- The Washington Times - Friday, October 22, 2004

Every evening about 10 million people across the world are tuning into Al-Manar television, a satellite channel that lauds suicide bombers, accuses the United States of crimes against humanity and shows the Statue of Liberty as a gory, knife-wielding figure dripping blood.

They also hear a clear and violent call to arms against U.S. troops in Iraq and Israeli forces.

One video juxtaposes U.S. footage of soldiers with gory corpses and ends with a suicide bomber’s belt exploding, all set to these lyrics:

“Down with the mother of terrorism. American threatens in vain, an occupying army of invaders. Nothing remains but rifles and suicide bombers.”

The State Department said it has long viewed Al-Manar as being funded and run by Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization funded by Iran, but based in Lebanon.

“We’ve always been deeply troubled by Al-Manar’s programming and content, its anti-Semitic bias, incitement to violence, including support for insurrection in Iraq and terrorist actions against both the U.S. and Israel,” said State Department spokesman Gregg Sullivan.

“Obviously Al-Manar’s broadcasts, including its content here in the U.S., are something we continue to look at with the appropriate officials,” Mr. Sullivan said.

The station’s audience is mostly Shi’ite, but its reach is extensive. According to Steve Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Al-Manar is watched by Muslims as far away as Argentina, Canada and Europe.

In France there are legal proceedings to block Al-Manar from broadcasting there because of the station’s Ramadan series last year that was seen as anti-Semitic, he said.

The Beirut-based popular 24-hour station offers a slick package of news and family programming interspersed with violent videos, such as images of dead Palestinian babies overlaid with the label “Made in Israel.”

President Bush is frequently shown, most commonly in tandem with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In one instance, Mr. Bush and Mr. Sharon are seen as the two sides of a spinning coin with the words “Two Faces, One Terrorism” on the screen.

Second only to Al-Jazeera in popularity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Al-Manar has correspondents in Belgium, France, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, Syria and the United States, said Avi Jorisch, who spent two years researching the station.

Mr. Jorisch said that some Al-Manar programming is available in the United States as part of a package of Arab-language news broadcasts.

Al-Manar, or The Beacon, denies it has called for suicide attacks against Americans, but is straightforward on its attitude toward Israel.

“We never called for suicide bombings against the U.S. forces,” said one Al-Manar editor contacted by telephone in Beirut, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“What was really said, by the secretary-general of Hezbollah, is what did the Americans expect? Did they think Iraqis would be receiving them with roses and flowers? Of course there would be suicide bombings,” he said.

“When it comes to the Palestinian issue, no one will just sit idle when they are being killed and massacred,” the editor said. “We don’t claim to be objective when it comes to occupation and occupying forces.”

MEMRI’s Mr. Stalinsky said Al-Manar’s Web site, available in both English and Arabic, was hosted by a company in Hoboken, N.J.

The television station also features short clips with photographs of suicide bombers popping up in Hollywood-type stars, as simulated bomb blasts occur behind them.

One short film features the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers and asks: “Why are some ruling out an American or Zionist as the perpetrator?” and “Why would Arabs and Muslims feel guilty about a crime that has not been proven to have been committed by them?”

Mr. Jorisch, a former terrorism consultant for the Department of Defense, has compiled a selection of Al-Manar clips with subtitles and presented them with a book called “Beacon of Hatred.”

Although the station is funded by Hezbollah and is broadcast through seven satellite packages including IntelSat and EutelSat, a Pentagon spokesman said he had not heard of Al-Manar. Lt. Col. Barry Venable said he was “unaware of this channel.”

“I’m surprised to hear that the Pentagon is not following this very closely, given the fact that Al-Manar is calling for suicide attacks against American soldiers in Iraq,” said Mr. Jorisch, who now works for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

“The Department of Defense ought to be studying this issue very carefully,” he said in a telephone interview in Washington.

In addition to IntelSat and EutelSat, the station is also broadcast by New Skies Satellites, NileSat, HispaSat, AsiaSat and ArabSat, providing the channel with a wide reach, Mr. Jorisch says in his book. He adds that some of Al-Manar’s news programs are also available in the United States through California-based WorldLink TV.

“It’s the propaganda arm of Hezbollah and mirrors the ideology of the organization,” said Mr. Jorisch. “The U.S. government should consider taking action against any company that does business with Al-Manar and/or Hezbollah,” he said.

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