Talking of his huge empire, Walt Disney reportedly once said, "I hope that we never lose sight of one thing: That it was all started by a mouse." Mickey Mouse was a source of tremendous pride to Disney, who in 1935 received a special medal from the League of Nations in recognition of the fact that the cartoon figure was "a symbol of universal goodwill." I don't want to think of what was started by the Hamas version of the animated mouse. Farfur is far from lovable. He is being used to preach violence to kids via a weekly children's program called Tomorrow's Pioneers, broadcast on Hamas's Al-Aksa TV.
Disney CEO: Hamas use of Mickey Mouse is despicable
The average Walt Disney movie does not shy away from horrors: Bambi's mother gets shot down in the opening scene, and the brave, wise Lion King father is murdered by his own brother just as you've grown fond of him. But these deaths were probably intended to show children that the world is not perfect, not to prepare them to go out on a shooting spree.
Disney said of his creation: "All we ever intended for him, or expected of him, was that he should continue to make people everywhere chuckle with him and at him. We didn't burden him with any social symbolism, we made him no mouthpiece for frustrations or harsh satire. Mickey was simply a little personality assigned to the purposes of laughter."
Farfur, the Palestinian Mickey, is no laughing matter. Exposed by Palestinian Media Watch, which smelled a rat, this Mickey is preaching that the "oppressive invading Zionist occupation" must be "resisted" at all costs.
Palestinian children in Gaza are not only as impressionable as their peers, they are also stuck at home watching a lot of television lately. This is not due to Israel, no matter what you might think if you're dependent on foreign news coverage of the region, but a result of the civil war raging between Fatah and Hamas on Gaza's streets.
The results are, of course, also being felt in Sderot and the western Negev, where Israelis have been subjected to the ongoing barrage of Kassams as Hamas tries to prove itself and the so-called Palestinian unity government is being shattered into very sharp splinters.
Hamas and Fatah have been literally at each other's throats lately. The Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh noted on May 18 that Hamas men are afraid of appearing in public with beards for fear they will be killed or kidnapped by Fatah militiamen.
According to a Hamas official, most of the victims were killed execution-style by Fatah gunmen and members of various Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority security forces. At least one case was caught on camera and later appeared on the YouTube Web site, presumably providing "entertainment" to those seeking an alternative to Farfur.
Israel's media have been concentrating understandably on Sderot, with Israel Radio's Reshet Gimmel going as far as opening a studio in the southern town and running live broadcasts with the sounds of the Color Red alerts and falling Kassams in the background between interviews with local entertainers and residents.
Talk shows and current-affairs programs have also placed Sderot at the heart of their broadcasts. One intrepid Israel Radio broadcaster asked the question which, I admit, hadn't been on my mind but nonetheless has its mind-bending merits.
Speaking to an Arab affairs expert on the reports that Islamic Jihad is threatening to send scores of women suicide bombers to blow themselves up near IDF troops if Israel starts an operation on the ground in Gaza, she enquired what awaited such women in heaven, the equivalent of the notorious 72 virgins ready to serve the male shahids. The answer: dwarves who will serve them. Even in jihadi heaven the women are discriminated against, it seems.
One wonders who will give these mythological creatures orders. Even within Hamas it's not clear who is (literally) calling the shots. Ahmed Jabari, the No. 2 of Hamas's armed wing in Gaza, for example, has reportedly stopped answering to Hamas head Khaled Mashaal in Damascus or Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.
Obviously some Hamas leaders should fear reaching heaven before others. Not only is Fatah gunning for them, the Israeli cabinet has decided that the IDF should resume targeted killings against politicians as well as military commanders in response to the Kassam barrage.
Mashaal is a legitimate target for assassination, said Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who noted on Army Radio that Haniyeh had also been a target in the past.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas canceled a planned visit to the Gaza Strip last week for fear that Hamas militiamen might attack his convoy, and gunmen presumed to be affiliated to Fatah last year opened fire at Haniyeh's convoy as he left a Gaza mosque.
Understandably, even neighboring Arab states are keeping a watchful eye on the situation, aware that any violence in Gaza could easily spill over into Egypt and unrest in the West Bank could ignite sparks in Jordan.
Nor is all quiet on the northern front. Clashes between the Lebanese Army and an Islamic terrorist group suspected of ties with al-Qaida at a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli in Lebanon left at least 39 dead on May 20 in the worst such violence in the country in two decades.
When you have a bloodthirsty Mickey Mouse for light relief for children, it's no wonder the rest of Al-Aksa's programming is not exactly a comedy, with senior Hamas officials calling for suicide attacks on Israel; more kidnappings of IDF soldiers; and missile attacks on Ashkelon, a refuge for many Sderot residents seeking respite from the Kassams.
Hamas is now accusing Israel of launching war on Gaza with its targeted response.
Perhaps the organization is relieved to have an excuse to carry on doing what it does naturally and turn to its standard rhetoric of "having to stop the occupation," conveniently ignoring the fact that Sderot residents have been complaining that their situation has only worsened since Israel left Gaza.
This sentiment has curiously been echoed by the Palestinian man on the Gaza street, in between ducking for shelter and trying to avoid the Hamas-Fatah crossfire. The Palestinians' situation, too, has deteriorated since Israel left Gaza.
And while Israeli broadcasters have braved the missiles to try to bring some cheer to long-suffering residents of Sderot, even daytime TV in the Strip does not provide much solace to the Palestinians caught up in the internecine fighting.
The greatest honor for Disney's mouse came in 1944 when the Allied Forces, under General Dwight D. Eisenhower, prepared to invade Europe in an operation code-named Mickey Mouse. One wonders what connotations such a code name would carry today. As the Disney star himself might say: "Oh boy."
The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post.