Hamas "Mickey Mouse" Back On The Air

A Palestinian girl watches Al-Aqsa TV, a station run by Hamas, during a show featuring a giant black-and-white Mickey Mouse look alike rodent named "Farfour," or "butterfly," at her home in in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Friday, May 11, 2007. "Farfour," the Islamic Mickey Mouse lookalike featured on the militant Hamas TV has returned Friday, despite promises by Palestinian officials that the controversial show will be pulled off air for review. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi
A weekly children's show on a Hamas-run TV station featuring a Mickey Mouse lookalike preaching Islamic domination was broadcast as usual Friday, two days after the Palestinian information minister said it would be suspended immediately.

The show, featuring a giant black-and-white rodent with a high-pitched voice, made headlines worldwide because the character has preached against Israel and the U.S. and urged Palestinian children to fight Israel. It is broadcast on Hamas-affiliated Al Aqsa TV.

Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, shares power in the Palestinian government with the moderate Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti, an independent, said Wednesday that the show reflects a "mistaken approach" to the Palestinian struggle for independence and would be suspended immediately to allow for a review.

But the station's manager, Hazem al-Sharawi, said on Friday the show called "Tomorrow's Pioneers" has an educational message and will not be canceled.

Barghouti would only say Friday that the station had promised to correct any problems. He said he has no control over private stations, but has asked the station to review the content. If there are still violations, "we will continue to work with them," he added.

Israeli officials have denounced the program as incendiary and outrageous. The program was also opposed by the Palestinian Broadcasting Corp., which is controlled by Fatah.

The lead character is called Farfour (or butterfly in Arabic), but is an unmistakable copy of the Disney character. On Friday, the character said he cheated on his exams because "the Jews destroyed my house," and he lost his books under the rubble. Children called in telling him his behavior was un-Islamic.

On previous episodes, the character said: "You and I are laying the foundation for a world led by Islamists. 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."

"We will win, Bush!" he said.

During Friday's show, the adult presenter and the station manager, al-Sharawi, told viewers that once Islam rules, its message of "good and peace" will also rule.

"We don't incite. We present facts," said al-Sharawi. "We can't cut off our children from the reality they live everyday."

He said he repeated the words "love" and "peace" six times during the show.

"We have an educational and entertainment message. It carries knowledge, a sense of humor and morality. There is no shame in this, and we will not go back on it," he said.

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.

"The children, through this loveable image, are receiving poisonous messages and they don't even realize that they are being poisoned," Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli watchdog group, told CBS News correspondent Richard Roth.

And it isn't just TV rodents who are attracting condemnation: A colorful Hamas Web site tells a fable about a girl who guides Israeli soldiers over a roadside bomb to their deaths.

But some say the problem isn't what's on television or the Internet — it's real life.

Israeli columnist Gideon Levy told Roth, "A child in Gaza does not need a cartoon in order to hate the occupation, to hate Israel. He opens his eyes in the morning and he sees reality around him."

Despite a rival Palestinian faction's effort to censor the show, a Hamas official insisted, "It's our right to tell our children what we want."

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com