of the 1993 Oslo accords with Israel, the PA was allowed to begin broadcasting and opened its station in 1994.

During the tenure of former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli government began to monitor PA media.

As a provision of an interim agreement signed between Israel and the PA in 1998, a trilateral committee to monitor incitement was set up with Israeli, PA and U.S. participation.

However, said Marcus, who was Israel's representative on the committee, since Prime Minister Ehud Barak took office a year ago, the committee has been virtually inactive.

The chairman of the PBC, Radwan Abu Ayyash, argued on Tuesday that Israeli accusations against the PA media were "not new."

He said the subject of the complaints against the PBC were taken "out of context." He cited a music video in which a Lebanese singer sings about the history of the Palestinians amid scenes of Israelis beating and shooting Palestinians.

"It was a period of history," he said, and then it shows how peace came.

"We are a national TV, a government TV, PNA [Palestinian National Authority] TV," Abu Ayyash said.

He claimed PBC programming had changed over the past six years.

In the beginning it was "pure[ly] nationalistic" and tried to promote the national identity of the Palestinians. Over the past two years, he said, the PBC has been supporting the peace process.

It had removed terms such as "imperialism" and "Zionism" from programs and had taken some of the more "enthusiastic" nationalistic songs off the air.

Marcus said on Tuesday that he knew of only one program that had been removed as a result of an Israeli complaint. That was a weekly biography program of Palestinian "martyrs" - anyone killed in the battle against Israel, including suicide bombers.

"They [say they] support the peace process," Marcus said, but "the focus is never on peace with Israel."

Low Ratings

Ghassan Khatib, director of the (Palestinian) Jerusalem Media and Communication Center, said he is not familiar with the programming on the PBC because he does not watch it.

"Not many people watch Palestinian television," Khatib said. "It is not a successful project professionally."

Khatib, whose organization conducts audience surveys and establishes media ratings, said Palestinians prefer to watch Arab satellite programs, or Jordanian and even Israeli television.

"Palestinian television got the lowest rating," he said, while Palestinian radio on the other hand, was "doing very well."

See Earlier Story:
From the Mouths of Babes (23 March 1999)