Hey kids, it’s Uncle Hazim time!
Hazim Sharawi, whose stage name is Uncle Hazim, is a quiet, doe-eyed young man who has an easy way with children and will soon preside over a children’s television show here on which he’ll cavort with men in larger-than-life, fake-fur animal suits on the Gaza Strip’s newest television station, Al Aksa TV.
But Captain Kangaroo this is not. The station, named for Islam’s third holiest site, is owned by Hamas, the people who helped make suicide bombing a household term.
“Our television show will have a message, but without getting into the tanks, the guns, the killing and the blood,” said Mr. Sharawi, sitting in the broadcast studio where he will produce his show.
“I will show them our rights through the history,” he said, “show them, ‘This is Nablus, this is Gaza, this is Al Aksa mosque, which is with the Israelis and should be in our hands.’ ”
The new station is part of the militant Palestinian group’s strategy to broaden its role in Palestinian politics and society, much as Hezbollah did in Lebanon. The station began broadcasting terrestrially on Jan. 7, and Hamas is working on a satellite version that would give it an even wider reach, like Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV, which is watched throughout the Arab world.
“Their success encouraged us,” said Fathi Hammad, Al Aksa TV’s director. He said that Hamas had tried to find an existing broadcaster to accept its programming but that no one would take it.
As he describes it, his television show, which begins in a few weeks, will teach children the basics of militant Palestinian politics – the disputed status of Jerusalem, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the Palestinian refugees’ demand for a right to return to the lands they lost to Israel in the 1948 war – without showing the violence that Hamas’s pursuit of those goals entails.
Mr. Sharawi will not take visitors to see him do his radio broadcast because the studio’s location is a heavily guarded secret. In 2004, an Israeli Apache helicopter fired three rockets into the station’s previous studio not long after Mr. Sharawi and his colleagues had fled.
Everybody involved in the television station is worried about another attack, but Mr. Sharawi said he is ready to die if it comes. “The messengers don’t care if they lose their lives for the sake of revealing the message,” he said.
I’m sure Bud Mishkin has been saying the same thing for years.