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Media Analyses





Al-Jazeera America (AJAM) Watch for November – December 2013


Dec. 24/25, 2013 Al-Jazeera America's (AJAM) Christmas reporting from Bethlehem vilifies Israel.

Al-Jazeera America continues its one-sided reporting against Israel. Among several Christmas season reports aired from Bethlehem during December 24 and 25, four are documented below as representative of AJAM's distortions and inaccuracies. Only the Israelis are presented as responsible for perceived hardships suffered by Arab Christians resulting from the Arab-Israel conflict. Not a negative word about the primary culpability of the Palestinian Arab Muslim majority society is included. These reports distort the impact of Israel's security barrier on Bethlehem and fail to deal with the actual reasons for the barrier and “occupation” (see Notes below).

Dec. 25, 2013 – 4:08 PM Eastern

Host: Richelle Carey, formerly of CNN HLN.

Correspondent: Nick Schifrin, formerly an ABC News correspondent based in London, Al-Jazeera America's first foreign correspondent, is based in Jerusalem.

Carey: “In Bethlehem today, many are filled with joy as people come together to celebrate Christmas. But some are dealing with the daily painful realities of living in a land of conflict and separation. Nick Schifrin joins us live from Bethlehem to give us an idea ... Tell us people's personal stories and what they're dealing with on a day-to-day basis. Tell us more.”

Schifrin: “Absolutely, Richelle, good afternoon from the little town where tradition has it Jesus was born. There are about 200,000 Christians in the Holy Land but this year here in Bethlehem for many of them, Christmas isn't all that merry.”
 
Note: Schifrin does not define "Holy Land." There are approximately 160,000 Christians in Israel, roughly 35,000 in the West Bank and fewer than 2,000 remaining in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Christians, Arab and non-Arab, enjoy full civil rights, including freedom of religion. It may be that for Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and Gaza, "Christmas isn't all that merry," but the Al-Jazeera America correspondent fails to distinguish, potentially misleading viewers.
 
Schifrin continues:  “This Christian Palestinian family doesn't need reminding that they live in occupied Bethlehem. All they have to do is look out the window. The Israeli wall that separates the West Bank surrounds their home on three sides. And every time the mother, Claire Anastas, walks out her front door – this is her view. The wall is 30-feet tall. On this Christmas morning, her son did some last-minute decorating. They try and have a normal Christmas but their thoughts are always on that wall. This wall is ten years old. Israel built it after the second Palestinian uprising when in Claire's neighborhood, Palestinian militants fought Israeli soldiers. Israel says since it built the wall it's been safer. But for Claire, the last decade has brought incredible hardship.”
 
Note: Israel built the West Bank security barrier, a fence in most places but a wall around parts of Bethlehem, after terrorists from the area simply walked into adjacent Jerusalem neighborhoods to stage bomb attacks during the second intifada, 2000 - 2005. Israeli soldiers fought not with "militants" but with Palestinian terrorists who sniped at civilians in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, next to the Bethlehem "suburb" of Beit Jala, which terrorists had infiltrated. Israel doesn't just say "it's been safer" as a result of the barrier; successful terrorist attacks staged across it have dropped dramatically. Any hardship faced by the Anastas family as a result is the consequence of Palestinian terrorism. At best, the Al-Jazeera America correspondent muddies basic information.

Anastas: “We Christians come to the wall... we have no real peace.”

Schifrin: “In her ground floor shop, tourists ask about her life. She sells souvenirs with removable walls. But since the real wall's construction, the family's economic fortune plummeted, and this year Christmas arrived with a huge disappointment.”

Schifrin: “Were you able to buy your children presents?”

Anastas: “No, no, I couldn't. I couldn't buy them. There's just not enough money for the gifts this morning, I apologized to them.”

Schifrin: “Like so many here, Claire celebrates living just two miles from the spot where tradition says Jesus was born. She attends Christmas parades and Christmas morning mass. The local archbishop prays for peace. Back at home that's the same message that 16-year-old Daniel sends to all those 16-year-old American kids who are lucky enough today to open presents.”

Daniel Anastas: “I pray for peace because there is no peace any more, I guess, here.”

Schifrin: “And on this day Claire prays for the wall to come down. She prays for peace even if it feels a long way off. Despite everything she's been through, despite everything she's seen, Claire told me today that she's still hopeful for the future because her faith is still strong.”

Host: “A strong report there, as well from Nick Schifrin in Bethlehem. Thank you, Nick.”
 
Note: Hardly a report at all, let alone strong, but a single-sourced, one-dimensional clip of "The Israeli Grinch that Stole Christmas" variety. Christmas-season segments like this have become less common in Western news media since being overtaken by "Arab Spring" upheavals that have exposed the oppression and emigration of Arab Christians from many Arab states.

Dec. 25, 2013 – 11:01 AM Eastern

Host: Richelle Carey (formerly of CNN's HLN).

Correspondent: Nick Schifrin, formerly an ABC News correspondent based in London, Al-Jazeera America's first foreign correspondent, is based in Jerusalem.

Carey: “As Christians gathered in the Vatican for the pope's message, Christians from around the world have traveled to Bethlehem to celebrate in the place where many believe Jesus was born. Nick Schifrin joins us live from Bethlehem. It's a pretty remarkable place to be of course on Christmas. What's it like there Nick?”

Schifrin: “Richelle it is really relaxed out here. You can see behind me the tree right there, and that's the Church of the Nativity where it is believed, as you said, that Jesus was born in the early hours of December 25th and we visit midnight mass. We've been to mass. There is a real celebratory atmosphere here. There a lot of tourists here – a lot of pilgrims, a lot of politicians a lot of Palestinians, Christians as well. They've all come here to celebrate this day, and the turnout has been higher than normal. It's been the highest in a couple of years. And that has actually boosted hopes here for peace. There are a lot of people here praying for peace right now. The Israelis and Palestinians are currently negotiating. While there's a lot of cynicism, a lot of skepticism whether the talks will actually produce anything, right here in this town where Jesus was believed to have been born, a lot of people are hoping that peace can come so more tourists can come in and make Bethlehem really the center of a future Palestinian state..”

Carey: “Nick, let's talk some more about that that. You say the turnout has been great. Are there any concerns over safety in the West Bank?”

Schifrin: “Right now, absolutely not. There has been some incident in Gaza over the last 24 hours between Israel and what Israel calls 'militants' [Sic.] in Gaza. But here it's very quiet and a lot of people are focused on the church right behind me – the Church of the Nativity – and the renovations. For the first time in 600 years this church is getting a facelift basically. For the past couple of weeks there have been a lot of storms here – and just to give you an idea of how bad things have been, water actually pours down the walls into this church, so what they have finally done after years of negotiation and diplomacy, they have secured some money via the U.N. – via UNSECO – to say let's renovate this church. They are going to upgrade the roof – which is this beautiful wooden roof. They're going to upgrade the stuccos and the mosaics on the walls, and in about four or five years it will be completely revamped, and again – another hope that more tourists can come here and really make Bethlehem a center for tourism and a center for a future Palestine.”

Carey: “These renovations are so long over due, so it's good to know they are supposed to last about 500 years. Nick Schifrin reporting live from Bethlehem. Nick, thank you so much.”
 
Note: Schifrin's December 25 reports refer to combat between “militants” and Israeli soldiers including, “There has been some incident in Gaza over the last 24 hours between Israel, and what Israel calls ‘militants' in Gaza.” This refers to the planting at the boundary of explosives. Schifrin may be misinformed if not disingenuous when he claims that Israeli spokesmen refer to explosives planters as “militants” rather than “terrorists.” Whether in English or Hebrew (which also has two distinctly different words for “militant” and “terrorist”), terrorists are those who threaten or commit violence against non-combatants to further a cause, which is a crime under international law. The word "militant" in English is imprecise. In America it often has referred to aggressive but non-violent activists in many fields, including labor, environment, women's rights and so on. Al-Jazeera America here uses it as the common journalistic euphemism for terrorist.

Dec. 25, 2013 – 7:02 AM Eastern

Host: David Shuster (formerly of MSNBC and Fox News Channel).

Correspondent: Nick Schifrin, formerly an ABC News correspondent based in London, Al-Jazeera America's first foreign correspondent, is based in Jerusalem.

Shuster: “Christians around the world have traveled to Bethlehem this year to celebrate Christmas as the place where Jesus was born. Nick Schifrin was on hand for midnight mass in Bethlehem. Nick, what is the mood like there, how was it last night?”

Schifrin: “I think last night, this morning, the mood is actually quite positive. As you said, thousands of pilgrims have come here from all over the world. It's actually the largest turnout in a few years and that's giving a lot of people a little hope here, a little hope for peace in the future. Israelis and Palestinians are now in peace negotiations and the people of Bethlehem really hope that the negotiations will bear fruit. They are skeptical that it will happen but the signs are positive here. What they say is that people are beginning to feel more comfortable coming to Bethlehem. Years ago, there was a 39-day siege outside this church. After that, tourism dropped. In the last couple years, it's begun to increase, hotels and restaurants are re-opening. A lot of people here are saying this is a positive development for the future. Of course the message here today as it always is peace. Peace today, peace for the future, peace for the Holy Land – David.”

Shuster: “Nick, You mentioned that tourism ... and the difference in tourism compared to a few years ago. Is it as easy getting to Bethlehem as getting on a bus or car and going there? Are there security checkpoints that's making it actually difficult to get to the church?”

Schifrin: “I was with a Palestinian Christian family whose house is surrounded on three sides by the Israeli wall. Israel says that wall keeps it [Israel] safe. But a lot of Palestinians here believe that the wall encroaches on their land and as this woman puts it, it feels like she's in prison. There is a huge number of check points, huge number of problems for anyone trying to get in here, unless you're Western, unless you're American. We can easily come through these check points. But If you're a Palestinian, for example, living in Gaza, you need to apply to the Israeli government to be able to come here and even in the West Bank itself, there are about two or three percent of the people here who are Christian.

A lot of them, obviously, want to come to Bethlehem to celebrate this day. Some have to go through a dozen check points to get here. But they, too, feel like they are pilgrims just like all the Americans and Europeans that come here. They too come here and pray for peace. At midnight mass, last night, we heard that message ring loud and clear from the archbishop of Jerusalem. He said for all people in this area, for Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians and Jordanians, we pray for peace and for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict hopefully next year.”

Shuster: “Nick Schifrin in Bethlehem. Nick, we thank you for that report.”
 
Note: Correspondent Schifrin refers to a “a 39-day siege outside this church” [Church of the Nativity] years ago by Israel leading to a subsequent drop in  tourism but doesn't elaborate on the circumstances possibly out of fear of repercussions. Palestinian Arab terrorists had hold up in the church after fleeing Israeli soldiers. The terrorists barricaded themselves in the church and proceeded to trash it. Ynetnews reports:

A Fatah official who served as chief of a terrorist organization that holed up for over a month inside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity in 2002 while fleeing a massive Israeli anti-terror operation admitted in a recently released book the infamous church siege was orchestrated by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. . . .

"The conspiracy was to make a siege and put all the fighters inside the church so Israel would make the siege. People from the Palestinian Authority collaborated with this conspiracy,” said Eiman Abu Eita, Fatah's representative in the Bethlehem satellite town of Beit Sahour who at the time of the siege was Beit Sahour's al-Aqsa Brigades chief.

Al-Jazeera's correspondents refer to the costly renovations the church is undergoing, most of it paid for by UNESCO, but neglect to elaborate on the 2002 event or prior recent trashing of the church. Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren writes: “The church in Bethlehem had survived more than 1,000 years, through wars and conquests, but its future now seemed in jeopardy. Spray-painted all over its ancient stone walls were the Arabic letters for Hamas. The year was 1994 and the city was about to pass from Israeli to Palestinian control. I was meeting with the church's clergy as an Israeli government adviser on inter-religious affairs. They were despondent but too frightened to file a complaint. The same Hamas thugs who had desecrated their sanctuary were liable to take their lives.”
 
Likewise, the gloom game about Palestinian tourism related to the "Israeli Grinch Who Stole Christmas" cliché impedes the airing of more factual Palestinian tourism news such as that documented in the CAMERA report, “The LA Times and the Grinch Who Stole Bethlehem Tourism,” Dec. 29, 2011, and in the CiF Watch report, “Harriet Sherwood advances myth that Bethlehem is being ‘economically strangled' by Israel,” Jun 30 2012.
 
Dec. 24, 2013 – 10:32 AM Eastern
 
Host: Darren Jordan, former BBC newsreader.

Correspondent: Nick Spicer, a Canadian national formerly of CBC and NPR, is Al-Jazeera's Berlin Correspondent.

Correspondent: Nisreen El-Shamayleh is Al-Jazeera's Jordan-based correspondent. Her hometown is Amman, Jordan. She holds a bachelor's degree in Communication Arts and Sciences from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

Host: “As Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, people who live in his birthplace are struggling. Business owners in Bethlehem say that. Israeli security measures discourage tourism. But as Nick Spicer explains, those who do visit may be in for a $50 million surprise.”

Spicer: “Christian school children in Bethlehem kiss the very spot where many believe Jesus was born. The Church of the Nativity draws tourists and faithful from around the world. But it hasn't been repaired in 500 years. But UNESCO, European countries and the Palestinian Authority put together part of the $50 million needed to give new life to a building whose oldest stones date back to the 4th century.”

Palestinian official Ziad Al-Bandak (translated): “We hope that the restoration of the church will help bring more tourists to the city and that it helps the people here to stay put and to be able to end the occupation of our homeland.”

Spicer: “Many Christians believe Mary and Joseph, Jesus' parents, walked down this street in Bethlehem, known as Star Street, on the way to the manger where the Bible says Jesus was born. It's an ancient pilgrimage route and just as ancient is the sale of souvenirs along the street. But for many merchants in this town business hasn't been good recently. Some two million tourists come here every year, but they rarely stay for long. They go back to Jerusalem.

Tourist: “We get a hotel there [Jerusalem], and just travel one day and go back.”
 
Spicer: “Bethlehem lies within sight of Jerusalem but behind the Israeli separation wall. It can take as long as a couple of hours to get through the checkpoints. It [Bethlehem, like other Arab population centers on the West Bank,] is mostly under Palestinian administrative rule, but on land occupied by Israel. Unemployment here is the highest in the West Bank at around a quarter of the working population.”

Boy (translated): “It will be best if the tourists stayed overnight and spent more, but they don't stay.”

Spicer: “There is hope that the repairs and the UNESCO decision to make this church a World Heritage site in 2012 will bring back higher tourist levels, but even then the celebrations and the businesses in the celebrations are somewhat like a Christmas tree surrounded by a cement wall. Nick Spicer, Al-Jazeera, Bethlehem ”

Host: “Well, let's go to Nisreen El-Shamayleh. She's live in Bethlehem now. Nisreen, what do you expect to happen in Bethlehem today?”

El-Shamayleh: “Well, Darren – there have been prayers inside the Church of the Nativity behind me throughout the day. However, the highlight of the religious ceremonies will be the midnight mass which is due to happen at 22 G [GMT, Greenwich Mean Time] in a few hours. That will be attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, other Palestinian officials, foreign dignitaries, representatives from the international community and diplomats here in the Palestinian territories. They are all invited to attend the church midnight mass. However, there are thousands of foreigners who have come to celebrate Christmas here in Bethlehem who will be gathering in the coming hours trying to get one of the very few spots that they can to attend the midnight mass. As I mentioned, most of these seats are given to officials, diplomats and foreign dignitaries. So the main highlight, as I mentioned, will be the midnight mass at 22 G [GMT] which will be conducted by the of Patriarch of Jerusalem [indistinct].”

Host: “Nisreen, why is Bethlehem so important for Christians? And what are the challenges its residents face? “

El-Shamayleh: “Bethlehem is important for Christians all around the world because the Church of the Nativity behind me is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. So it is understandable that Christians from everywhere would want to be here to celebrate Christmas at this time. However, Bethlehem is also a Palestinian city that is under a very heavy occupation. What is left of Bethlehem is only 13 percent of the original area before the Israeli occupation. Israel has confiscated Palestinian land in Bethlehem to build the separation barrier, which is an 8-meter high wall that separates the West Bank from Israel.

It is an attempt to confiscate land in Bethlehem and from the churches in Bethlehem. So, that has made living here very difficult. The remaining area that's left to Bethlehem is also being reduced by Israeli check points. So, that has made life really difficult for Christians who live here, and many of them over the years have chosen to immigrate to Western countries in search of a better life.”

Host: “Alright. Nisreen El-Shamayleh in Bethlehem. Nisreen, thank you.”
 
NOTE: The reports falsely attribute Christian Arab emigration from Bethlehem and other areas of the West Bank to Israel's policies but this is a long existing problem. After the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat took control of the area under the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo process of the 1990s, Bethlehem's municipal boundaries were expanded to including more Muslims, reducing the proportion of the town's Christian population. Intimidation, including extortion and confiscation, induced some to emigrate. A Sept. 9, 2005 report in the Daily Telegraph (London) by Harry de Quetteville summarized documented cases of this persecution:

Christians in the Holy Land have handed a dossier detailing incidents of violence and intimidation by Muslim extremists to Church leaders in Jerusalem, one of whom said it was time for Christians to "raise our voices" against the sectarian violence.

The dossier includes 93 alleged incidents of abuse by an "Islamic fundamentalist mafia" against Palestinian Christians, who accused the Palestinian Authority of doing nothing to stop the attacks.

The dossier also includes a list of 140 cases of apparent land theft, in which Christians in the West Bank were allegedly forced off their land by gangs backed by corrupt judicial officials. . . .

The alleged attacks on Christians have come despite repeated appeals to the Palestinian Authority to rein in Muslim gangs.

A spokesman for the Apostolic Delegate, the Pope's envoy to Jerusalem, said nothing had been done to tackle the problem. "The Apostolic Delegate presented a list of all the problems to Mr [Yasser] Arafat before he died," he said. "He promised a lot but he did very little."

In the offices of his tiny Christian television station in Bethlehem, Samir Qumsieh said this week that Christian appeals to Mr Arafat's successor as Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, had also gone unheeded.

"At least Arafat responded," he said, "Abbas does not answer our letters."

Israel did not seize "Palestinian land" on which to build the security barrier but disputed territory in the West Bank, whose final disposition is subject to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The wall near Bethlehem was necessitated by Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians. Al-Jazeera America's hosts and reporters omit, obscure or invert many of these basic facts.

The narrative presented here of land confiscations – much of it cannot be substantiated – is distorted and exaggerated in order to vilify Israel. These reports, especially by correspondent El-Shamayleh, usually fail to point out that the Palestinians are governed by their own Palestinian Authority leaders – and often describe the unjustness and burden of “occupation” supposedly suffered by Palestinian Arabs and particularly Bethlehem Christians but no context is provided by Al-Jazeera.

Israel remains the legal, obligatory military occupational authority in the West Bank as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War, pending the outcome of negotiations according to U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords of the 1990s. If "occupation" was such a problem, Al-Jazeera America might want to balance its current anti-Israel tilt with reports on why PA leaders rejected an end to it in exchange for a West Bank and Gaza Strip state and peace with Israel in 2000, 2001 and 2008.

Dec. 3, 2013 – 6:34 AM Eastern (during 6:00-9:00 AM morning block of national and international news).

Host: Thomas Drayton (formerly of Fox affiliate station in Philadelphia).

Report: Human rights abuses in the Middle East.

[This Al-Jazeera America report displays anti-Israel bias in three ways. First, it pairs U.N. criticism of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime for massive human rights violations in Syria's civil war with Israel's sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, which even the United Nations has recognized as legal under international law. Second, it inverts the significance of the two subjects – the Syrian government's brutal suppression of its own people and Israel's attempt to prevent contraband from entering the Gaza Strip -- giving 46 seconds of air time to the former but 5.5 minutes to the latter. Third, the Gaza coverage is one-sided, with no Israeli sources, and omits well-reported events that support Israel's imposition of a partial blockade and contradict the anti-Israel tone of Al-Jazeera's coverage.]

Drayton: "The U.N. says there is overwhelming evidence that Syria's president is guilty of war crimes and the human rights chief said an inquiry found that Bashar Assad and other senior officials authorized these actions."

[Scene: Navi Pillay, U.N Commissioner for Human Rights, at podium in a U.N. meeting.]

Pillay: "The facts point to the commission of very serious crimes and war crimes and crimes against humanity and point to the fact that the evidence indicates responsibility at the highest levels of government including the head of state."

Drayton: "Investigators say the systematic nature of human rights abuses in Syria point to government policy. This is the first time the U.N. has directly implicated the Syrian president. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict. The U.N. says Afghanistan is the world's most dangerous place for relief workers. It said attacks on aid workers tripled this year. there and 36 workers have been killed and 46 injured and the U.N. officials are not leveling blame for attacks but the Taliban has taken responsibility for many of them."
 
[Report of Dec. 2 event involving demonstrators (mainly Palestinian Arabs) who sailed from the shores of the Gaza Strip to protest Israel's restrictions on fishing in the seas off Gaza Strip ruled by Hamas terrorist organization. The correspondent is Nick Schifrin stationed in Jerusalem (formerly of ABC News' London bureau):]

Drayton: "Several dozen activists, including one American, boarded fishing boats Monday in the Gaza Strip protesting Israel's restrictions on waterways in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel has long imposed a land and sea blockade on the territory citing security reasons. The Israeli government says imports are monitored to prevent dangerous materials from entering the occupied territory. But Gaza fishermen say that the six-mile restriction hurt the economy. Al- Jazeera's Nick Schifrin has more from Jerusalem."

[Scene: Small boat at sea containing 15 to 25 protestors. A few ships are seen at a distance.]

Schifrin: "For six years Israel has controlled these seas. Today, activists wanted to take them back (cries of protestors are heard). Palestinians living in Gaza can't sail more than six miles from their coast. Israeli war ships block almost everything coming in and going out. Gazans say that strangles their economy."

Man (identified below as Majed Abusalema): "It is the tale of our lives. This is a tale of injustice."

Schifrin: ‘And so fishermen and activists challenged the blockade by heading straight for the Israeli ships. They're aware of the risk. Israel has arrested and even attacked fishermen for sailing more than six miles out."

Majed Abusalama (identified as "protest organizer"): "The Israelis are armed but we are just armed with international law. We cannot stand them saying ‘this is our sea, this is our land, this is our sky, you shouldn't be here.'"

[Abusalama describes himself in his Twitter page as an "awards winning journalist, Middle East consultant, human rights defender, peace builder."]

Schifrin: "These activists know that by challenging the blockade, Israel may stop them and even attack them. With two-thirds of the people in Gaza living on less than two dollars a day, these people feel like they have nothing to lose."

[Scenes: rockets firing, flooded/trashed streets, building construction project]

Schifrin: "For Israel, the blockade is about security. Militants have fired rockets from Gaza into Israel so Israel says that to prevent that, it must block imports like cement that have been used in attacks. For Palestinians this is about their livelihood in an area where raw sewage sometimes runs through the streets. Power cuts are now more than 12 hours a day. Gazans say the blockade increases their suffering. Unemployment in Gaza is now over 40 percent and there is a saying here that in each bag of cement there are more than 45 jobs. But the blockade has meant the construction projects, just like this one, they've ground to a halt and that made economic conditions here more miserable."

[If they have fired rockets from the Strip into Israel at civilian targets, which they have often, then they are not "militants" but terrorists; here Al-Jazeera America white-washes Palestinian aggression. Al-Jazeera doesn't say how cement could be used in attacks, potentially confusing viewers or implicitly casting doubt on the Israeli claim. Cement has been used for bunkers by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza and for construction of smuggling tunnels, like the one recently displayed for journalists who visited the concrete-lined tunnel  dug from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip into Israel. Raw sewage in Gaza primarily is the fault and responsibility of the Strip's Hamas rulers, a result of neglect, maladministration and, indirectly, Hamas' focus on attacking Israel. Blame for electric power cuts, again, rests primarily with Hamas, not, as this report might be taken to imply, with Israel. 
 
Hamas maintains a state of belligerency with Israel necessitating both the sea and partial land blockade. However, Israel permits hundreds of truck-loads of food, medicine and other basic goods to enter the Strip weekly. Hamas limits fuel available to Gaza's power plant and repeatedly fails to pay for electricity imported from the Jewish state. The Strip's rulers endanger and impoverish Gazans, who then blame Israel. Meanwhile, some civilian construction in Gaza has been permitted by Israel.]

[Scene: Man and small children seated on floor of house]

Schifrin: "Mohammad Allahwani and his seven children are owed a new house. His house was bulldozed by the Israelis in 2004. But because of the blockade he is a nomad still without a permanent home."

Allahwani (translated by Schifrin): "Because of this my children are failing out of school."

[Does Al-Jazeera have confirmation evidence that Allahwani's house was bulldozed by Israel, or is it relaying a one-sided charge? Did it ask Israeli authorities? If the home was destroyed, did it conceal the Gaza end of a smuggling tunnel, or was otherwise used by terrorists, a not-uncommon circumstance especially for buildings near the Gaza-Egypt border? In nine years, why hasn't Hamas, UNRWA or other agencies operating in Gaza assisted Mr. Allahwani in rebuilding, especially since the Palestinian territories reportedly receive more foreign aid per capita than any other region in the world? Again, the segment apparently did not ask and does not tell.]

[Scene: American man, identified on screen only as "Joe Carton, English teacher," on wharf at a docked ship.]

Man: "I honestly thought I would stay for a week – then a few weeks and three years later here I am."

Schrifin: "American Joe Carton has seen Gazans struggle up close. He doesn't blame them for being angry."

Carton: "Under these circumstances there is not much anyone can reasonably be expected to do other than resist."

Schifrin: "And if conditions continue to get worse, the anger could erupt."

[Who is Joe Carton? Al-Jazeera identifies him only as an "English teacher" (screen caption) who has resided in Gaza for three years. Is Carton affiliated with a political or other organization active in Gaza Strip? Is Carton salaried or otherwise subsidized? If not, how has he subsisted for three years? This information would be of value to viewers in assessing his credibility, but Jazeera doesn't provide it.]

[Scene: Street, vehicular traffic. Adnan Abu Hasna is with the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine.]

Hasna: "... rage accumulating inside Gaza and it's a very dangerous element and we are afraid that we are at the age of a new round of violence."

Schifrin: "In the end, the fishermen decided not to risk the war ships. They stopped about a half mile short. But they promise to keep challenging the blockade because they say they can't go on living like this. Nick Schifrin, Al-Jazeera, Gaza."

Drayton: "We should note that Israel first set up blockades on Gaza after the group Hamas took control of the area in 2007. Some restrictions were lifted in 2010 after an Israeli raid on a ship off Gaza left nine dead."

NOTE: Though both the host and correspondent briefly paraphrase Israeli views, the segment  fails to present a knowledgeable Israeli source directly. An UNRWA official asserts "rage accumulating inside Gaza" but the report does not say against who, Hamas officials or Israel. Some news reports have indicated Gazans are tiring of Hamas' imposition of Islamic rules and inefficient administration. The reference to the cause of the blockade, Palestinian terrorism from the Strip including the firing of thousands of mortar and rocket shell, is brief and indirect. The report says merely that "rockets were fired into Israel" but never quantifies the number (thousands) or mentions that targeting non-combatants is a crime under international law. There is no mention of schools within Israel that have been hit by rockets or of the terror experienced by Israeli children who have spent many schooldays underground in shelters. Nor is there discussion of Israelis wounded or killed by the rocket fire.

Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Iranian-supported terrorist groups have increased their attacks after Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Strip in 2005, at times forcing more than 1 million Israelis to seek cover, sometimes for extended periods, in bomb shelters. The report does not say so. It doesn't mention that thousands more new rockets and Iranian-trained operatives reportedly have infiltrated Gaza following Israel's November, 2012 strikes against terrorists in the Strip. It is silent on the fact Egypt's new military-backed government has tightened its own border with Gaza recently due to ties between Gaza and Sinai-based anti-Egyptian Islamic extremists.

Host's closing remarks provided no context concerning the "Israeli raid on a ship off Gaza [that] left nine dead." The reference is to Israel's raid in 2010 on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, lead vessel in the Gaza-bound six-ship flotilla. Flotilla organizer and anti-Israel activist Greta Berlin admitted that the purpose of the flotilla was to break Israel's blockade in order to allow uninspected shipments and people into and out of Gaza – not to deliver aid, as often claimed. The Mavi Marmara itself carried no aid; nine on board were killed after, using knives and steel bars, they attacked Israeli commandos attempting to board.

• Nov. 13, 2013 – 1:16 PM Eastern

[This Al-Jazeera America news report was aired several times.]

News-reader: "The Israeli prime minister has ordered the suspension of a massive settlement project for the building of 24,000 Jewish homes in the occupied West Bank  including in the area known as E-1 next to occupied east Jerusalem. Mike Hanna [formerly of CNN] reports [from Jerusalem][emphases added]."

Hanna: "It was the mention of E-1 that galvanized Palestinian reaction. Crossing here would cross a fundamental red line. It would complete illegal settlements around Jerusalem that could sever completely Palestinian access … The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, insists he had no knowledge of the plan and berated his housing prime minister for lack of consultation and in his view bad timing ... the recently reappointed foreign minister [Avigdor Lieberman] who himself lives in an illegal settlement [emphases added] …"

NOTE: The three-minute Al-Jazeera America report included the prejudicial and anti-Israel phrases, "illegal settlements," "occupied West Bank" and "occupied east Jerusalem." As CAMERA has pointed out previously, Israeli building in the roughly four square mile area of E-1, between the suburb of Ma'ale Adumim and downtown Jerusalem, would neither block West Bank residents' access to Jerusalem or render the West Bank "discontiguous." Hanna's talk of "crossing a red line" amounts to parroting Palestinian hype.

As to settlements' legality, the basic international law in this matter, the League of Nations' Palestine Mandate, Article 6, calls for "close Jewish settlement on the land" west of the Jordan River. The U.N. Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80, upholds the Mandate's provisions. So too do other relevant instruments, including the San Remo Treaty, 1920 and the Anglo-American Convention, 1924. Repeated claims to the contrary may stem from political, diplomatic or propagandistic purposes, but they do not rewrite international law on the subject. President Ronald Reagan noted, "as to the West Bank, I believe the settlements there – I disagreed when the previous administration [Carter's] referred to them as illegal, they're not illegal" (The New York Times, Feb. 3, 1981.) The Obama administration deems continued settlement activity "illegitimate," but as noted above, this formulation appears to be political or diplomatic; it does not accord with the relevant international sources.

As to "occupied West Bank" and "occupied east Jerusalem," Al-Jazeera America seems to imply, rather than state as it did with settlements, illegality. In fact, in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, Israel is the legal military occupational authority, pending a negotiated settlement. That's because it gained the territories in a war of self-defense (1967) from Jordan, which in fact was an illegal occupier since seizing the territories by aggression, in violation of the 1947 U.N. partition plan, during Israel's 1948 War of Independence.

U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1972), the foundation of all subsequent successful Arab-Israeli negotiations, do not require complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories gained in 1967, including the West Bank (Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people's ancient homeland) and eastern Jerusalem (site of the Old City and Temple Mount, location of the biblical First and Second Jewish temples.). Rather, the status of the territory, to which Jews as well as Arabs have legitimate claims, is to be resolved in negotiations as called for by the resolutions and subsequent international initiatives such as the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo process of the 1990s and the 2003 international "road map." Meanwhile, Jewish neighborhoods, villages and towns in these disputed territories are no more illegal than permitted Arab construction. This includes Foreign Minister Lieberman's home town of Nodkim (in Judea) in the Bethlehem area (a short distance from Jerusalem). In short, the news-reader and Hanna's report amounted more to editorializing than news coverage.

• Nov. 11, 2013 – 7:11 AM Eastern

One-minute news brief.

Al-Jazeera America reporter Patty Courtney: "Secretary of State John Kerry is warning new sanctions [on Iran] could end the discussions, publicly lobbying Congress to trust the administration and give them more time."

Kerry: "We're not going into a full deal and giving away something. We're talking about stopping their program where it is with enough guarantees to know that it is in fact stopped where it is while we then negotiate the full measure of the deal."

Courtney: "That may not be enough for the U.S. Congress. We could find out this week if they'll listen to their president or the Israeli lobby. How they decide could determine if the talks get another chance to succeed. Patty Courtney, Al-Jazeera, Washington."

NOTE: Al-Jazeera America, like various other news media, at best misunderstands why, on many Middle East issues, congressional majorities are in agreement with Israel government positions. Congress, rather than reflecting alleged undue influence by "the Israel lobby," acts on what it sees as in America's self-interest and what promotes U.S. strategic goals and security. Israel's concerns, those of a long-standing ally and the only Western-style democracy in the Middle East, are taken seriously on the Hill – as are those of other regional players including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the former hardly a democracy, the latter in recent years an inconsistent ally. It should be noted that Al-Jazeera America routinely uses the terms "pro-Israel lobby" or "Israeli lobby", but other use by the channel is essentially limited to occasional use of "business lobby" or "banking lobby." Courtney's invocation of the equation "their president or the Israel lobby" echoes that of some media's simplistic, invidious "Reagan or Begin?" coverage of congressional opposition to the 1981 U.S. sale of AWACS surveillance and control aircraft to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Jazeera America's bona fides as a news source will be strengthened by an in-depth look at a heavy-weight lobby, that of the petro-dollar funded pro-Arab lobby, whose influence on behalf of the Persian Gulf oil states, including Al-Jazeera America's funder and owner, the ruling family of Qatar, is felt not only on Capitol Hill, the State Department and Pentagon, through multi-billion dollar weapons purchases, but also in academia, with large-scale grants to prominent universities, and in society in general through subsidies and material support to mosques, religious schools and advocacy groups.


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