Launched on January 9, 2006 and headquartered in the Gaza Strip, Al-Aqsa TV is a Hamas-run television station modeled after Al-Manar, the latter of which is owned and operated by the Lebanese-based terrorist organization Hezbollah. Al-Aqsa TV can be viewed not only in Gaza but also, via satellite, in various parts of the Middle East, North Africa, and most of Europe. Directed by Palestinian Legislative Council member Fathi Hamad, the station airs a wide variety of news shows, political commentary, Qur’an readings, music videos, and children’s programming. Many of these presentations, including some that are geared toward youngsters, promote terrorist activity and anti-Semitism.
For example, one Al-Aqsa TV music video depicts a four-year-old girl singing to her “mother” who subsequently detonates herself in a suicide bombing that kills four Israeli soldiers. In the aftermath of that attack, the orphaned child holds an explosive in her own hands and sings, “I am following Mommy in her steps.” Another music video shows a boy praying at a mosque prior to joining the military wing of Hamas and becoming a “martyr.” A third video, featuring children dressed in paramilitary uniforms and armed with guns, glorifies “the acts of Martyrdom-Seekers” like the late Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin.
In April 2007, the Al-Aqsa TV children’s program Pioneers of Tomorrow featured Farfur, a character bearing a strong resemblance to Mickey Mouse, declaring: “We will return the Islamic community to its former greatness and liberate Jerusalem, God willing, liberate Iraq, God willing, and liberate all the countries of the Muslims invaded by the murderers.” In one particular episode, the “Farfur” character and several child actors together mocked Western leaders and exhorted Muslim youngsters to pursue Israelis and Americans with AK-47 assault rifles. After Western criticism drew negative attention to such programming, the show’s producers removed Farfur from the cast of characters, telling the program’s young viewers that he had been “killed by the Israelis.”
The purportedly slaughtered rodent was thereafter replaced on the program by a character named Nahool, a large bee that continued to remind the audience that “we are all Jihad warriors” who “will go as Islamic fighters” to liberate the al-Aqsa mosque from “the enemies of Allah, the killers of prophets.”
By the fall of 2009, Pioneers of Tomorrow had introduced yet another new character — a bear named Nassur (meaning “victor” in Arabic), who stated during a September 22 episode: “There won’t be any more Jews or Zionists, with the help of Allah. They will be wiped out.” At one point in the same program, a young child lamented that his father, a Hamas military operative, had been gunned down by Jews. “I want to kill them,” the boy said of those who had taken his father’s life. Meanwhile, Nassur, for good measure, mused that if the Jews of Israel would not agree to permanently “leave” their homes “quietly, with words or talks,” then “we will have to slaughter them.”
Al-Aqsa TV conveys these same anti-Semitic themes to its adult viewers as well. In March 2009, for instance, the station broadcast a play (staged at the Islamic University in Gaza City) which claimed that Jews engage in religious rituals requiring them to drink, and to wash their hands in, the blood of Arabs and Muslims.
The following month, Al-Aqsa TV broadcast a sermon given by the Hamas-affiliated preacher Ziyad Abu al-Hajj, who stated that “the time will come, if Allah so allows, when their [the Jews’] property will be destroyed and their children will be exterminated, until not one single Jew or Zionist remains on earth.” Citing, as a supposedly authoritative source, the infamous forgery known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, al-Hajj characterized Israel as “a cancer which seeks to rule the world.”
In addition to its television programming, Al-Aqsa TV also maintains a website that features breaking news stories and updates, many of which convey tacit approval of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as retaliation for “the crimes of the occupation.” The site also displays numerous graphic photos of dead jihadists wrapped in shrouds and surrounded by throngs of mourners.
On July 7, 2010, the French government, in response to a European Commission assertion that Al-Aqsa TV had repeatedly violated European laws by inciting hatred and violence for reasons of nationality and religion, instructed its broadcasting authority to ban the station from the airwaves of France. In response, Al-Aqsa TV board member Ismail Radhwan angrily depicted that decision as a capitulation to pressure from Israeli propagandists eager to tighten their own country’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Similarly, Hamas portrayed France’s move as an “oppressive and racist” attempt to silence “the channels of [Palestinian] resistance which expose Israel’s crimes.”