ON WEDNESDAY, May 3, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stood at the White House next to Donald Trump and said out loud about the Palestinian people, in Arabic: “Mr. President, I affirm to you we are raising our youth, our children and our grandchildren on a culture of peace.”
Reaction was swift and uniform, an outcry of laughter across the political spectrum.
Chemi Shalev, a left-wing senior columnist for Haaretz
, tweeted in response: “Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter breaks.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted as well, albeit with the decorum of political protocol: “I heard President Abbas yesterday say that Palestinians teach their children peace,” he said the following day.
“That’s, unfortunately, not true.”
At 5:23 a.m. on Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted a video from its website calling out the veracity of Abbas’s words.
The PMO’s 41-second video began with the same Abbas quote, then disclaimed his words with accompanying images and text: “That’s odd, coming from someone who names schools for terrorists, dedicates statues to terrorists, presents kids with pictures of terrorists, praises terrorists.” The video then shows Abbas saying in Arabic, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem,” continues with “pays terrorists” and ends, “President Abbas: Maybe try Googling yourself sometime?” Two of the items in the video – naming schools for terrorists and dedicating statues to terrorists – showed a screenshot of a video from the website Palestinian Media Watch.
Itamar Marcus, founder and director of PMW, was not surprised by the reactions to Abbas’s words. His research institute, an NGO, has been translating and broadcasting what the PA has been doing for 20 years now, and is intimately familiar with all the hate education that permeates Palestinian society.“When I go to parliaments and Congress, I show them all the hatred, I show them the poison,” Marcus tells The Jerusalem Report.
“I show them children learning that Jews are monkeys and pigs ‒ on official TV, over and over and over again. I show them children on TV: ‘What did you learn in school today?’ And the child says, ‘I learned to fight the Jews and kill them’ – interviewed in school, on TV.”
PMW produced its own video following Abbas’s statement, which begins by quoting him and Netanyahu on whether Palestinian children are being “raised on a culture of peace.”
“Who’s telling the truth?” asks PMW.
The video answers by showing official PA TV indoctrinating Palestinian school children, small children, with hate and terror: “Fight the Jews, kill them, and defeat them”; “Sons of Zion, most evil among creations, barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs”; a poem with the refrain “Our enemy Zion is Satan with a tail”; and a cartoon character of Satan partnering with Jews to fight Islam – and teacher after teacher clapping and offering praise.
PMW doesn’t weigh in on what to do, it just lays it out there: what is being written and said in newspapers, on websites, on Palestinian television, on children’s programming, in textbooks, on official sites and unofficial sites, PA controlled or independent.
PMW’s website covers all the topics broached at the Trump-Abbas meeting plus dozens more, from the claim that Jesus was a Palestinian, to antisemitism, to 28 PA schools being named after terrorists and three after Nazi collaborators, to salary payments to terrorist prisoners being paid by the PA.
The organization appeals to a couple of different target audiences. One is “the MPs who support Israel, who have no ammunition to fight for Israel. So we give them ammunition. And then with that ammunition, they can go to the MPs who think Israel is the problem – because they are lacking information – and then all of a sudden they say, ‘Oh my God, look at this! We had no idea!’ And I get this response all the time – people who care about Israel, but have been criticizing Israel for the longest time, we give them information and it’s an enlightenment.”
Marcus’s outreach to MPs has taken him to some 20 legislatures around the world, speaking to politicians in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Korea, Philippines, a dozen in Europe and the US.
He asks of legislators just to be open-minded – watch the tapes, listen to the interviews, read the textbooks. This is what the PA is presenting on TV. This is what they teach their kids. This is what they say.
Now you decide what you are going to do with it.
PMW's findings have led to significant legislation, such as the Taylor Force Act introduced in Congress in February. That bill calls for cutting all funding to the West Bank and Gaza unless the PA stops paying salaries to terrorists and stipends to families of so-called “martyrs.”
Then there is the other target audience, the one that simply hates Israel. Marcus meets plenty of those as well.
HE SAID that when a number of German parliamentarians came to hear him last year, “one of them was very anti-Israel – she was on the [Mavi] Marmara; that’s how anti-Israel she was. Throughout the presentation, she would ask questions… and she says, ‘Oh, I’ve heard that before. I don’t believe it.’ I showed her on the screen, on Power- Point, all the quotes, all the sources. She got up and she walked out. People who are on the anti-Israel fringe will walk out.”
PMW receives much pushback from the Palestinians and the anti-Israel group. They can’t attack the translations – Google Translate obviates any denying the words – so they impugn Marcus’s motives, or attack his operation.
“As a rule, when they try to attack, they attack in general. They won’t say a specific fact is wrong because if they focus on a specific fact, they won’t have anything.”
So they target Marcus personally. Once, on the day before he spoke in the Swedish parliament, a Swedish daily began its editorial: “If we would not invite Hamas to speak in parliament, why are we inviting Itamar Marcus?” Critics charge him with being right-wing, and PMW as another agenda-driven organization spewing polemics. Marcus shrugs.
“When I meet with people, whether it’s a presentation to a lot of people or it’s a oneon- one meeting, I always let the Palestinians speak for themselves. It’s all there – all the quotes are there. The PA accuses PMW of inciting against them, but 95 percent of our website is just quoting the PA. There are introductions to the quotes, putting it in context – I’ll say I heard this message 10 times – but I let them see it.
“And we don’t use voice-over in the videos, we use subtitles because we want people to hear it in Arabic. So if anyone wants to know what Mahmoud Abbas really feels, he goes to the personality section on the PMW website, goes into Mahmoud Abbas, and he has every important quote that he said for the last 20 years.”
Marcus lives in Efrat, in the Gush Etzion complex 20 minutes south of Jerusalem on the road to Hebron – and over the Green Line.
Born August 28, 1953, Marcus is your somewhat typical Upper West Side-Ramaz- CCNY-NYU-Modern Orthodox-New York Jew, who served in the artillery division of the IDF for a year and a half between college and grad school.
“My army job doesn’t exist anymore,” he smiles. “I was doing the figuring and the numbers and the calculations for the trajectory, all by hand. Now it’s all done by computers.”
He made aliya after graduate school, and worked for Shimon Shetreet when he was Religious Affairs minister for the Labor Party in 1995-96, in the first years after the Oslo Accords were signed. At the time, Marcus was receiving translations from someone who was copying off Palestinian TV, and he would bring them to the Labor Party members of the Knesset Education Committee.
“They weren’t political, they were informative, that’s why they were in the Education Committee. All informative: ‘Look at what Yasser Arafat is saying, all the children’s programs.’ Already then.”
When the government changed hands, Marcus was out of work.
“Once I didn’t have the job in the Ministry of Religion, I said, ‘You know what? There’s probably much more than this.’” And so began PMW, which is backed by some 20 individual donors.
MARCUS DOESN’T speak Arabic, but he has 10 translators who spend all day reviewing and analyzing dozens of sources, including four Palestinian TV channels, three Palestinian daily newspapers, and dozens of Palestinian websites, Facebook pages, YouTube and Twitter accounts.
“Today the Palestinian leadership has so many avenues by which to get its messages to the people,” Marcus says. “We have to keep on top of all of them.”
He notes how the different media play different roles with what appears to be a division of labor.
“Last year, during the terror wave, Fatah leaders repeatedly used the PA TV to call for violence and killing of Israelis,” says Marcus.
“And it was Fatah’s Facebook page that immediately glorified the terrorists, posting their pictures sometimes within hours after they committed their attacks.”
While there are other NGOs that monitor Arabic-language societies, PMW focuses solely on Palestinian media, and therefore, says Marcus, it can study everything: sports pages, crossword puzzles, children’s TV and more.
“We understand the PA holistically like no one else. And because we only do the Palestinian world, PMW has been able to expose and write the reports that have changed the way the world sees the PA: its naming of sporting events, schools and summer camps after terrorists; its paying salaries to terrorists and then lying to the world claiming to have stopped; its incessant indoctrination of children to hate Jews and deny Israel’s right to exist.
“All of this PMW material is being quoted and requoted regularly in parliaments and the US Congress, and are the basis for numerous resolutions and legislation.”
Twenty years after he started, Marcus is heartened that what is being said, taught and shown in Palestinian society is finally being seen everywhere for what it is.
One talkback to that PMO video that cited PMW read: “Just hope and pray that President Trump saw thru these lies and is really well informed about the real story. No deception.”
But Marcus is sad that it’s taken 20 years.
“Talk about frustration – the international community had the opportunity years ago to stop the poisoning of the children,” he says.
“This could have been stopped at the very beginning. Today, we have to undo the damage of that poison to an entire generation.
“Those Palestinian kids are victims – they believe that you and me and every Jew is Allah’s enemy, they believe that we are all pigs and monkeys, and we have to be exterminated in order to bring about the ‘resurrection.’ “It’s all part of PA messaging to Palestinian kids; so Palestinian kids today are the poisoned generation, all because the international community didn’t listen to PMW 20 years ago.”