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Fatah and Hamas engage in internet video war

BBC Monitoring

Analysis by Malik Mohamed al-Abdeh of BBC Monitoring on 20 June

    The struggle for power between Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas has spilled over to the internet, with a "video war" conducted using the popular video sharing website YouTube. As both groups have moved to disrupt each other's television and radio broadcasts, the internet has become an important medium through which to disseminate propaganda.

Execution of Fatah commander

    The execution of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander in Gaza Samih al-Madhun appears to have sparked a flurry of videos made by both sides.

    One video graphically shows his execution. While a crowd bays for his blood, the semi-conscious Al-Madhun is dragged by a group of masked gunmen. The next shot is of the Fatah commander lying face down on the ground and being shot repeatedly at close range. The crowd shouted jubilantly "Allah Akbar". The clip appears to have been taken from Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV.

    Fatah supporters responded with a number of videos commemorating the late militant. In one such video, viewers are treated to a gallery of "the hero martyr Samih al-Madhun". To stirring music, he is shown posing with various types of weapons. In one video, the image of Al-Madhun being dragged by Hamas men is shown next to an image of Israeli soldiers dragging a Palestinian. In another frame, the faces of Hamas leaders are superimposed on a swastika and the words written in bold "we will not forgive".

    In another commemorative video, the face of leading Hamas figure Mahmud al-Zahhar is superimposed on an Israeli banknote with the caption: "Two faces of the same currency". Another frame showed pictures of various Hamas leaders and the caption "The murderers of Palestine - your fate is the deepest depths of hellfire."

    Hamas supporters then appear to have posted a video which shows men loyal to Al-Madhun abusing Palestinian prisoners. The video is shot in a large room, and depicts acts of violence against a group of around 10 men who are handcuffed and blindfolded. One man in particular wearing a T-shirt that reads "Executive Force", presumably a member of the pro-Hamas security force, is singled our for repeated beatings and humiliation. He is also forced to beg for mercy as a gun barrel is prodded into his chest. A masked gunman asks him: "Who is your master?" The man shouts desperately "Samih, Samih". The prisoners are all made to sing pro-Fatah songs and to swear at Hamas leaders. No information is given as to the authenticity of the video or how it came in the possession of Hamas supporters.

Patriotism versus treachery

    A recurrent theme in videos posted by both Hamas and Fatah is to portray one's side as being patriotic and pious, and the other side as treacherous and immoral.

    In one Fatah video, a man wearing an Executive Force uniform is shown with the following caption: "My fellow citizens, beware of these gangs: They are committing murder, kidnap, torture and rape." The same video shows Al-Madhun reading the Koran.

    Another pro-Fatah video is entitled "Hamas steals and ransacks the Preventative Security building". In what appears to be a private recording, possibly using a mobile phone, people are shown removing items of furniture from a building whose top floors are on fire. A man is also shown spraying pro-Hamas graffiti on the walls of the building. The graffiti reads "Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades passed through here."

    Conversely, a Hamas video shows a bearded youth in an all-black uniform, presumably a Hamas member, lying on the ground bleeding heavily and writhing. Masked men with automatic weapons surround him but do nothing to help him. It is not clear who has shot him, but one person off-camera shouts "leave him, let him die". The video appears to have been shot discreetly from a high rise tower block without the consent of the gunmen.

    In another video, a wounded Hamas youth is shown in hospital heavily sedated but nevertheless able to recite verses from the Koran. Men around him join in the recitation while sobbing. Another Hamas video entitled "Fatah traitors and agents" shows images of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas embracing Israeli politicians and generals. Hamas leaders on the other hand are shown embracing Palestinian fighters or on pilgrimage to Mecca. The videos also show the leader of Fatah's parliamentary bloc blaspheming during a TV debate. He is described in a caption as "licentious".

    Fatah appears to have picked up on Hamas's close links with Iran to discredit the Islamist movement. In one Fatah video, the dismissed Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyah is shown embracing Iranian President Ahmadinezhad, next to another image showing him embracing a rabbi. In one commemorative video for Al-Madhun, the late militant is shown in heroic pose with the caption "Vanquisher of the bloody Shi'i current". Hamas uses the same anti-Shi'i sentiment against Fatah, with a video showing Yasir Arafat embracing "the enemies of the Palestinian people" Ayatollah Khomeyni, as well as the Pope.

    Source: BBC Monitoring research 20 Jun 07



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