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How Middle East Media Cover Hamas Victory: Mosaic Compiles Arab T.V. News for U.S. Audience

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Hamas’ surprising landslide victory in the Palestinian elections reverberated around the world. We look at how the news was delivered in the Middle East by turning to the award-wining MOSAIC, a daily show on our partner network LinkTV that compiles television news reports from more than 30 television outlets throughout the Middle East. We play an excerpt of a MOSAIC newscast and speak with Jamal Dajani, director of Middle Eastern Programming at Link TV. [includes rush transcript]

Hamas has won a large majority in the new Palestinian parliament, according to official election results announced Thursday. In Wednesday’s voting, Hamas claimed 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats, giving the party the right to form the next cabinet under the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Thousands of Hamas supporters took to the streets to celebrate the sweeping victory. They clashed with Fatah activists in Ramallah as the Hamas flag was raised over the Palestinian parliament.

Last night, hundreds of Fatah gunmen, angry at the results, fired rifles in the air in Gaza and called on President Abbas to resign. Hamas leaders have said they want to open talks with other groups about a coalition, but Fatah said it would not join a Hamas-led government.

Meanwhile, Israel has said it will not deal with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ruled out any talks with “an armed terror organization that calls for Israel’s destruction”.

The so-called Middle East “Quartet,” the U.S., U.N., E.U. and Russia, issued a statement on Thursday calling on Hamas to renounce violence and accept Israel’s right to exist. At a press conference in Washington, President Bush did not rule out dealing with Hamas, but said the party would have to renounce its past policies.

Hamas’ surprising landslide victory in the Palestinian elections reverberated around the world. News networks across the United States covered the story throughout the day.

But how was the news delivered in the Middle East? There is only one place to find out–MOSAIC, a daily show on our partner network LinkTV that compiles television news reports from more than 30 television outlets throughout the Middle East. Last year, MOSAIC was awarded one of journalism’s highest honors–the Peabody award. We play an edited excerpt of the last night’s newscasts from across the Middle East.

  • Jamal Dajani, Director of Middle Eastern Programming at Link TV that produces MOSAIC: World News from the Middle East. The program distills daily news reports from more than 30 Middle Eastern television outlets.

Learn more about MOSAIC

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: At a news conference in Washington, President Bush did not rule out dealing with Hamas, but said it would have to renounce its past policies.

REPORTER: Are you cautioning Prime Minister Abbas not to resign?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We’d like him to stay in power. I mean, we’d like to stay in office. He is in power, we’d like him to stay in office. Sorry to interrupt. I knew this was a two-part question, so I tried to head it off.

REPORTER: Will this affect aid to the Palestinians? Will you be able to work with Hamas if they’re — assuming they take on a large share of the government?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I made it very clear that the United States does not support political parties that want to destroy our ally, Israel, and that people must renounce that part of their platform. But the government hasn’t formed yet. They’re beginning to talk about how to form the government. And your question on Abbas was a good one. And our message to him was, we would hope he would stay in office and work to move the process forward.

AMY GOODMAN: Hamas’s surprising landslide victory in the Palestinian elections reverberated around the world. News networks across the United States covered the story throughout the day. But how was the news delivered in the Middle East? There’s only one place to find out: MOSAIC, a daily show on our partner network, Link TV, that compiles television news reports from more than 30 TV outlets throughout the Middle East. Last year, MOSAIC won one of journalism’s highest honors, the Peabody Award. This is an edited excerpt of last night’s newscast from across the Middle East.

MOSAIC: This is a clip from Palestine TV, broadcasting out of Ramallah, showing Mahmoud Abbas’s speech commenting on the elections.

MAHMOUD ABBAS: We will work on implementing and improving the organization’s role inside and out, considering it is the political reference that protects the national program and Palestinian independence, as well as the decisions made by national councils, including all the agreements and documents we have signed and by which we abide. Together, we will fulfill the dream, for which many have lost their lives trying to achieve, of a free and independent Palestinian state, democratic and prosperous, on the basis of national unity and democracy, characterized by political diversity and equality between its citizens, insuring individual freedom and equality between man and woman, as stressed by our declaration of independence.

MOSAIC: Jordan Television out of Amman aired a video showing Hamas’s celebrations in Gaza and the West Bank, but focused on what might become an inter-Palestinian struggle.

JORDAN TV: Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei accepted the reality of the situation, but tendered his resignation today, opening up the stage for Hamas to form a new government. Senior Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, called on the American administration to respect the decision of the Palestinian people. He also announced that negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas would be conducted soon to determine the appropriate way to form the new government.

ISMAIL HANIYEH: The Hamas movement has become an integral part of the legislative council. Yes, Hamas has acquired the majority seats in the council, which is considered the highest authority in the Palestinian political system. No doubt, this is all true. But it is too soon to say that Hamas has become a government authority. I still wish to stress that political participation will involve all the Palestinian people.

JORDAN TV: The Palestinian public, which has been accepting congratulations for this outcome, views the stalled peace process and the corruption in the Palestinian Authority as some of the reasons for Fatah’s defeat.

PALESTINIAN MAN: Fatah has some honest people. But lately, it has been overshadowed by opportunists. And this is the reason why the opposition, especially Hamas, has increasingly gained public support.

MOSAIC: Al-Alam Television on the Iranian satellite network in the region, broadcasting in Arabic, focused on Hamas supporters’ perspectives and hopes for the future.

HAMAS SUPPORTER: This is a real political earthquake by all standards. People were surprised and shocked by the results, including the Fatah Movement.

AL-ALAM TV: Despite Fatah’s surprise by the result, they congratulated their brothers in Hamas for their victory and expressed their pride in this Palestinian democracy.

FATAH SUPPORTER: We accept the results in a democratic spirit. And God willing, they will not disappoint the citizens. They are our brothers, and we hope that they can serve the Palestinian citizen. They say that Palestinian areas are lawless, but this shows that democracy prevails here. We also foiled plans aimed at creating a civil war between us.

MOSAIC: Out of Lebanon on Future TV, there was a reminder about the Palestinian refugees living in the country since 1948.

FUTURE TV ANCHOR: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have followed the elections on their local televisions, hoping these elections would be a step closer towards their return to an independent Palestinian state.

FUTURE TV REPORTER: Palestinians in Lebanon followed this week’s crucial Palestinian elections on TV screens, because they are not allowed to participate in the vote. Suhail Natour, Palestinian representative for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to Lebanon, considered these elections as the only way that could lead to independence and to a real Palestinian sovereign state.

SUHAIL NATOUR: We think that this opportunity given to the Palestinians is another demonstration of the capacity of the Palestinians to take their responsibility as a unified people with complete dignity.

MOSAIC: IBA, the official Israeli television network, aired several stories focusing on the worries and anxiety generated due to Hamas’s victory.

IBA TV: Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuval Steinitz and other rightwing lawmakers slammed the government’s decision to allow Hamas to participate in the P.A. parliamentary elections. Steinitz called the results an earthquake that reflect Israel’s tragic failure in its war against Hamas.

GIDEON SAAR: It was clear, and we said that, that this policy of unilateral withdrawals and giving territories without anything in return will bring the Palestinians to the conclusions that terror and violence is the right way to have achievements.

IBA TV: Leftwing M.K.s also voiced deep concern. Labour Party Chief Amir Peretz today blasted Hamas as a terror organization, with which he said he would not negotiate.

COLETTE AVITAL: This is a real setback for the peace process, which started in Oslo, which was based on mutual recognition. As you know, there’s no mutual recognition between us and the Hamas.

AMY GOODMAN: News reports throughout the Middle East. An excerpt of MOSAIC: World News from the Middle East. We’re joined now by Jamal Dajani, Director of Middle Eastern Programming here at Link TV, that produces MOSAIC. We are broadcasting from San Francisco. Welcome, Jamal.

JAMAL DAJANI: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. First, let’s talk about this selection of news reports, the response of the different news organizations in the Middle East to the victory of Hamas.

JAMAL DAJANI: Yes. I mean, if you noticed, the first story we had is from Palestine TV, but people don’t know that, actually, for almost two hours Palestine TV did not report the results. They were in shock, because they represent, of course, the Palestinian National Authority. So they played music, they had a national anthem, and so forth. They were, I think, hoping that the results would be different. But then later on, they brought Mahmoud Abbas, in essence, conceding.

You know, then, of course, you have reports coming from Iran, Television Al-Alam, which represents the Islamists. They were jubilant, they were euphoric about — that an Islamic organization has won the elections, and they were representing it, that’s due to the corruption of the Palestinian National Authority.

The Jordanians were also concerned. They were concerned, perhaps, there going to be an inter struggle between the Authority and Hamas. The Lebanese Future Television out of Beirut, they highlighted the plight of the refugees, because they have been trying to get rid of the refugees. The Lebanese, you know, have over 400,000 Palestinians.

So what we try to usually show the different perspectives, not only of the people on the ground, but also the different news organizations. And they have different agendas in the Middle East.

AMY GOODMAN: And you also showed Israeli TV.

JAMAL DAJANI: And we showed Israeli. In Israel, they started with the earthquake. They were lamenting the peace process and pointing the fingers and the blame, that Israel, you know, will not negotiate with a terrorist organization. So they showed also and reflected the Israeli anxiety.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think happened, this surprising landslide for Hamas? Were you surprised?

JAMAL DAJANI: I was surprised that they won by a landslide. I was not surprised that they were going to show a major showing. I thought maybe it might be 50%, 40%, something like that. And I can talk about a myriad of factors, but — and people, you know, you always listen about the corruption factor. Yes, that was an important issue, that the Palestinian National Authority was very corrupt. You hear about ministers that were in the education system, with very limited salaries, owning cement factories and manufacturing plants, and so forth.

And then, of course, you cannot ignore the good job that Hamas did campaigning, campaigning on reform. They stayed with their message, while the Fatah were bickering amongst themselves and did not stay focused. Also, you know, the absence of Arafat, there was no symbol; Abu Mazen is not Arafat. He could not unite Fatah behind him and lead them to the promised land.

But the most important thing for the Palestinians was the failure of Oslo. You know, since Oslo, Palestinians’ lives have not improved. They have been living under subhuman conditions. And Hamas promised them a change, promised them reform. And at the end of the day, when people are desperate, they turn towards God, and Hamas presents that for them.

AMY GOODMAN: And when you say Oslo, for people who are not familiar with the Oslo so-called peace process, the peace accord?

JAMAL DAJANI: Yes, I mean Oslo promised that there’s going to be a Palestinian state, promised the end of settlements. It did not promise an apartheid wall to be constructed on Palestinian territory. It promised jobs, it promised change. And since then, the situation has deteriorated. It has deteriorated terribly for Palestinians. I go back and forth to Palestine, you know, to the Occupied Territories. I go to Gaza. And every year I go back, things have gotten worse.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Jamal Dajani, who is the editor of Middle East Programming here at Link TV and does the program MOSAIC, the award-winning program MOSAIC. The response of the Bush administration, President Bush holds a news conference yesterday, and yes, he criticized Hamas, but he also said that this is the result of democracy.

JAMAL DAJANI: Yes, because, I mean, people in the Middle East are watching this very carefully, and they’re always saying the word “hypocrisy” when it comes to the United States. Now, you want to see democracy on the march in the Middle East. These are the results. There might be some results that you don’t appreciate, you don’t like, but for the U.S. administration to come now and say, ’Let’s nullify the elections,’ a lot of people are watching this very carefully. And we might have a violent reaction to it.

AMY GOODMAN: One last question, and it relates to Iran right now and the whole nuclear issue. How is the Arab media covering what’s happening in Iran?

JAMAL DAJANI: Actually, I wrote an article about this issue. And the issue deals with both the Iranian nuclear file and the Israeli nuclear file. Arabs feel now they are caught in the middle. They are caught between a nuclear Israel and Iran. And remember one thing, Arabs were involved in bloody wars, not only with Israel, but also with Iran. You know, the Iran-Iraq War, one million people were lost, over $1 trillion were spent. The Iranians were attacked by chemical weapons, by Iraq. So they feel that there is a major fear that at some point Iran can cause a major catastrophe in the Middle East.

AMY GOODMAN: Jamal Dajani, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Director of Middle East Programming here at Link TV, where we’re broadcasting from in San Francisco. Thank you.

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