Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Although the Walt Disney Company has not made any public comment on the use of a Mickey Mouse look-alike to spread Hamas propaganda, Walt Disney's daughter is calling Hamas "pure evil" for "indoctrinating children like this."
Diane Disney Miller, 73, told the New York Daily News that the children's program on Hamas television is teaching children to be evil.
A Palestinian Authority (P.A.) minister said on Wednesday that Hamas - the Islamist terror group co-governing the Palestinian self-rule areas with Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction - has agreed to stop airing the program called "Tomorrow's Pioneers," but right now, it's still on the air.
The show features a human-sized, costumed Mickey Mouse double named "Farfur."
He and his co-host, a young girl, talk about global Islam ruling the world as well as the need to annihilate the Jews and be victorious over America. An Israeli watchdog group, Palestinian Media Watch, monitored and reported on the program.
In another April episode, captured by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the child host and Mickey Mouse-like character speak to an off-screen child caller named "Sanabel."
"How will you sacrifice your soul for the sake of Al-Aqsa?" the girl is asked, according to the MEMRI translation.
"I will shoot," the girl answers. "We want to fight."
"We are defending Al-Aqsa with our souls and our blood, aren't we, Sanabel?" the host asks the caller, who replies, "I will commit martyrdom."
P.A. Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti said Wednesday he had spoken to officials at Hamas television, and they had agreed to revise the program.
"They were very cooperative," Barghouti told Cybercast News Service by telephone. He did not elaborate on the changes being planned.
The program was a "primitive act done out of ignorance," Barghouti said, adding that Hamas television officials agreed they should not politicize programs for children.
Gabriel Weimann, a professor of communications at the University of Haifa, said the program is part of a "continuing trend" of terrorist organizations and groups who want to "target the next generation for recruitment."
Both Hamas and the Lebanese-based Hizballah are using television, radio and websites to target children, said Weimann, author of "Terror on the Internet" and former senior fellow at the United States Institute for Peace.
It is part of a growing trend of what he calls "narrow-casting," in which groups tailor their message to sub-populations such as women, children and "infidels."
"It's scary," Weimann said, adding that "Tomorrow's Pioneers" is not as bad as many other shows. He pointed to the irony of the use of a Mickey Mouse character by radicals who don't favor American culture.
Weimann said even if Hamas removes the program from the airwaves, it will continue to circulate on the Internet. There are plenty of other programs and Internet sites that incite children to become terrorists, he added.
PA television too
Avinoam Damari, head of the department of children's programming at Israel Educational Television (IETV), said programs like the one featuring Farfur sadden him because they manipulate children and could impact the possibility of a future Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Barghouti said the P.A. produces many children's programs that promote the idea of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, although both Weimann, who monitors Palestinian media daily, and Damari said they had never seen such programming.
Ironically, in earlier years the P.A.'s own television station, funded by the U.S. government, came under fire for children's programming inciting terrorism and involving a Mickey Mouse character, among others.
Damari noted that Israeli and Western children's programs don't spread messages of hate for Iran or Syria, for example. Children need to learn about morality, how to behave towards their friends and to shun violence, he said.
Damari said IETV programming for children never touches on politics. And when there is a religious theme, it is not intended to encourage a change in behavior - such as Farfur telling Palestinian children to pray five times a day.
"It's a pity they are doing this," he said.
IETV produced a series for children in Hebrew and Arabic in conjunction with Children's Television Workshop, the makers of Sesame Street. The U.S. contributed $5 million and Israel $2 million to fund the project.
The 65-episode series of 35-minute programs revolves around a street where Arabs and Jews lived together. IETV is still airing the shows, but the P.A. has refused to broadcast them, saying Palestinian children would see them on Israeli television anyway.
The Disney Company did not return numerous phone calls to their headquarters in California over the past two days.
A source told Cybercast News Service the company wanted to discourage media coverage of the story so as not to focus attention on Hamas.
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