Wednesday, January 15, 2014

15-Jan-14: How jihadist messages heard in the Palestinian Arab villages go unreported in the wider world

Abbas' minister of religion and government-controlled
sermonizing Al-Habbash [Image Source: PalestinianMedia Watch
report, January 14, 2014
While the rest of us tend to 'hear' only a handful of voices emanating from the Palestinian Authority government - one of the two quarrelsome regimes purporting to speak for the Palestinian Arabs - the citizens living under the yoke of the PA hear many more. 

Most of us recognize the name Mahmoud Abbas and more or less the things he stands for: the 'heroism' of those pathetic killers of elderly Jews and unarmed bus passengers, for instance. Some of us may know one or two of the names of PA cabinet ministers [here's a list]. But mention the name Mahmoud Al-Habbash and most observers of events in our neighbourhood will probably just give a shrug.

This is understandable but a shame. Al-Habbash, a Hamas member at an earlier stage in his career, is today a certified PA/Abbas insider, a cabinet minister who is more influential in the villages of the PA regime's fiefdom than most of its other politicians. This is because of what he does for a living: after earlier stints as minister of agriculture and minister of social affairs, he has served as minister of "waqf and religious affairs" since 2009. Or more accurately, one of the two such ministers since Hamas, naturally, has named its own man to the same post.

In a society where religion plays such a deadly important role, the influence of Al-Habbash is tremendous, even if most analysts and reporters are oblivious to it. (The dirty little secret about news reporting on what the PA stands for, wants, does and says is that it is based on the English-language versions of news releases put out by Abbas' bureau and by a handful of media outlets that play nice with the PA. The authentic Arabic-language messages are rarely reported other than by dedicated PA watchers like MEMRI and PMW. The work product of both is routinely ignored by most of the mainstream media most of the time.)

Palestinian Media Watch which specializes in just this kind of thing recently translated into English an Arabic-language press conference [here] in which the minister clarified to the citizenry the scope of his powers:
Al-Habbash explained that he is responsible for “all activity within the mosques” including the sermons, which require prior approval by his ministry. [He] emphasized that the mosques and everything related to them belong to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, from the employees – the imam, the speaker, the Quran teacher, the librarian, the caretakers and custodians – via the mosque and its adjacent structures… to regulation of the activity and the functioning, in accordance with Shari’ah and civil law… The Ministry is responsible for all activity within the mosques – the functioning, the centers for Quran study, the calls to prayer, and the sermons – and that the Ministry would not take lightly or be negligent in the fulfillment of its obligation. He noted that the religious lessons, Quran study and other activities going on in the mosques require prior approval by the Ministry.” [Al-Ayyam, Aug. 16, 2010 via PMW] 
Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority cabinet [Image Source]
In Palestinian Arab society, this amounts to a powerful megaphoneIn fact, the editors at PMW point out that as minister, Al-Habbash himself often delivers the Friday sermons transmitted on official PA TV. These reflect messages that his ministry, Religious Affairs, chooses to disseminate to the Palestinian people. That's the way things work in authoritarian regimes.

Here's an extract from one of those authorized sermons from this past Monday:
"Whoever wants resistance, whoever wants Jihad, the direction for Jihad is well-known and clear... Those who send young people to Syria or elsewhere to die for a misdirected cause must stop and understand that Jerusalem is still waiting. Jerusalem is the direction, Jerusalem is the address...  I don't think there is anyone who doesn't know this... A compass that does not point to Jerusalem, Muhammad has nothing to do with it. Put an end to your ignorance.
Put an end to your ignorance: that certainly makes sense to us. PMW's report of the speech, along with the video evidence of it, is here. With his boss and chief Palestinian maker-of-peace Mahmoud Abbas present in the audience and applauding to show agreement, declaiming in front of a sign stating that the event was being held under Abbas's auspices, Al-Habbash's message to the villages and streets of the PA was clear: there is a role for the jihadists, and it's not in Syria (current death toll: about 130,000) but here in Jerusalem from where we are writing these lines. [Another striking and mostly-ignored Al-Habbash sermon is well covered in this Israel-friendly report, and this one.]

Abbas and his message spinners know they take almost no risk in identifying with pro-terror messages like that of the minister of religionTheir confidence stems from the certainty that reports like PMW's coverage of the Al-Habbash speech will never appear in the world's conventional news channels. The Israelis may get agitated about it, but no serious analysts take that seriously either since it goes on all the time. Lethal journalism happens, even if the vast majority of its consumers have no idea it exists.

That dull, grinding sound you hear in the background? It's the so-called peace-process, about whose actual contours and features (like the hate-filled, violence-friendly pro-jihad message of Mahmoud Abbas and his inner circle) most people know nothing.

It's something to bear in mind when the reports of a fourth tranche of murderers, convicted and sentenced but being released from their Israeli cells under relentless US pressure, appear again in the news in the coming weeks.

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