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Media Analyses





Al-Jazeera America TV News Aims Against Israel


Al-Jazeera America, the satellite and cable television network owned and operated by Qatar, a natural gas-rich sheikdom, can't seem to present its Arab-Israeli news straight. Perhaps that should come as no surprise. The networks owners, the Qatari ruling family, supported the Muslim Brotherhood-influenced government of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and have backed Hamas, the Palestinian spin-off of the Brotherhood that rules the Gaza Strip and calls for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. Al-Jazeera Arabic, the American channels parent, has been an influential platform for Sunni Muslim extremism, exemplified by one of its most popular celebrities, Sheik Yousef Al-Qaradawi, a leading Sunni supremacist.
 
For latest Al-Jazeera America (AJAM) Watch postings see CAMERA's “Other Features” column and scroll down to AJAM Watch.
 
The network's goal

Al-Jazeera America isn't much interested in profits, according to its Palestinian-American CEO. The Wall Street Journal reported: “Al Jazeera, which is backed by oil and gas-rich Qatar, says profits aren't a priority. Interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi told The Wall Street Journal this summer [2013]: ‘That is the difference that will allow us to maintain our journalistic identity.'”

Translation: Unlike its commercial competitors (including ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and NBC) the network doesn't care that much about viewer ratings. Rather, it's in the game to influence the opinion makers – teachers, broadcasters, editorial writers, Op-Ed writers and so-on.

Al-Jazeera America's broadcasts are able to attract opinion makers due to skillful, extensive and seemingly incisive presentations (on a wide range of domestic and foreign matters) that have the advantage of not being interrupted or foreshortened by frequent and at times lengthy commercials as is often the case with the other commercial news networks.

Al-Jazeera America's coverage of the Arab-Israel conflict repeatedly features superficially interesting but substantively biased segments that assail Israel while omitting mention of Palestinian Arab terrorism or Palestinian Muslim persecution of Palestinian Christians. A long-term effect of such coverage might be to undermine the current strong U.S. public support of Israel over the Palestinian Arabs.

Examples are plentiful

• Super Bowl advertisement: An Al-Jazeera America Jan. 30, 2014 report erroneously implied that an advertisement for an Israeli product, SodaStream, was rejected by Fox Television because the ad promotes an Israeli company allegedly operating illegally in the West Bank where, supposedly, Palestinian Arabs are victimized by Israel. The ad featured actress Scarlett Johansson and was to, and did, run during Fox's February 2 broadcast of the National Football League's Super Bowl. Al-Jazeera America host Adam May said, "SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum says the mixed staff of more than 1200 Israeli and Palestinian employees represent the possibility for peace in the region." But the Al-Jazeera America report included 69 seconds of essentially anti-Israel propaganda (a 19-second West Bank video clip, 23-second Oxfam statement [Johansson resigned as an Oxfam representative in protest of the group's anti-Israel animus], and 27-second Palestinian labor minister polemic), that more than doubled the 28 seconds of air time allotted for a statement by SodaStream CEO Birnbaum.

The actual reason never mentioned by Al-Jazeera America that the ad was (temporarily) rejected was because it was dismissive in a jibe at the end of the commercial of two Fox advertising clients ("Sorry, Coke and Pepsi"). In fact, the Super Bowl ad ran Sunday during a commercial break at 9:35 p.m. (with 9:48 remaining on the game clock in the final quarter) with the offending phrase omitted.

• Remembering Ariel Sharon: The network's Jan. 13, 2014 reporting on recently deceased Ariel Sharon, former prime minister of Israel and military chief, included a problematic interview by host Stephanie Sy of Adel Darwish, British journalist and former Middle East editor of the Daily Telegraph (London). Sy was either unconcerned or unaware that key Darwish points are misleading if not mendacious.

Darwish: “… it was a big mistake he [Sharon] made in Beirut in 1982 when he let the Phalange [Christian Lebanese militia] into the Palestinian camps and that ended his career then because the judiciary commission found him responsible for the death of hundreds ... He did actually give me very good information about water politics and, in fact, he actually confirmed that the Six-Day War in 1967 was about water because the Syrians wanted to divert water away from the Sea of Galilee which would be putting a lot of pressure on Israel. So the launch of the war because of water, that was very helpful...”

First, Darwish misleads about “… the judiciary commission found him [Sharon] responsible for the death of hundreds ..." But Sharon neither ordered nor knew of the Phalangists' attack. The Israeli fact-finding commission found that Sharon bore "indirect responsibility" for the Sept. 16-18, 1982 killings of hundreds of Palestinian Arabs committed not by Israelis but by the Phalange in revenge for previous massacres of Christian Arabs by Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization and for the September 14 assassination of Bashir Gemayel, Lebanon's Christian president-elect. The Phalange was tasked with rooting out terrorists. Sharon, as defense minister, erred in underestimating the depth of hatred by Christian Lebanese for Palestinian Arabs and letting them enter the camps.

Likewise misleading was Darwish's assertion that the 1967 Six-Day War (June 5-10) was “because of water.” Water was one of the factors in increasing tension between Israel and its Arab neighbors, especially Syria, in the months before the Six-Day War. Syria had attempted to divert Jordan River water to obstruct Israel's National Water Carrier. But the Six-Day War was not a war about water. It began after Egypt's closure, in violation of international law, of the Red Sea Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, Egyptian expulsion of U.N. peace-keepers from the Sinai Peninsula and the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Egyptian and Syrian troops and thousands of tanks on Israel's borders.

• Christmas reporting from Bethlehem: Dec. 24-25, 2013 reporting from Bethlehem promoted the propagandistic “Israeli Grinch that stole Christmas” cliché. The segment distorted the impact of Israel's security barrier on Bethlehem and failed to deal with the reasons for the security barrier and “occupation.” One of these reports (December 25) dealt with a Christian Arab resident of Bethlehem, Claire Anastas, and her family. Correspondent Nick Schifrin explains: “They [the family] 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. 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.” At one point, Schifrin asks Claire, “Were you able to buy your children presents?” “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.”

But this tear-jerking human interest story has problems. Schifrin omits far too much. Attractive, fashionably dressed Anastas also runs Claire's Bed & Breakfast in addition to a sophisticated Internet Web site which contains an online souvenir purchase facility and solicits contributions. The Web site is well sprinkled with anti-Israel propaganda and includes an automatic pop-up interactive chat facility. The site contains numerous photos and videos including that of a broadcast of Anastas' appearance on CBS Televisions 60 Minutes “Christians of the Holy Land” program which aired on April 22, 2012. That broadcast downplayed Muslim hostility toward Christians and falsely portrayed Israel as the sole cause of suffering of Arab Christians.

An Associated Press story of Dec. 23, 2008 by Dalia Nammari noted that Anastas is “using the wall [Israeli security barrier] to make money” and “Before getting into the souvenir business, she often hosted foreign solidarity [anti-Israel] groups in her home, which became a draw for political tourists because of its setting.”

Secondly, the report fails to provide viewers with any context about Israel's West Bank security barrier, a fence in most places but a wall around parts of Bethlehem. Israel constructed the Bethlehem portions 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 from the Bethlehem area have dropped dramatically. Hardship faced by the Anastas family as a result of the security barrier is the consequence of Palestinian terrorism.

In another report (December 24) from Bethlehem, correspondent Nisreen El-Shamayleh editorializes, “It [the security barrier] 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.”

This Bethlehem land confiscation accusation is largely a red herring. If a proposed route for the separation barrier causes undue hardship, the decision can be overturned. Recently, residents of the Cremisan Valley in the Bethlehem area got their day in court. On Jan. 29, 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the state of Israel to show justification for the proposed route of the barrier through the valley by April 10, 2014 and to halt all construction until then. The Valley is the home of the Salesian sisters' convent as well as farms. The lawsuit had been filed by the Society of St. Yves, a Catholic human rights organization.

This is not an isolated instance. Residents sometimes win such cases. For example, an Israeli High Court of Justice decision of Sept. 4, 2007 ordered the government to reroute a section of its separation barrier that had split a West Bank village from some of its farmland.

As for Christian Arab emigration from Bethlehem and other areas of the West Bank, even if Israel were to remove all barriers and restrictions, Bethlehem Christians would still be subject to land theft by Muslim gangs in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, as well as Muslim violence and discrimination.

A Daily Telegraph (London) Sept. 9, 2005 report 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.” An example of this persecution is that suffered by the Bethlehem Baptist Church as reported by its pastor Naim Khoury. But not a word from Al-Jazeera America concerning Palestinian Muslim persecution of Christians.

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.

• Difficulty of achieving peace: A Jan. 3, 2014 report, consistent with previous Al-Jazeera America segments, falsely placed virtually the entire onus on Israel for difficulties in achieving an Israel/Arab peace agreement. Correspondent Schifrin emphasized the Palestinian position claiming that Israel unreasonably requires the Palestinian Arabs to recognize Israel as a Jewish state because such recognition would be unjust for Israel's Arab citizens as well as for Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants (whose demand for an unlimited "right of return" could overwhelm Israel demographically causing it to cease to be a Jewish state). Thus, the Palestinian Arabs insist on a state for the Palestinian Arab people but oppose a state for the Jewish people. This morally indefensible position is also exposed by the fact that all 22 Arab states are overwhelmingly Muslim, often citing Islam as a basis for law and they generally do not accord full rights to non-Muslims (often subjected to brutal persecution in fact, regardless of any statutory assertions of equality), while Israel accords full rights in law and practice to Muslim, Christian and other non-Jewish citizens. A large, steady migration of Christian Arabs from the Middle East has been underway for more than a century, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Al-Jazeera America explores none of this.

Furthermore, the refugee issue ("right of return") deserves to be considered in context. The U.N. resolutions pointed to by Palestinian leaders in support of a claimed right of return established no such entitlement. That is one reason all Arab representatives at the United Nations at the time voted against those General Assembly Resolutions 194 (1948); 393 (1950); 394 (1950); and 513 (1952) which recommended, when practicable, return for those who would live in peace with Jewish neighbors in Israel or compensation for lost property and absorption by the Arab states to which they had fled as a result of the war caused by Arab aggression against Israel in violation of the U.N.s 1947 partition plan.

Al-Jazeera America avoids the fundamental problem

The network never mentions the fundamental problem underlying the Arab-Israeli conflict: The difficulty, if not impossibility, of making peace with a Palestinian Arab leadership and society whose dominant culture insists that Jews are not a people, do not deserve a state, and have no historical ties to the land of Israel. Hatred fueled by a steady stream of antisemitic, anti-Israel incitement from Palestinian media, mosques and schools underlies and typifies the conflict.

Meanwhile, Palestinian terrorism proceeds apace. Recent example: Palestinian Arabs, during January-February 2014, perpetrated 20 firebomb attacks (in addition to numerous rock throwing incidents) against Israeli vehicles traveling on Route 443, one of only two roads linking Tel Aviv to Israel's capital city of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority rewards terrorists. In the first week of February 2014 the Palestinian Authority announced, according to Palestinian Media Watch, that “it will be giving an additional $46 million a year to released prisoners, a category which includes hundreds of murderers of [Israeli] civilians. These additional payments to terrorists will also be facilitated both directly and indirectly by Western [including United States] donor money to the PA.”

The Guardian newspaper (London) in November 2013 explained the Palestinian terrorism reward system: “When a Palestinian is convicted of an act of terror against the Israeli government or innocent civilians, such as a bombing or a murder, that convicted terrorist automatically receives a generous salary from the Palestinian Authority. ... even during frequent budget shortfalls and financial crisis, the PA pays the prisoners' salaries [from United States, Britain, other European countries' aid dollars] first and foremost before other fiscal obligations... [Under] the law of the prisoner, the more serious the act of terrorism, the longer the prison sentence, and consequently, the higher the salary.”

The pervasive cradle-to-grave brainwashing is reflected in opinion polling through the years. For example, reports in USA Today of Sept. 29, 2004 and Jerusalem Post (online) of July 15, 2011 of joint Israeli/Arab polls showed that a majority of Palestinian adults in the West Bank and Gaza support suicide bombings against Jews in Israel and agree with a quote from the Hamas charter (and the Hadith, or tradition ascribed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad) about the need to “kill Jews hiding behind stones and trees.”

On the other hand, there is nothing in Jewish society even remotely similar to the Palestinian Arab chronic mind-warping indoctrination of its people aimed at the destruction of Israel and the Jews.


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