GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Hamas militants have enlisted a figure bearing a strong resemblance to Mickey Mouse to broadcast their message of Islamic domination and armed resistance to their most impressionable audience - children.
A giant black-and-white rodent - named "Farfour," or "butterfly," but unmistakably a rip-off of the Disney character - does his high-pitched preaching against the U.S. and Israel on a children's show each Friday on Al-Aqsa TV, a station run by Hamas. The militant group, sworn to Israel's destruction, shares power in the Palestinian government.
"You and I are laying the foundation for a world led by Islamists," Farfour squeaked on a recent episode of the show, which is called "Tomorrow's Pioneers."
"We will return the Islamic community to its former greatness, and liberate Jerusalem, God willing, liberate Iraq, God willing, and liberate all the countries of the Muslims invaded by the murderers."
Children call in to the show, many singing Hamas anthems about fighting Israel.
Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli organization that monitors Palestinian media, said the Mickey Mouse lookalike takes "every opportunity to indoctrinate young viewers with teachings of Islamic supremacy, hatred of Israel and the U.S., and support of 'resistance,' the Palestinian euphemism for terror."
Israeli officials denounced the program Tuesday.
David Baker, an official in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office, said "there is nothing comic about inciting young generations of Palestinians to hate Israelis."
A spokeswoman from Walt Disney Co.'s headquarters in Burbank, Calif., did not immediately return messages asking for comment about the use of the Disney-like character.
Yehia Moussa, a Hamas leader in the movement's Gaza Strip base, denied inciting children against Jews. "Our problem is not with the Jews. Our problem is with the (Israeli) occupation and the occupiers," he said.
The television station would not comment.
A Gaza-based psychologist said the program proved that the culture of glorifying violence had penetrated mainstream society in the Palestinian territories, where dreams of Islamic dominion and animosity toward the U.S. and Israel are widespread.
"It's the fault of both (Israel and the Palestinians)," said Samir Zakkout, of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. "There's been a collapse of values. If I can kill my enemy, I can kill my brother."
The program is opposed by the Palestinian Broadcasting Corp., which is controlled by Hamas' political rival - the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"I don't think it's professional or even humane to use children in such harsh political programs," said Basem Abu Sumaya, head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corp. "Children's nationalist spirit must be developed differently."
Hamas loyalists launched the Al Aqsa satellite channel last year.
Bearded young men read the news and Islamic music is layered over footage of masked militants firing rockets into Israel. The channel also broadcasts talk shows, programs about the disabled and cartoons.
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