(CNSNews.com) - The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas is under fire for using a Mickey Mouse-like character on a children's television program promoting hatred and violence against Israel, but less than a decade ago, the "moderate" Palestinian faction, Fatah, was doing the same thing -- and with U.S. funding.
Earlier this month, the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) said it had asked Hamas to stop politicizing children's programs on Hamas' al-Aqsa TV.
Al-Aqsa TV refused, and the program has aired again since (see related story).
But Hamas is not the first Palestinian group to use Disney characters in children's television programming that incites violence.
A program that aired on the Fatah-dominated P.A.'s official Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) TV station in the late 1990s also featured a Mickey Mouse character, together with disturbing images of small children glorifying violence, suicide bombing and Islamic holy war.
"Oh my sister, sing constantly about my life as a suicide warrior," a child about 5 years of age sang in one clip broadcast in Feb. 1998. "Each and every part of your soil I have drenched with all my blood, and we shall march as warriors of jihad."
Children across the autonomous Palestinian Authority areas watched the Children's Club, a program broadcast on PBC television and produced by the P.A. Ministry of Education, funded in part with U.S. aid dollars.
One after another, young children recited slogans about blood, stones, bullets and jihad.
During an episode aired in May 1998, a boy standing near the Mickey Mouse character sang, "I will come at the time of drought, with my best efforts I will bring, a machine gun, violence, anger, anger, anger."
A young girl declared, "When I wander into the entrance of Jerusalem, I'll turn into a suicide warrior, in battledress, in battledress." The program presenter, a young woman, clapped and called out, "Bravo, bravo."
"Ask from us blood, and we will drench you; ask from us our soul, we will give it to you," another child sang, and a boy, no older than 10, warned, "Occupier, your day is near. Then we will settle our account with stones and bullets."
In one segment broadcast in May 1998, a girl in a party frock, about 9 years of age, started to sing, her voice rising to a near-frantic pitch, "I shall take my soul into my hand and throw it into the abyss of death. On your life, I foresee my death. But I march quickly towards my death. Am I afraid? For me, life has little value because I'm returning to my lord. And my people will know that I am a hero."
At the time, the PBC received funding from the United States and the European Union.
From 1994 until the late 1990s, the PBC received about $500,000 from U.S. federal agencies, but in 1998, a group of more than 60 lawmakers urged the Clinton administration to sever ties with the PBC.
"The PBC has been receiving equipment and training from the United States since 1995 despite the fact that they have produced shows glorifying suicide bombers to children and advocating the destruction of the United States," the National Jewish Coalition said at the time.
The NJC (now the Republican Jewish Coalition) encouraged U.S. support for the development of free and independent media in the P.A.-controlled areas.
In the years since, a perennial provision inserted into foreign operations appropriation bills restricts funding to the PBC, a State Department spokesman said.
The measure states that "none of the funds made available in this Act may be used by the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors to provide equipment, technical support, consulting services or any other form of assistance to the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation."
As recently as last June, official P.A. television was still politicizing children's programming. A music video clip monitored on June 28-29, 2006, by the independent Israeli watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) deals with Mohammad a-Dura, a 12-year-old Arab boy shot dead when he and his father were caught in the crossfire between the Israeli army and Palestinian gunmen.
The clip showed a child actor as Dura, being portrayed in paradise flying a kite, playing on a beach and visiting an amusement park. Television viewers were invited to join him: "I am waving to you not in parting, but to say 'follow me.'"
A narrator then said: "How sweet is the fragrance of the shahids [Islamic martyrs]. How sweet is the fragrance of the earth. Its thirst quenched by the gush of blood flowing from the youthful body. How sweet is the fragrance of the earth."
A vocalist sang: "The boy cried, 'O father, til we meet ... I will go with no fear and without crying. How sweet is the fragrance of the shahids. I will go, father, to my place in heaven. How sweet is the fragrance of the shahids.' "
In the aftermath of his death -- caught on film by a French television crew -- Dura became a Palestinian hero, a symbol of the intifada that erupted shortly afterwards. Later, an independent German investigation claimed that Dura had likely been killed by Palestinian fire.
This week, PMW pointed to another item that it says had been broadcast on P.A. television hundreds of times since 1998, most recently one week ago.
In the clip, young Palestinian children dance and sing a politicized song about "my homeland" that refers to the re-establishment of Israel in 1948.
"Do you know what happened in '48? They took everything. They burned the room. The houses they broke. The forests they destroyed. The village they erased. The names they changed. They changed the names. My homeland, her name is Palestine ..."
'No money to promote international values'
Asked to comment about politicized children's programming on the official P.A. television, Mahmoud Abu Haiga, deputy chief of the PBC radio and television, said "there is no policy in the national television to [convey] ideological concepts in cultural issues."
"That is the responsibility of the person preparing the [program] who puts forth his own ideas, said Haiga, speaking through a translator.
When it came to political issues, he said, program makers must address the PLO's policy regarding a "two-state solution" -- Israel and an independent Palestinian state alongside each other.
"Children's programs are based on promoting [Palestinian] national identity and values ... of love, peace and tolerance," Haiga added.
He also said P.A. television relied on locally produced programming because it lacked the budget to buy "international programs with international values." Haiga said funding comes via the P.A.
Since Hamas won legislative elections early last year, the U.S. and others have imposed a financial embargo on the P.A., saying it would remain in place until the terrorist group renounced violence and recognized Israel's existence.
The P.A. last year received $1.2 billion in international aid, mostly from European and Arab-Muslim countries.
(CNSNews.com Managing Editor Patrick Goodenough contributed to this report.)
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