Imagine the outcry that would occur in the U.S. if a classic kids’ magazine such as Highlights or Ranger Rick were to publish a story praising Adolf Hitler. That’s exactly the theme a Palestinian children’s magazine found appropriate to publish earlier this year, but the editorial choice didn’t spark an outcry in the West Bank or Gaza.
According to the new book “Deception: Betraying the Peace Process” by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik who uncovered and translated the magazine article, the children’s magazine Zayzafuna published a fictional submission by a teenage girl who described Hitler’s actions as positive, because he killed Jews. The magazine is funded by the Palestinian Authority (the Authority gets U.S. taxpayer dollars).
Here’s how the book describes the controversy surrounding the monthly “educational” magazine:
Most of the content in Zayzafuna is positive and educational. It promotes family values, encourages children to read and to participate in building a modern, democratic society. However, these positive messages are directed at Palestinian society, Muslims, Christians and Druze. When it comes to portraying Israel and Jews, Zayzafuna changes its tone and includes items glorifying Jihad against Israel and praising Martyrdom death for Allah, and the Martyrs themselves.
The most extreme expression of demonization of Jews is the inclusion of an essay submitted by a teenage girl in which Hitler is presented as a positive figure to be admired because he killed Jews in order to benefit the world.
The 10th grader describes a dream in which she meets four historical figures who each offer her advice:
I turned to the next door; there Hitler awaited me. I said, 'You're the one who killed the Jews?'
He [Hitler] said: 'Yes. I killed them so you would all know that they are a nation which spreads destruction all over the world. And what I ask of you is to be resilient and patient, concerning the suffering that Palestine is experiencing at their hands.'
I said [to Hitler]: 'Thanks for the advice.'
The magazine editors did not post any disclaimer about the Hitler part of the girl’s essay, according to Palestinian Media Watch which published “Deception.”
The book's authors Marcus and Zilberdik combed through Palestinian television, newspaper and magazine items looking for signs the Palestinian Authority is influencing public opinion toward peace with Israel but instead found a multitude of terror-glorifying messages including “streets, schools, sporting events and more [named] after Palestinian terrorists who have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians.”
“Palestinian children have participated in summer camps named after Dalal Mughrabi who led a bus hijacking in which 37 civilians were killed, and played in football tournaments named after Abd Al-Basset Odeh, a suicide bomber who killed 31 Israelis at a Passover dinner.”
Add to this the wider context of adult admiration for Hitler in the Arab world, children picking up on the trend isn’t all that surprising.
Since August (after the Hitler essay was published), the magazine has received funds from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which prompted the Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center to lodge a protest Wednesday with the UN organization:
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is calling on UNESCO to cut all funding for a Palestinian youth magazine for publishing material exalting Hitler […] .
Responding to the Wiesenthal Center’s protest, the office of the Director General of UNESCO wrote the [Wiesenthal] Center’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, and said in part, “Allow me to underscore that UNESCO takes this matter extremely seriously and it cannot but strongly deplore and condemn the statements… We will bring this matter to the attention of the concerned Palestinian authorities.”
UNESCO on Thursday decided to stop funding the magazine. In a letter to the Wiesenthal center, the office of UNESCO's Director-General wrote:
"UNESCO is shocked and dismayed by the content of the February issue, and has requested more detailed information and clarification from the editors of the magazine and to Palestinian Authority. UNESCO strongly deplores and condemns the reproduction of such inflammatory statements in a magazine associated with UNESCO's name and mission and will not provide any further support to the publication in question."