Almost every media outlet covered the Palestinian elections this week in terms of the rivalry between the Hamas Islamic terror organization and the Fateh, which is also defined by Israeli and American law as a terrorist organization, even if both nations have placed a waiver on the enforcement of the law against the Fateh, ever since the genesis of the Oslo process.
Yet ever since last year’s ascension of Mahmoud Abbas to the helm of both the Palestinian Authority, as its president, and to the leadership of the Fateh, as its chairman, both the PA and the Fateh have allowed Hamas to expand its media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with in far greater latitude given to Hamas than was ever given by Yassir Arafat
On January 8, 2006. on the day that marked exactly one year since the election of Abbas as PA president, the PA allowed Hamas to launch its new television station in the Gaza Strip.
That television station is called Al Aqsa and now broadcasts from Gaza.
The Hamas TV station is land-based and broadcasts from the Gaza Strip with the frequency UHF62.
Palestinian news agencies report that it is located in one of the mosques in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UINRWA) Jabaliya refugee camp,located in the northern Gaza Strip.
At the entrance to the UNRWA Jabiliya refugee camp, there is a sign; WELCOME TO NAJID.
Most people do not know that Najid is the Arab village which stood in what is now the city of Sderot, which is under constant artillery bombardment from Gaza – in a war that is portrayed by UNRWA camp residents as an integral part of their struggle for the “right of return” to the Arab villages that they left during and after the 1948 war.
Another media initiative launched from a media center in the UNRWA camp in Jabailyia is the “right of return” campaign, pioneered under a web site known as www.PalestineRemembered.com, which is designed to allow Palestinian refugee and their descendents to locate the precise location of their village, in order to ease the process of their “return” to their village.
Over the past year, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas also allowed Hamas to operate a radio station, also termed Al Aqsa.
The new Hamas TV station broadcasts news, commentary and religious programming.
Under Abbas’s rule, Hamas has also expanded its print media. The movement’s weekly Al Risala announced that it would begin publishing twice a week. Al Risala has been regarded as the leading opposition publication in the PA territories and over the last few weeks has been used to promote Hamas candidates for Palestinian Legislative Elections, scheduled on January 25.
A source in Israeli intelligence observed that “Hamas places great importance on its war to capture the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people and other target audiences in the Middle East and all over the globe”.
What is most newsworthy, from a pan-Arab global point of view, is that Hamas’s entire communications network is directed by the organization’s leadership in Damascus.
Until this election campaign, Hamas lacked a television station.
The Hamas TV station is modeled on Al-Manar TV, the Hezbollah TV station in Lebanon.
A senior Hamas operative stated that it would aspire to the same standards as Al-Manar TV and like Al-Manar, to disseminate Hamas’s messages to the Palestinian people and the world at large (AP from Gaza, January 9).
To operate the station a staff of photographers, technicians, show hosts and commentators was assembled (most of whom are Hamas members or supporters). Some of the staff received professional training abroad, chiefly in Egypt and at Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV.
Al-Aqsa TV intends to employ women once a women’s department has been established. The plan is for experimental programs to be broadcast for a period of between one and three months. At first there will be only a limited number of broadcasts and they will include news, programs about social issues, health and Islam.
In coordination with the PA, Hamas also plans eventually to launch a satellite station which will be able to reach target audiences all over the globe. According to a PA publication (Al-Hayat, January 9) the Hamas station might broadcast from a communications center located in Dubai.
Hamas’s radio and TV stations operate under the aegis of a company called Al-Ribat Communications and Artistic Production. Chairman of the board of directors is Ahmad Muhammad Fathi Hamad, a senior Hamas operative in the Gaza Strip.
Fathi Ahmad Muhammad Hamad, head of Al-Ribat Communications and Artistic Productions, which operates Al-Aqsa TV, is a Hamas candidate for the Palestinian Legislative council.
Hamad has been involved in terrorist operations and during the 1990s was imprisoned by both the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority.
In a speech given during a Hamas parade after Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip and broadcast by Radio Al-Aqsa (August 26, 2005), he said: “…we of Hamas emphasize by means of the Izzedine al-Qassam Battalions that we will continue the jihad until Palestine has been liberated [sic], from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea. Nothing will stop us, [for] we used the Qassams to liberate Gaza. When the rockets undermine the Jewish entity no one will be able to stand in our way…”
The fact that Hamas operates such a “media operation ” in a UN facility should be cause for concern among UN member states…. especially since Hamas controls the UNRWA trade workers union in the UNRWA camps.