By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA, Sept 4 (Reuters) - A Hamas-run TV station which used a Mickey Mouse look-alike to urge children to fight Israel has aired another cartoon, this time featuring a lion to hail the Islamists’ victory over secular Fatah rivals in Gaza.
Al-Aqsa Television broadcast a cartoon titled "A Message to the Criminal Gangs in the West Bank", which portrays Fatah strongman Mohammad Dahlan as a cigar-smoking rat who pays other rats in dollars to bomb Hamas institutions and shoot children.
The lion, representing Hamas and bearing a passing resemblance to Walt Disney’s Lion King, rescues children and stops the rats from firing rockets at a mosque. He crushes some of the rats with his paws and sends others scurrying down holes.
Hamas routed the forces of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah in Gaza in June, triggering a schism in the Palestinian Authority. Abbas has since sacked a Hamas-led government and appointed his own administration in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The cartoon was aired repeatedly over two days last week, until complaints from some viewers prompted it to be yanked. Still, Al-Aqsa Television officials defended its content.
The same station in July ended a programme starring a Mickey Mouse clone, Farfur, who urged children to fight Israel in the name of Islam. The show had drawn international censure; Farfur was killed off by an actor posing as an Israeli security agent.
At the time, Al-Aqsa Television said it planned to use other well-known fictional characters to further its Islamist agenda.
Al-Aqsa Television also angered animal rights groups abroad with a programme showing an actor dressed as a bee mistreating a cat and lions at Gaza Zoo. The clip was billed as teaching children not to abuse animals.
A Fatah official in Gaza called the lion cartoon "shameful" and accused Hamas of inciting hatred and violence against Fatah.
Hazem Abu Shanab told Reuters: "They are planting hatred in the spirits and the souls of their new generations."
The cartoon ends with the "rats" retreating with shouts of "to the West Bank", a reference to the hundreds of Fatah activists who fled Gaza after the fighting in June.
There follows a message of warning to the vanquished faction: "If you return, we will do it again."
An Al-Aqsa Television spokesman declined to name the animators behind the cartoon but defended the use of such films as an effective way of teaching children right and wrong.
He added: "Unlike cartoons we see every day on European and American channels, we do not incite children to violence."