Thanks to Arab satellite companies, Hezbollah’s al-Manar and Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV stations can still beam their incitement and hatred into European living rooms, radicalizing Muslim immigrants throughout the Continent.
Al-Manar, however, is not a mere propaganda tool. Founded in 1991 by Hezbollah guerillas, it is an operational weapon in the hands of a deadly terrorist organization. Following a 2006 letter to then-President George W. Bush signed by a majority of the U.S. Senate, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Treasury Department designated al-Manar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity. This designation placed, for the first time, a media outlet on the same terrorism list as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah itself.
The designation highlighted the role of al-Manar as more than just a station with objectionable content. The Hezbollah outlet was actively involved in recruiting and fund raising for Hezbollah, and providing preoperational surveillance for terror attacks. Undersecretary of Treasury Stuart Levey has observed that al-Manar is an “entity maintained by a terrorist group” and is therefore “as culpable as the terrorist group itself.”
Europe has also taken several steps against al-Manar. In 2004, the European Union and the governments of France, Spain and Holland determined that al-Manar violated a European law prohibiting incitement to hatred in broadcasting. This encouraged European satellite providers Eutelsat, Globecast, Hispasat and New Skies Satellite to cease transmission of the station.
Five non-European satellite providers have ended their broadcast of al-Manar, and multinational corporations discontinued about $4 million in annual advertising on the channel after their ad buys on Hezbollah television were exposed. In December 2008, two U.S. residents pleaded guilty in Southern District Court in New York to material support for Hezbollah after they were found to be broadcasting al-Manar and selling satellite equipment.
Yet the Saudi-based, Arab League-owned Arabsat and the Egyptian government-owned Nilesat still allow al-Manar to broadcast incitement and violence to Europe’s Muslim population on their satellites. During the 2006 Danish cartoon controversy, for example, Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nasrallah urged al-Manar’s viewers “to take a decisive stand.” He said that “hundreds of millions of Muslims are ready and willing to sacrifice their lives in order to defend the honor of their Prophet. And you are among them.”
Al-Manar has become alarmingly popular with Europe’s young Arabic-speaking Muslims. On one German television program, young Muslims in Berlin cited al-Manar as a factor influencing their hatred of the U.S. and Jews. In November 2008, Germany banned the terrorist station on the basis that it promoted the use of violence. This ban prohibits al-Manar from doing business in the country, although its hate and incitement are still accessible in Germany via Arabsat and Nilesat.
Hamas, designated by both Europe and the U.S. as a terrorist entity, followed al-Manar and took its own brand of jihad to the airwaves in 2006. Today, Hamas’s al-Aqsa television disseminates its violent message on Arabsat. Eutelsat, France’s leading satellite operator and the world’s third-largest satellite company, also began broadcasting al-Aqsa on its Atlantic Bird 4 and Eurobird 2 satellites, enabling Hamas to incite, recruit and raise funds throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
Al-Aqsa TV is notorious for its uninterrupted speeches of Hamas leaders calling for suicide bombings, for its youth-oriented music videos that incite viewers to murder, and programs aimed at children which glorify suicide bombers. Faced with world-wide outcry for using Disney-like characters, the show’s producers dropped the Mickey Mouse character — they told kids that Israel had killed the popular rodent — and found bees, bunnies and other animals to tout the virtues of jihad.
Policy makers, law enforcement officials and regulators should be worried about al-Aqsa, but so should every European parent. One haunting music video produced by al-Aqsa shows a mother preparing a bomb in her bedroom. Her young daughter naively asks whether she is bringing her a toy. Mama leaves home and explodes on her suicide mission. Her child says, “Instead of me, you carried bombs in your hand. . . . Only now I know what was more precious than me.” The little girl continues, “My love for Muhammad will not be merely words. I am following mama in her steps.”
Another broadcast shows mothers donning suicide belts and calling on women and girls to blow themselves up. The “martyrs” are assured that the “Zionist Entity” will be destroyed.
Al-Aqsa is an integral part of Hamas’s global strategy of radicalizing Muslims, subverting the peace process, raising funds for future attacks, and disseminating propaganda in the Palestinian territories and beyond. Like al-Manar, it is an operational weapon in the hands of a deadly terrorist organization.
While “free speech” activists decry action against these terrorist media outlets, European officials should recall prior campaigns against enemy media outlets. In 1999, during the Kosovo war, NATO planes bombed the Belgrade-based headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia. While 16 employees were killed, NATO defended the action as a legitimate attack against Serbian broadcasting of Slobodan Milosevic’s violent call to arms against Kosovo’s Muslims.
European states also have prosecuted hate speech as a war crime, first at the Nuremberg trials against Nazi officials after World War II and then at an international court in Tanzania in 2003, when three Rwandan media executives were convicted of running a radio station and publishing a newspaper calling for the systematic extermination of Rwanda’s Tutsis. In supporting the convictions, Reed Brody, legal counsel to Human Rights Watch, said, “If you fan the flames, you’ll have to face the consequences.”
Europe can act against Hamas TV under its own legal authority governing television broadcasting. France should enforce the warning its own audiovisual authority issued on Dec. 2, 2008, warning Eutelsat that al-Aqsa programming violates French communications law. Eutelsat’s recent decision to stop distributing al-Aqsa on only one of its satellites is not sufficient compliance, and Eutelsat should be held accountable for its continued broadcasting of al-Aqsa.
In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama called for “a new way forward” with the Muslim world. But he also called for a strong defense against those who “seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents” and addressed leaders “who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West.” Working with Cairo and Riyadh to cease satellite broadcasts of these Iranian-backed, terrorist-owned media channels is key to addressing the radicalization threat in Europe for the continent’s leaders. But France should first get its own terrorist-media house in order.
Mr. Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Ms. Bonazzi, executive director of the European Foundation for Democracy, are co-directors of the Coalition Against Terrorist Media.