By Julie Stahl. Source: CNSNews.com March 07, 2003
Arabs demonstrating in support of Saddam Hussein Iraq, in Ramallah (Alquds Alarabi, 3/21/03).
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - The Palestinian Authority is inciting its citizens against America, and the publication of anti-American sentiments in the government-controlled press proves it, an informed critic said here.
David Bedein, bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency in Jerusalem, charged that the Palestinians are using their media to stir up the public against the U.S., even to the point of going to war.
Bedein has put together a collection of anti-American cartoons focusing on Iraq ("Doodling for Saddam: The Use of Cartoons in Palestinian Newspaper to Recruit for the Iraqi Regime) that have appeared in Palestinian dailies during the last three months. He intends to distribute it next week to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security committee and the U.S. Middle East subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee.
"The cartoons are meant to hit you viscerally. [The PA is trying] to whip up the Palestinian people into a war against the U.S.," Bedein told CNSNews.com. "The Palestinian media [is being] whipped up for war against America."
He also pointed to various pro-Saddam Hussein demonstrations held throughout PA areas as further proof that the PA is hostile toward America.
During those demonstrations, which can happen only with prior approval of the regime, American flags have been burned and anti-American slogans - such as "Death to America" - have been expressed.
He noted that while in the free Western press, political cartoons represent the opinions of individuals, editors or interest groups, in a totalitarian regime they represent the opinions of the government.
The cartoons in the report were taken from Al Quds, Al Ayyam and Al Hayat Al Jedida during the last three months. All three Arabic dailies are connected with the PA and its Chairman Yasser Arafat.
The cartoons include one that appeared in Al Hayat Al Jedida on December 14, 2002, showing the skeleton of a fish with a woeful Saddam Hussein standing nearby, indicating that Iraq has nothing left of its missile arsenal to stop the U.S. from invading.
On December 10, 2002 the same paper showed Iraq (pictured as a man) offering the U.S. an olive branch of peace in the first frame; in the second frame, the USA is shown stabbing a fallen Iraq with the same olive branch.
Another cartoon in the same newspaper on December 22, shows Bush as a long-nosed Pinocchio saying, "Saddam lies."
On January 12, 2003, Al Quds featured a caricatured President Bush, wearing giant earplugs,with the West on one side and the Arab nations on the other urging him not to attack Iraq.
And on February 18, the same paper pictured the globe half encircled by a barbed wire fence put up by a U.S. ship circling the world, imprisoning it in the war against terrorism.
"At a time of rising anti-Americanism in the Middle East and the prospect of violence against U.S. nationals, cartoons in the PA-controlled media constitute a barometer of the policy of the Arafat regime," Bedein wrote in the report
"The cartoons help set the tone for the increasing anti-U.S. demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was well as threats by Palestinian terrorist groups against Americans...
"In the totalitarian order imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, cartoons in Palestinian newspapers reflect the will of the regime and symbolizes a weather vane of political currents," he concluded.
But PA Transport Minister Ghassan Khatib argued that while the cartoons may represent the sentiments of the Palestinian people, they don't represent the opinion of the PA itself.
"I think the PA is very much pro-U.S. This is one of the problems," Khatib said in a telephone interview. "The Palestinian public is largely hostile to the U.S."
Khatib, the former director of the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, said that public opinion polls, which the JMCC conducted, indicate that "there is a great deal of hostility to the American government and its Middle East policies" among Palestinians, but towards the American people they are neutral.
Khatib said the Palestinians are against American because of its perceived support for Israel, which he called the enemy of the Palestinians.
On the other hand, he said, the Palestinians are very sympathetic toward the Iraqi people although not necessarily Saddam.
He pointed to the Arab nationality, Muslim religion, culture and the region as factors that unite Palestinians and Iraqis. He also pointed out that Iraq sent troops to the area during several wars to fight on behalf of the Palestinians and is currently involved in helping the Palestinian people.
Saddam has sent payments of up to $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers and terrorists. It has been distributed through ceremonies sponsored by the PA.
"I don't think the Palestinian people need anyone to inflame them in this regard. They have enough reasons," he said.
Independent Palestinian analyst George Khleifi, deputy director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University, said it was not clear that the Palestinian press represented the views of the political leadership but it did represent the feelings of the Palestinian people.
The Palestinians are not convinced that the U.S. motives are purely to get rid of a dictator.
"They know that it is all about oil and domination. I wouldn't define it as anti-U.S., [more like] anti-US policy, anti this establishment, [anti] domination of the U.S. of the whole world," Khleifi said.
According to Khleifi, the papers are not exactly run by the PA but "if the leadership doesn't really want them to say something they don't say it."
But Israeli expert Yigal Carmon, director of the Middle East Media Research Institute which monitors and translates the Arab media and press throughout the region, strongly disagreed.
"It's their organ. It's them," Carmon said of the state run press and media. "They should not be freed from it because they control it."
The cartoons definitely send a message and give the "basic position" of the regime, he said.
Although Carmon said he was not convinced that cartoons could convince Palestinians to go to war, still he said, "The images sink into the psyche of people."