PMW in the Media
From Marx to Allah
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Maybe President Obama should take a course in Arabic?

When the PLO, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, published its charter in 1965 defining the organization's values and goals, there was no room for Allah and the Quran. Allah was not mentioned even once [in the PLO charter], and you could search in vain for quotations from the Quran. By contrast, much space was dedicated to the idea of a Pan-Arabic unity, the idea that Arabs are one nation across borders, and it was emphasized that this Arab nation's destiny was inextricably linked to resolving the Palestinian question and vice versa.

Then the Egyptian leader Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser personified Arab nationalism and unity, and a majority of Palestinians viewed Egypt as their most important ally.

Today the picture is different. Hamas, who won the Palestinian elections in 2006 and who is categorized by both the EU and the US as a terrorist movement, has its roots in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Nasser’s political archrivals.

Studying the [Hamas] movement’s charter of 1988, you find that Allah is mentioned 105 times, while the Quran is quoted 33 times. Islam now supersedes Arab nationalism and socialism as the Palestinians' preferred ideology. Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, believes that this difference between the [original] PLO and Hamas reflects a change in Palestinian culture and in their perspective on the conflict with Israel. The religious dimension has come to play an increasing role, and Marcus thinks that this has deepened the conflict.

An opinion poll from 2003 shows that 56 percent of Palestinians prefer a state based on religion, which is almost twice as many as those who want a democratic state, while only 5.9 percent of the population point to Arab nationalism as the preferred foundation of a future Palestinian state. A new poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Research & Dialogue, in cooperation with the German Hanns Seidel Fund, confirmed this trend. 85 percent of young Palestinians aged between 18 and 30 years in the West Bank, where Fatah is in power, are in favor of a combination of Shari’ah [Islamic Law] and civil law or only Shari’ah law. Young Palestinians’ preferred ally is the theocracy in Iran.

Marcus, who was recently in Denmark to speak about his center's work and document the world view that the Palestinian media and educational materials communicate to its citizens, is surprised that the West is so focused on Iran's President Ahmadinejad's verbal attacks against Israel, because, according to Marcus, his words do not differ much from what the heads of state, religious leaders and ordinary citizens in the Arab world say.

”The same views are expressed daily in the Palestinian media," says Marcus. According to Marcus, it would be easier for Israel to sign a peace agreement with a secular government in the Palestinian territories than with an Islamic one, because a national movement more easily can accept a territorial compromise, and thus Israel's right to exist.

"If the Palestinians insist that it is the will of Allah that Israel must be eradicated and the Jews killed and the war be fought in the name of Allah, then it is blasphemy, a violation of the sacred and a serious crime [for Palestinians] to compromise. In this respect, there is no longer a difference between the words of Hamas and Fatah," Marcus evaluates.

"If it is God's will that Israel must be destroyed, then it is difficult to reach a peaceful solution," he adds.

Palestinian Media Watch is known for its documentation of the difference between what the Palestinians are saying to the outside world in English and what they communicate to their own people in Arabic. It is often like night and day," says Marcus.
Maybe President Obama should take a course in Arabic?