On Oct. 2003, Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, testified before the U.S. Senate and prompted Sen. Hillary Clinton to state, ‘We should all agree that children should not be indoctrinated into hatred and violence and then indoctrinated into killing themselves.’
On Feb. 3, the UCI community heard the same presentation and was given their chance to interpret Marcus’ speech titled, ‘Understanding Suicide Terrorism and Educating Children in the Palestinian Authority.’
Using tapes of Palestinian television shows, music videos and translations of other forms of media, Marcus presented current evidence of the approach used by the Palestinian authority to persuade children to become ‘shahadas,’ or martyrs.
‘We wanted to understand how and if they were educating their people, especially their children, for peace,’ Marcus said. ‘The way to find out was to listen to what they were saying in Arabic. What we have found over the last few years is that tragically, there are two different messages. There is an English-language message for outside consumption and there’s an Arabic, internal message.’
In addition to looking at traditional media outlets, Marcus also focused on different areas which would not usually be suspected of having hidden messages, such as sports. Marcus showed an article that talked about a soccer tournament for teenage boys. Some of the trophies given to the young athletes were named after different terrorists, including Wafa Idris, the first female Palestinian suicide bomber.
‘Here you have under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, in the schools, a soccer tournament glorifying a mass murderer to children,’ Marcus said.
Marcus went on to explain the general ideology of the Palestinian leaders. The four main concepts that Marcus claims that the Palestinians are sending to their people include the idea that Jews are inherently evil, Jews are an enemy to be subjugated, Jews must be fought and killed and that Israel must be destroyed.
‘The most shocking thing from everything that we’ve seen on television is that they are promoting the shahada even among children,’ Marcus said.
He then went on to show video clips to support his findings. One clip showed a history professor telling students that Jewish history is all lies. Another video clip showed members of the Israeli army bullying innocent Palestinian children. Marcus also showed a television commercial that depicted a young suicide bomber entering heaven and being greeted by many women.
‘Unless this is changed, unless there is pressure brought on the Palestinians from the world, the implications are ominous because of the fact that people are listening and children are learning,’ Marcus concluded. ‘Why are we publicizing this? Are we just interested in bad-mouthing the Palestinians? Absolutely not. The only way we can eliminate hate is if we expose it and to bring pressure on the Palestinians to have peace education.’
Following the presentation, the audience was allowed to ask Marcus questions.
One student asked Marcus about the education that Israeli children received about their Palestinian neighbors, to which Marcus replied, ‘In general, we found that Israeli schoolbooks were incredibly peace-promoting.’
After Marcus’ response, a student in the audience yelled out, ‘Yeah. That’s until they turn 18 and join the army.’
The student who made the comment wished to remain anonymous afterwards and gave his thoughts on the presentation.
‘[Marcus’] presentation wasn’t necessarily untrue, but it was very dangerous in the nature that it showed only one specific aspect, and it showed there was no reason for how this all came about,’ he said. ‘What he failed to mention was that there was incitement on the part of the Israelis and others in the Middle East. The Palestinians have been excluded from every part of the Middle East.’
The student goes on to add that, ‘[Marcus] goes for an hour talking about all the atrocities they show on television, and ends it with a 30-second jist of how this isn’t supposed to make you hate the Palestinians and that we’re here for peace, after an hour of slander. That doesn’t make it all right. Everyone who comes to this type of presentation gets this concept that Palestinians are horrific people.’
However, most of the people in the audience liked the presentation from Marcus.
‘The only bad thing about it was that there wasn’t enough people here,’ said Larry Mahler, a third-year social ecology major. ‘The only thing he was doing was exposing the facts. He wasn’t giving an opinion about it. He wasn’t saying that these guys were good or these guys were bad. I think there can be peace. But both sides have to change certain things, and I think ending this [activity] is a major factor in changing things.’