Hamas’ brand new online magazine for children praises holy martyrs and encourages children to follow their example. The Conqueror mainly targets Palestinian children but is also aimed at Arab and Muslim youths.
The paper is adorned with eye-catching cartoons.
This character, incidentally, is “The Conqueror”. If you did not know what was inside the journal, you would most probably presume that it was all entirely innocent.
It is anything but.
The magazine’s caption promises “pages discussing Jihad (holy war), scientific pages, the best stories, not be found elsewhere, and unequalled tales of heroism.” The purpose of the newspaper is to become a serious publication, meant for children, and to be read by “our beloved youth, the leaders of the future,” according to the editor.
Before reviewing the content of the site, it is worth noting that the Palestinians are making wide usage of children to further their struggle. The story of Muhammad A-Dura springs to mind, whose alleged death from Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) sniper bullets are still reverberating across Palestinian propaganda. (Incidentally, in an investigation soon-to-be-published by The Media Line, it was proved that Muhammad A-Dura did not die from IDF bullets. This does not prevent the Palestinians from using him, however, as a symbol of IDF brutality on the one hand, and the heroism of Palestinian children on the other.)
On the website of The Conqueror, one can find pictures demonstrating the heroism of Palestinian children:
In addition to revealing the true spirit and intent of the monthly newspaper, the pictures also demonstrate the overtly didactic nature accompanying them. The impression generated on the majority of the pages of the newspaper is that of cute animations, but this is a means of cushioning the entry of Palestinian children into the reality of the struggle.
The editor writes in his editorial that the Jews were the first to produce magazines for children, using them to the full in order to brainwash children in the ways of the Torah, the Talmud and the Protocols. This is obviously referring to the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, the same libel used at the end of the nineteenth century in Russia, according to which the Jews are plotting to take over the world. It should be noted that only recently, Syrian Defense Secretary Mustafa Tlas produced a best-seller in which he deals with these same Protocols as if they are historical fact. Next month official Egyptian TV launches a series of documentaries about the Protocols.
The newspaper’s stories emphasize the heroism of children against the cruel enemy, but also mix in other elements which can be seen time and again in Palestinian propaganda. For example, the story of Mihnad, illustrating three important elements in the struggle. Firstly, the link to land and trees, the second of course is the heroism of children against soldiers and the third is the strong nationalism which finds expression in a Palestinian flag fluttering in the wind. The plot of the story describes how Israeli soldiers demand that Mihnad pulls down a Palestinian flag flying above an olive tree. Mihnad refuses and does not give in even when he is shot at. When they force him to climb up the tree, Mihnad cries: “long live my land in freedom, long live the flag.” The soldiers kill Mihnad in reaction and he is left clutching the flag, drenched in his own blood.
Children reading this paper are not only exposed to stories of heroism in fiction, but also to real-life stories. Next to cute and innocent stories like the one about the “ravenous rabbit”, the newspaper instills into the hearts of its young readers the importance of the armed struggle and the heroism of suicide.
Thus, the newspaper presents the last will of one of Hamas’ suicide bombers, who in June 2001 caused “the death of 21 Zionists and wounded 150 more.” In his letter, the suicide bomber turns to the “fathers of the innocent, the hero of heroes…the Engineer, Yahya ’Ayyash” (the head of the military wing of Hamas, assassinated by the IDF six years ago). He says to ’Ayyash, “you taught us…that the true heroes are those who write the history of their people in blood.” After this, he turns to the “families, the wounded, those killed and the widows” and the martyr says to them, “I will turn my body into shrapnel and bombs, which will chase the children of Zion, will blow them up and will burn what is left of them.” In conclusion, the suicide bomber declares that “there is nothing greater than killing oneself on the land of Palestine, for the sake of Allah.”
In another story, the newspaper describes the first Muslims who died for the sake of religion and for Allah. It describes the harsh tortures which they endured and the reward promised to them by the Prophet Muhammad: “Be patient, oh family of Yassir, your next meeting will be in Heaven.”
Of course, the Hamas newspaper is not able to resist exposing the young reader to the short biography of the hero of the movement, the ‘Engineer’, Yahya ’Ayyash, who planned and executed many suicide attacks. “The Engineer was exceptional and became a legend…he transferred the struggle to the heart of the occupied lands…and sowed fear into the hearts of the Jews.”
In conclusion, Islamic fundamentalist movements have proven for a long time, despite their claimed opposition to Western culture, their widespread use of the tools that western culture has laid at their disposal. Whether one is talking about recording tapes of Muslim preachers (audio and video)which are sold all over the Islamic world, as well as in the West, or whether one is talking about the Internet, these movements know how to harness them sophisticatedly when it is in their interest to do so. Now Hamas is recruiting its young readers to the struggle with the aid of the publicity afforded by this monthly edition. The da’wa – the same indoctrination that Hamas uses in children’s camps, in community centers and in other public services, intended mainly for poor families – is spreading with more and more success. Similarly now, more established families, who can afford to buy a computer, are exposed to Hamas’ propaganda machine, via The Conquerer.