This week, the Middle East Media Research Institute, a pro-Israel NGO based in Washington, D.C., released a video dispatch about children’s programming by Hamas-controlled Al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip.
Since 2007, Tomorrow’s Pioneers has taught young Palestinians about Zionist aggression in Jerusalem and the alleged sins of the West. The show originally starred Farfour, a fun-loving Mickey Mouse-look-alike:
Al-Aqsa TV, the Hamas-run network based in Gaza, says that Pioneers “aims to produce a believing generation that will bear the noble values and strive to spread goodness and justice in Palestine and the world.”
Pioneers mixes lessons about drinking milk with Islamic supremacy. It’s directed by Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, who also runs Al-Aqsa TV. The show was created by Hazim Al-Sha’arawi, the station’s deputy director.
The show is hosted by 12-year-old Saraa Barhoum, the niece of a Hamas spokesman. She said in a 2007 interview that if she doesn’t end up being a doctor when she grows up, she would settle for being a martyr.
Barhoum co-hosts the show with a large costumed animals in a skit format similar to Sesame Street. In addition to sketch routines, the show also takes call-ins from children.
Farfour dies — at the hands of Shin Bet — paving the way for Nahul, a bumble bee with a squeaky voice:
During the Fatah-Hamas struggle for control over Gaza during the past two years, Fatah has tried to shut down the broadcast several times — most notably when then-Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti closed its doors. Fatah even launched a rival children’s show in September 2008.
In the wake of Nahul’s death, Assoud (whose name actually means “lion”) emerges as a Bugs Bunny-like rabbit who pledges to “eat the Jews” — and the Danes too.
Al Jazeera English reported from the show’s Gaza studio on the bunny’s message about resistance.
Assoud later dies in the aftermath of an Israeli attack on Gaza — in the episode from January 2, 2009.
The current teddy bear host, Nassur, is a mujahid (ostensibly from Iran) who has come to free Palestine:
In the most recent episode from October 2009, Nassur reveals his knowledge of Hebrew. Co-host Saraa then debates the merits of learning Hebrew and English, saying that “we want to know our enemies’ language.”
After 17 episodes in four “seasons,” Tomorrow’s Pioneers continues its revolutionary crusade.
In an accelerating battle to control the airwaves, sophisticated propaganda tools are becoming increasingly crucial — solidifying how the next generation will deal with the challenges of war and peace in the Middle East.
– Ben Piven