By Barry Rubin
Background: The Hamas satellite TV channel produced a children’s show Tomorrow’s Pioneers, which should have been called Tomorrow’s Suicide Bombers, designed to get children to kill Israelis, or Jews in general, and participate in a radical Islamist attempt at world conquest. We know this because that is what the show’s hosts and their mascot, the high-voiced Farfur the mouse (based on Mickey) said. International media often reported that the show only asked the children to “fight” or “resist” Israel but this was a clear misrepresentation of the program’s incitement to terrorism, antisemitism, and even—in a departure from past Hamas propaganda—calls for an Islamist-dominated planet.
Given the controversy around Farfur, however, Hamas decided to make him a true example for the children to emulate, by becoming a martyr. Thus, Al-Aqsa television claimed that Farfur was murdered by an Israeli official wanting to grab his land. But is that true? The killing was not actually shown on television. One wonders….
Gaza City, another hot and dreary night. The air was unbearably humid and still off the Mediterranean. It was sweltering. Especially for those of us who lacked air-conditioning. I can’t afford it because business isn’t too good. My name is Sami Spade and I’m a private detective. A good and honest one, which is to say a very poor one.
I can’t even afford a secretary. It isn’t that there isn’t a lot of crime around Gaza City but the police are corrupt, the courts are corrupt, and most of the crime is being done by the authorities and their friends, relatives, patrons, and clients. Kidnappings? In plenty but those who grab people are too powerful to get them sprung. Disappeared people? There are lots of folks who want them to stay disappeared. Extortion, terrorism, gun battles. Above my pay level. That’s for sure.
And that’s why I was surprised by a knock on my door. Well, not a knock exactly, more like a scratching. It was persistent. The rent was overdue, of course, but my landlord didn’t scratch at the door, he knocked it down altogether. Curious I carefully tiptoed to the portal and with a single heave pulled it open fast.
To my amazement a tiny mouse fell across my threshold heavily to the floor with an anguished squeak.
“Who are you and what do you want? I haven’t got any cheese,” I growled.
The mouse got up and dusted himself off. “You got me wrong. I don’t need no stinkin’ cheese,” said the mouse. “I’m here on business.” The mouse looked around, “Quite a hole ya got here,” he added.
“What kind of business do you have with me?”
“An investigation of course. You’re a PI aren’t you.”
“That’s what it says on the door, rodent,” I answered.
The mouse looked hurt. “We don’t like that term. You don’t have to get personal,” he answered softly.
“Sorry,” I said back. “Ok. Come in and sit down.” The mouse walked in and climbed on my only other chair. I settled behind my desk, checking the drawer to make sure my .45 automatic was there. Just in case. The mouse could be setting a trap. “Any way, how can a mouse pay for a PI?”
“Don’t worry,” said the mouse smugly. “I have a lot of dough, a lot of bread even. But let me explain. My name is al-Hammett. But I’m so fast that my friends call me Dash.”
“Dash al-Hammett,” I mused, “sounds familiar. What’s up?”
“Have you heard of Hamas’s biggest TV star? Farfur? He’s my cousin. Or should I say he was my cousin. Farfur has been murdered. I have a very rich uncle who lives in Hollywood, name of Mickey. He wants to find out what really happened to Farfur. And he’s willing to pay. How about 500 dinars a day plus expenses?”
I couldn’t help but whistle. “Sounds pretty good to me. Tell me more.”
“As you know, Hamas says that Israel did him in because he wouldn’t sign over his land. I think it’s a frame. That Saraa, the teenage host? I never trusted her. And Mickey said something before he died.”
“He told me that if anything happened to him not to believe it was the Israelis. Look, Sam, I know you don’t mix in politics….”
“I’ve found it’s a lot healthier that way.”
“Sure I know what you mean. But here’s the story. All the Arab regimes and radical movements blame America and Israel for everything to cover up their own crimes. Right?”
I nodded. “Everyone knows that, everyone but most of the Western Middle East experts, a lot of the journalists, and some of the politicians. So you think that’s what’s going on here?”
“Absolutely. Maybe Farfur got the goods on some corrupt act or something. And they knocked him off because he knew too much. Wouldn’t be the first time. Will you take the case?”
“Sounds pretty risky,” I said.
“OK, make it 600 dinars a day.” He reached into a pouch around his waist and pulled out a thick wad of bills.
“You have a deal,” I said.
Later that night, much later, I headed for Al-Aqsa TV studios, wearing my trench coat and fedora. There were no stars and the night was dark. I had the tools of my trade with me and the night-watchman there was known to fall asleep on the job. Sure enough I easily jimmied the backdoor, slid inside, switched on my flashlight, and headed straight for Saraa’s office. It wasn’t hard to find the documents. They were right on her desk. They told the real tale. Farfur wasn’t killed by the Israelis. He had decided that Gaza was too hot for him, he was fed up by the lies, the propaganda, the killing. Makes sense. Hell of a job, luring little children to blow themselves up by giving them promises of rewards in heaven. Makes me sick to my stomach just to think of it.
Suddenly, I heard a sound and darted behind the desk. It looked like the whole Hamas army barrelled in. I had set off a silent alarm. I looked at the window and then I looked at the machineguns levelled at me. It was no contest. I raised my hand.
“So, Sami Spade,” said their leader. I knew who he was, too, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister. “We meet again.”
“Listen, Haniyeh I retorted,” knowing only a tough act could let me bluff my way out. “I know about your scheme. You murdered Farfur because he was going to flee and tell all about your con game.”
He chuckled and shook his head. “Ah, Sami you have always been a sucker for a pretty face or a big bank roll. Do you think you can fight us? We write op-eds in the New York Times and Washington Post about how we want peace!” His henchmen guffawed. “The Europeans are ready to give us lots of money!” One of the gunsels started to shake with mirth. “And even the U.S. State Department is talking about dealing with our brothers in Egypt and elsewhere!” The gunsel actually fell on the floor and rolled around laughing hysterically.
“Do you think you can stop us? Soon we will be even in New York, like our friends on September 11.”
“There are areas of Brooklyn I wouldn’t go into if I were you,” I sneered.
“Don’t worry about us, Sam. Everyone will think that we can be made moderate. And everyone will think that the Israelis murdered Farfur, just like we made them think they killed Muhammad al-Durra.”
“You won’t get away with it. The democracies will resist you and help the liberal Arabs fight you. Don't you know that September 11 changed everything?”
“Oh, yes,” smiled Haniyeh. “You just don’t get it. The last man who said that is now the most unpopular leader in the world. You see, the decadent West thinks that sex sells while we believe that antisemitism sells even better. Take him away, boys,” Haniyeh gestured.
Barry Rubin is director of the GLORIA Center http://gloria.idc.ac.il and editor of
the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal
http://meria.idc.ac.il. His latest book is The Truth About Syria