IN THE MEDIA
A media relationship that must end
Oct 8, 2020 | Judy Maynard
Australian Jewish News – 8 October 2020
According to the dedicated web page for Al Jazeera’s investigative unit it “does not report the news. It makes the news”.
Alas, this is all too often true right across the slick Qatari Government-controlled media organisation, in violation of normal journalistic standards. Yet Australia’s public broadcasters continue to make use of Al Jazeera reporting, despite their own obligations to Australian taxpayers to provide balance and objectivity.
Al Jazeera maintains that it exercises editorial independence, but its outlook reflects the anti-Israel, anti-US and pro-Islamist agenda of the Qatari government which founded, funds and controls it.
Qatar is both an absolute monarchy and a serial human rights violator, with no domestic freedom of speech. Indeed, Amnesty International slammed the emir earlier this year for a new law which mandates imprisonment for anyone publishing material “with the intent to harm national interests, stir up public opinion, or infringe on the social system.”
Qatar – and Al Jazeera – provide a home for extremists. Qatar is a major supporter of the global Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, regarded as the Brotherhood’s key spiritual leader, lives in Qatar as a guest of the emir and for many years hosted a program called “Sharia and Life” on Al Jazeera TV. An avowed antisemite, he once declared that Hitler was divinely ordained to punish the Jews, and has advocated suicide bombings.
The Palestinian terror group Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and Doha is the home of former and current Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh respectively.
It is against this background that Al Jazeera’s largely negative coverage of the historic normalisation agreement between Israel and the UAE announced on August 13 comes as no surprise. An accord that heralds increasing cooperation between Israel and a moderate Sunni state like the UAE is seen by Muslim Brotherhood aligned states and organisations, like Qatar, Turkey and Hamas, as an unwelcome development.
Turkey condemned the accord, and denounced the UAE’s “hypocritical behaviour” in agreeing to normalise relations with Israel, a claim the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash dismissed as itself hypocritical given that Turkey maintains diplomatic and trade relations with Israel.
Qatar also employs double standards. It, too, has maintained ties with Israel, although occasionally disavows doing so. But unlike Turkey the Qatari government keeps a low profile, and uses Al Jazeera to attack those it regards as opponents or to advance Doha’s vision of its place in the world.
Al Jazeera’s straight news reporting of Israel is strongly slanted against the Jewish state, and routinely portrays anti-Israel terrorists sympathetically, often referring to them as “martyrs”.
To help explain normalisation in the wake of the UAE-Israel deal Al Jazeera produced a short video titled “History of Arab-Israeli Ties Explained”, narrated by Al Jazeera English producer Linah Alsaafin. It commences:
What is Israeli normalisation? The term describes pursuing policies or actions that treat Israel and the Israeli people as a normal part of the Middle East without holding them accountable for the past and ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people.
Al Jazeera staff can be relied on to push the Qatari agenda, in the present case to openly disparage the accord and its partners, without fear of censure from a management that has repeatedly tolerated overt anti-Zionist and antisemitic commentary from its professional staff, and willingly disseminates hate speech via opinion pieces that carry the disclaimer that the views expressed are the author’s own. Rarely, if ever, are contrary opinions published.
Marwan Bishara, for example, an Arab Israeli journalist who is Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, has authored a piece that does nothing to conceal his frequently expressed antipathy towards Israel. He refers to Israel as “a regime that occupies and oppresses Palestine”; while the UAE is “the most pro-war [regime] in the region, rivalled only by Israel.” Ludicrously, Iran barely rates a mention.
Twitter yields more senior Al Jazeera staff airing their highly partisan views.
News anchor Jamal Rayyan, who has previously called for the ethnic cleansing of “Zionists”, posted a series of tweets on 13 August including ”Freezing the annexation – lying excuses. Who are you laughing at?” and “Muhammad bin Zayed has sold Palestine for a pittance. The humiliating peace agreement between Israel and the UAE is aimed at rescuing Trump before the end of his term.”
Ghada Oueiss, an Al Jazeera presenter who has previously posted antisemitic conspiracy theories, on September 1 tweeted a photo of the El Al plane - painted with the Arabic, English and Hebrew words for “peace” - that made the historic first flight from Israel to the UAE. She added the caption in English “Peace … of shit.”
Al-Jazeera English does hire some experienced journalists, including from Australia, who do often perform their roles professionally and in accordance with journalistic ethics, providing Al Jazeera with a veneer of respectability.
But this is insufficient to justify Australia’s taxpayer-funded national broadcasters using Al Jazeera-sourced material. SBS broadcasts a daily Al Jazeera news program. The ABC has reduced its once heavy reliance on Al Jazeera content, but acknowledged in response to a question in Senate Estimates in October 2019 that ABC NewsRadio continues using some Al Jazeera news content.
It is well past time for the relationships between Australia’s taxpayer-funded state broadcasters and a propaganda outlet for a repressive, pro-Islamist state to fully come to an end.