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7 Questions with Itamar Marcus, Director of Palestinian Media Watch

Itamar Marcus
Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch

Jewish Home LA
By Rachel Wizenfeld
November 14, 2013

Itamar Marcus recently presented at StandWithUs' annual “Israel in Focus” conference held in Los Angeles. 130 students from the US and Canada heard from renowned speakers and learned the facts and skills needed to better educate about Israel on their campuses.

Here, Mr. Marcus gives us the scoop on his organization's work and critical successes in the international arena.

Is Palestinian incitement and violence through media getting worse or changing at all in character?

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) is documenting much more than Palestinian Authority (PA) media incitement. We're documenting the general direction that the leadership is bringing the people. We expose for example that the PA's head of sports and Olympic authority sponsored a Ping Pong tournament last month that was named after and glorified the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi who led a bus hijacking in which 37 people were murdered. We use the media as a window into Palestinian society, showing activities that glorify terrorists, like this tournament, and also events in which the PA presents a world without Israel, like this past month when young girls sang about “Palestine” and its wonderful cities of Jaffa and Haifa. The PA's ideology is to deny Israel's existence and right to exist and to glorify terror.

PMW monitors two PA TV channels and Hamas TV completely, in addition to PA newspapers, schoolbooks, official Facebook pages of Fatah and many of their leaders. We would like to do even more. We're finding some of the most shocking hate promotion and terror glorification on Facebook -- often messages that they wouldn't put on PA TV. It's important because it tells us the messages they are sending to Palestinian youth. This is one of the areas we must expand.

We also follow educational magazines that are funded by the PA. What we're learning is that there are so many educational frameworks that the PA is involved in There's a Palestinian educational magazine run by the minister of education for the PA. Twice we found this magazine glorifying and honoring Hitler. Once it publicized an essay submitted by a 15-year-old girl who described a dream in which she was being greeted by four heroes of the past. Three were great Muslim heroes, and the fourth was Hitler, and they have a conversation, as follows:

“I turned to the next door; there Hitler awaited me.
I said, 'You're the one who killed the Jews?'
He [Hitler] said: 'Yes. I killed them so you would all know that they are a nation which spreads destruction all over the world. And what I ask of you is to be resilient and patient, concerning the suffering that Palestine is experiencing at their hands.'
I said [to Hitler]: 'Thanks for the advice.'”

Another time this magazine published a list of “Hitler's sayings,” with 20 quotes, none of them actually said by Hitler (one was from Mark Twain, some were other writers), portraying him to be a humanistic leader.

We also monitor Hamas, but even though the leadership statements that they make are as bad or worse, we don't make the efforts to publicize them because Hamas is categorized around the world as a terror organization. In many respects, people are fearful of Hamas. But we see that the PA is as great a danger as Hamas, because it is involved in the great deception. Since the Oslo accords, Israel has had wars both with Hamas and the PA-Fatah. Against Hamas, because they're known to be an enemy, Israel was able to fight properly and there were minimal loses and the fighting ended quickly. Because the PA pretends to be moderate, Israel was never able to fight properly, and we lost over 1,000 people in the terror campaign -- the so-called “Intifada.” The Fatah and PA are teaching most of the same messages about Israel to their people as Hamas, but it's more hidden and ends up being an as great or greater threat to Israel in the long-term. The world doesn't put pressure on Israel regarding Hamas -- they put great pressure on us to give concessions to the Palestinian Authority.

Who is the main audience that Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) wishes to educate and influence?

Today there are a number of audiences: the most significant one is the Prime Minister of Israel's office -- we meet regularly and are in touch regularly and they get all of our material by bulletin. We know from the meetings how actively the government is using our materials in private and quiet diplomacy, and also in public diplomacy. Netanyahu quotes regularly from material we supply. Even in the most recent terror attack, in which a 9-year-old girl from Psagot was shot in the neck in October, Netanyahu's immediate statement was (I am paraphrasing), “The PA cannot deny responsibility as long as they are inciting.” The evidence of that incitement comes from PMW's work.

A second important target is government and parliaments around the world, particularly the US and in Europe. We travel to many countries' parliaments to expose the hate incitement and terror glorification of the PA and Fatah. In each of the countries there is an active group that gets us in the door. In Norway, a Christian organization called MIFF helped us with the first introduction. In England, it was Conservative Friends of Israel; in the Netherlands it was Christian Friends of Israel. We continue to have relationships with members of Parliament, and as time goes on we have contacts with larger groups. It's not difficult to turn MPs around when they see what is going on. No one wants their funding money to the PA to go to teach young Palestinian children that Jews are ”monkeys and pigs” -- but that is what is happening today.

Name your most significant accomplishment.

There are many significant changes worldwide. The fact that Israel is using our material as a front line of defense is very satisfying. The entire world by now knows about Palestinian incitement -- which is a great PMW success. There is another great accomplishment that is unfolding: we worked over the past few years in Norway, which is in a significant position because they have been the largest funder of the PA in Europe and a leading supporter for years.

We exposed in parliament the way the PA was using foreign donor money for hatred, and one particular journalist did a series of long television news stories about PMW, exposing this connection between Norwegian money and PA hate and salaries to terrorists. This led to major debates in parliament and even a parliamentary investigation of the foreign minister. The foreign minister had first told parliament that PMW reports documenting PA salaries to terrorists were not accurate. In the end he admitted he gave parliament the wrong information, which led to an investigation and that continued through elections. In September the opposition parties we have been meeting with and working with for four years won the election! So now we have in Norway a government that is led by parties who vocally support Israel. Some members of parliament have openly said they won't support the PA anymore. We hope to turn Europe around, country by country.

How in PMW funded?

Palestinian Media Watch is funded by private contributions, both individuals and foundations. Because PMW is an NGO, an objective research institute and not funded by the Israeli government, we have more influence. (Otherwise some might say we are an arm of the Israeli government.) It enables the government to use our work and it enables us to go into parliaments as an independent NGO.

We are supported by private donors -- some important donors right here in LA -- but we are in great need right now to expand our donor base. What we accomplished in the hardest parliament in Europe we want to copy in other parliaments where we have bases of support. With greater manpower we believe Europe can be changed “parliament by parliament.” To do that, though, we would have to expand and increase our manpower.

Right now our staff is 12 people, 8 of them are Arabic language speakers and translators. We have one Egyptian young woman in her early 20's who moved to Israel when she was 17, and the rest are Israel-born. Most have served in the army intelligence unit. The entire dissemination falls now on me and PMW's senior analyst Nan Jacques. We must expand to accomplish the goals that are in reach.

What are the primary goals that drive your work?

The long-term goal -- it seems like a distant dream given the PA today -- is to get so much exposure in the world that the PA is forced through political isolation to change their ideology, promote co-existence, and promote real peace between Palestinians and Israel. Whether it can happen or not, I don't know. I do know that hatred will never stop from the PA unless it is exposed, condemned and change is forced on them. The international community is funding the PA; they're the ones who are planting the seeds for the next war. That is our ultimate goal -- real change towards peace. The more immediate goal is going to country after country to make them aware of what's going on. Exposing that that PA is the terrible impediment to peace will change the Palestinian image in the world and will help Israel. A stronger, less isolated Israel will bring more security and peace.

Are people open to your message?

Very open and supportive. Even pro- Palestinian MPs are horrified by the hate education and invite me back to continue working with them. We've had successful legislation in Congress based on PMW recommendation, we've seen major debates in parliaments with MPs quoting PMW sources, and we've seen media change stories and apologize for their stories following PMW documentation. We work with universities and NGOs like Stand With Us, and we've received emails from students who described how they presented PMW materials to their professors, which then led to them presenting our videos or information in subsequent classes.

Once we met with a delegation in Israel from the European Parliament -- half were from the Palestinian friendship group and half were from the Israel friendship group. The second to last day in Israel I made a presentation to them, and I was warned that the pro-Palestinian members were very anti-Israel. I prepared a presentation specifically geared towards that, and while it was going on -- there were many questions -- I couldn't figure out from the questions which were pro-Israel and which were pro-Palestinian. Everybody was equally horrified by what I was showing them. The delegation had a discussion what to do about it, and they decided to invite me to come to Brussels to speak at a full parliamentary meeting between of both the Palestinian and Israeli friendship groups about stopping PA incitement.

How can concerned individuals get involved and make an impact in your work?

The easiest way to access our materials is to write to [email protected] and in the subject line put the word “subscribe,” and then you'll get our bulletins and become much more informed and educated. Then you will be able to defend Israel. When people say the problem is that Israel is building settlements, you can say that the problem is when little children are learning on TV that Jews are descended from monkeys and pigs. You can show information sheets, quotes from schoolbooks, broadcast clips. It's critical, because people make the mistake of complaining about Palestinian incitement without bringing specific examples. Concrete examples make a big difference.

Sometimes we suggest for 2-3 people to adopt a journalist and send him/her materials or meet every few months. The same thing can be done with a congressman. Customized packets for these meetings should be prepared, say if the journalist deals with children's issues, education, or general Mid-East issues.

Finally, financial support will enable much greater impact and success. People can support us by sending U.S. tax deductible checks made out to “The Central Fund of Israel” with a recommendation for PMW and mailed to: The Central Fund of Israel, 3rd floor, 980 6th Ave, New York NY 10018.

Learn more about his work at http://www.palwatch.org.

The original article can be found here.

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