Hamas Uses Disney Tactics To Attract Children

05/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Elisabeth Braw wrote this story for and the Huffington Post.

On Al-Fateh.net children can play games, watch cartoons and do homework. They can also read stories about, say, a cute donkey - or a suicide bombing.

Al-Fateh is run by Hamas. These days terrorist groups attract children with charming, sophisticated websites.

"Four or five years ago there was a single segment for kids on one Hamas website", says Gabriel Weimann, a communications professor at Haifa University. "Since terrorist groups learn from each other, many of them now reach out to children over the internet."

Hamas has studied Disney. Hamas' own Mickey Mouse, Farfour, starred in a TV show - also available on the internet - until he was killed by Israelis. (It's seen as an analogy to the roughly 4,000 Palestinian civilians who have been killed since the beginning of the second Intifada.)

"Terrorist groups use the internet as an effective tool to reach different demographic groups, and to spread their influence beyond the Middle East", says Vera Zakem, a terrorism expert in Washington, DC. "Their material is very professional."

A recent online video by Badr al-Tawhid, the media arm of the Islamic Jihad Union shows children being trained at an Islamic school. On the video, children both study the Koran and receive firearms training.

"When I grow up, I will perform a martyrdom operation", one child announces. "We'll see more and more of these websites and videogames", says Weimann. "They're a way of radicalizing children."

Elsewhere, In Iraq, this method is being emulated. Videos of al children being trained as terrorists have been captured in Al Qaeda hideouts. One video, captured in a raid in late last year in Diyalla province and posted to the internet in 2008, shows children in ski masks kidnapping a man on a bicycle, and storming a room with adult hostages, waving guns at their heads.