Hamas uses new technique in psychological war with Israel

19:59, April 26, 2010      

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A superbly-made futuristic animated cartoon broadcast by the Islamist Hamas movement on Sunday is creating waves in Israel. It is thought to be the first of its kind from the military wing of Hamas that does not depend on the traditional images of brave Hamas warriors fighting against Israel.

The film wants to send the message that unless there is a real change in thinking on the part of the Israeli government, captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will be returned to his family in a coffin rather than standing on his own feet.

The Hebrew animation is broadcast on various popular video websites, predominantly with English subtitles. On the website of Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas armed wing, the item also appears in Arabic, giving rise to guess that the intended target audiences are both Israelis and Palestinians.

If Hamas was looking for a reaction in Israel with the video, it certainly has achieved that on Sunday and Monday as news outlets gave substantial time and space to the animation.

Israeli politicians and pundits alike felt the need to talk about the movie. "It is best if Hamas leaders would focus less on videos and presentations and more concerned about the interests of their prisoners and the public in Gaza," Noam Shalit, father of Gilad Shalit, told the Israeli news website Ynet.

VIDEO'S MESSAGE

The film focuses on Noam Shalit. Through a series of vignettes, Noam is portrayed trudging through the streets of Israel and being confronted by huge advertizing boardings each with a different Israeli leader pledging to free his son.

Towards the end of the clip, Noam is an old man when he arrives at the Gaza border to greet Gilad at his long-awaited homecoming. He lets out an anguished cry as he sees his son is no longer alive.

Hamas and Israel have been in on-off negotiations for Gilad Shalit's release since the soldier was captured by Hamas-led Gaza militants on the Gaza frontier in June 2006.

The Palestinian organization wants more than 1,000 Palestinians to be released from Israeli jails in exchange for Shalit.

On several occasions a deal has thought to have been in the offing but each time there has been disappointment for the families of the Palestinian prisoners and for Shalit's relatives. In the wake of each failure Hamas and Israel have blamed each other for the breakdown.

TARGET AUDIENCE

The video is seemingly a fresh attempt by Hamas to kick-start the process by appealing to the Israeli public to press the government to cut a deal.

However, if that is really the message of the video it has missed the boat, according to the director of the Israeli-based Independent Media Review and Analysis Aaron Lerner.

"The willingness of Israelis to make even more concessions to return Gilad Shalit reached its apogee a while ago and it's no longer politically correct for people to say there's a price which cannot be paid for his release," said Lerner.

Yet the way in which the film was created means its message is more likely to reach Israeli living rooms than any article that Hamas politicians and journalists could muster, said Lerner.

The techniques used in the animation were praised on Monday by Radwan Abu Ayyash, former chairman of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, which is a part of the Palestinian National Authority.

"It's a progressive, technical medium but I don't think (Hamas) cares about the technicality of the video but rather the message that the video holds," said Abu Ayyash.

He believes there is an explicit warning in the clip: if Israel does not act quickly, Shalit will face the same fate as air force navigator Ron Arad, who has been missing since 1986 when his fighter crashed in southern Lebanon.

Lerner shares that view adding that Hamas probably also has its domestic audience in mind. "They may think it is nice that they are thumbing the Israelis, that they're doing something to try to break the spirits of Israelis so that they'll make more concessions," said Lerner.

TV WITH A DIFFERENCE

While the latest video is highly innovative for Hamas in terms of the themes, the computerized techniques and the lack of blood, the organization's TV channel and video production unit normally produces the type of televisual material not usually seen in the West.

The programming offered on Al-Aksa TV, Hamas' own channel, is highly provocative. Carnage on both the Palestinian and Israeli streets is shown around the clock, including the hours when schoolchildren are at home.

Hamas' broadcasts have come in for repeated criticism from the international community for what the United States describes as " incitement." Would-be peacemakers say there is no chance of creating a lasting peace with Israel, while the next generation is seeing these images.

For its part Hamas says they are an accurate reflection of the Middle East reality. Israel calls the videos propaganda of the worst kind.

Abu Ayyash thinks the latest video while getting its message home manages to do so without the gore. "It's different from the past. Previously they were far more serious and real. This one is more sarcastic while threatening," he told Xinhua.

In recent weeks there has been something of a lull in media coverage of the Shalit story. While vigils continue to take place across Israel on a regular basis, after almost four years in captivity, Shalit appears less frequently in the media.

If Hamas' aim was to put the story center stage once again it certainly succeeded.

However, as Lerner pointed out, to a large extent the video is unlikely to overly affect public opinion in Israel. Both Hamas and the Israeli government are sticking to their long-held positions, which adds up to deadlock and anguish for the families of the Palestinian prisoners and that of Gilad Shalit.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:黄蓓蓓)

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