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Al Jazeera thanked by Hamas for “exemplary coverage,” as reporter’s story of Jerusalem arrest appears to be debunked

Jun 11, 2021 | AIJAC staff, Judy Maynard

An award ceremony in Gaza in which Al Jazeera’s representative in Gaza, Wai’l Dahudah is given a “certificate of appreciation” by Khalil al-Haya, deputy Hamas chief in Gaza (Photo: Twitter)
An award ceremony in Gaza in which Al Jazeera’s representative in Gaza, Wai’l Dahudah is given a “certificate of appreciation” by Khalil al-Haya, deputy Hamas chief in Gaza (Photo: Twitter)

The Al Jazeera TV network just received a certificate of appreciation for its “exemplary coverage” of the recent Israel-Hamas conflict, according to Israeli media reports (in Hebrew). The award was presented to the network’s representative in Gaza, Wai’l Dahudah by Khalil al-Haya, the deputy to the Hamas chief in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.

This is not the first time Hamas’ Gaza leaders have praised the network for serving their cause since the conflict. On May 26 Sinwar himself gave a “victory speech” that was aired live on Al Jazeera, in which he directly hailed it for supporting Hamas. He said:

“Allow me to extend a special salutation to Al Jazeera. From the command centre where I was leading our activity, I had the chance to watch Al Jazeera TV specifically. Maybe this is what left in me a special [impression]. Al Jazeera has been the best pulpit to give accurate voice to our position and [to show] the occupation’s crimes… All hail to you, heroic fedayeen [of Al Jazeera] (fedayeen means ‘self-sacrificing warriors’).”

Earlier, on May 21 Al Jazeera posted footage on its Facebook page of its correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh being greeted with cheering and applause by crowds in Gaza following Hamas’ “victory”.

This blog will demonstrate below that Hamas has very good reason to be grateful to the Qatari network, which acted essentially as a Hamas mouthpiece throughout the conflict in line with the pro-Hamas foreign policy of Qatar.

Meanwhile, video evidence appears to show that the story told by an Al Jazeera journalist about her arrest in Jerusalem on June 5, which made international headlines, contains significant falsifications.

 

Givara Budeiri and the debunking of the story of her arrest

Repeating a long-standing pattern Al Jazeera has once again ignored the distinction between reporting and making the news, following the arrest of its correspondent Givara Budeiri on June 5 for assaulting an Israeli police officer at a Jerusalem demonstration after failing to provide identification. The alleged brutal treatment of Budeiri, publicised strongly by Al Jazeera, has attracted widespread international media attention – yet elements of this news story were apparently fabricated.

In a video posted on Al Jazeera’s website of Budeiri being interviewed by one of her colleagues, she denies the accusations that led to her arrest, and claims instead that she was detained “for no reason”, “kicked to the wall” by police officers, and that further assaults against her took place in the police car and at the police station from which she was released a few hours later.

When arrested, Budeiri was reporting from a violent protest taking place in the volatile Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem about a fortnight after the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, with tensions still roiling in Jerusalem. Footage of the melee used by Al Jazeera does not make clear what exactly transpired, but it does not show police officers kicking her.

Furthermore, her own commentary does not appear to deny Israeli police contentions that she failed to produce the required media ID – she says that when asked for ID, she responded “you know me.”

Footage emerged a few days later of a crucial scene omitted from Al Jazeera’s video which shows Budeiri being the one to initiate physical contact, pushing a female border police officer. She is also shown arguing with police about her lack of ID, and trying to silence them. The Al Jazeera video shows what happened after this, when female police officers moved her away, which she physically resisted.

In other words, the omitted footage confirms the Israeli account that she was arrested for assaulting police after failing to show ID. But Al Jazeera’s dishonesty did not end there.

In another video interview for Al Jazeera the following day, Budeiri appeared with her left arm now encased in a sling, claiming “they broke my hand”, mournfully listing other alleged assaults by Israeli police. However, the video discussed above shows her shortly following her release. In this she can clearly be seen lifting her two young daughters, one in each arm; holding a mobile phone in her supposedly broken left hand; and waving her left hand around as she speaks, and even clenching a fist.

Al Jazeera correspondent Givara Buderi: Alleged broken hand perpetrated by Israeli police (top) appears to be contradicted by video evidence (above)

SkyNews’ “Bolt” show featured all the key video evidence of this apparent deception.

While Budeiri has garnered sympathy internationally by presenting herself as a victim of Israeli violence and aggression, it appears all but undeniable that she and Al Jazeera opportunistically manufactured “news” about her arrest by inventing a fake narrative backed up with dishonestly edited video footage.

 

Al Jazeera, Qatar and Hamas

The bigger picture is that Al Jazeera is funded by the Qatari Government and is owned by members of the Qatari royal family. Qatar is a major supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood international Islamist movement. Qatar has provided the Brotherhood’s offshoot Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, with many hundreds of millions of dollars in the past, and has just pledged another $500 million.

Al Jazeera has form when it comes to denigrating Israel and promoting Hamas. One way it does so is by constantly providing the terrorist organisation with a platform.

Doha just happens to be the home of former and current senior Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh respectively. Far away from the violence in which he had embroiled his people, Haniyeh spoke at a rally in Doha on May 15 which aired on Al Jazeera. He celebrated what he claimed was the “trampl[ing] underfoot” of “the theory of coexistence between the two people within the 1948 borders”.

More jubilation was broadcast live on Al Jazeera on May 24, three days after the ceasefire came into effect, when the current leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar embraced, then held aloft, a young boy dressed in military garb who was given a submachine gun to brandish. A colleague exclaims “We will trample on the heads of the Jews in front of everyone.”

On June 5 Al Jazeera Qatar sent a journalist into what was said to be part of Hamas’ underground tunnel system in Gaza, to help Hamas refute Israel’s widely reported claim that it destroyed 97 kilometres of the so-called ‘metro’ network. “Al Qassam Brigades [Hamas’ military wing] is talking only about partial damage” he duly reported while showing video footage of seemingly intact tunnels. A brigade member is then heard to intone “we have renovated this area and restored its readiness.”

With Hamas hoping to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Israel in which two Israeli citizens who entered Gaza and the remains of two soldiers will be traded for hundreds of Hamas prisoners, Al Jazeera Arabic provided a platform to what an Israeli spokesman denounced as “cheap and transparent manipulation” by Hamas.

The channel played an audio recording provided to it by Hamas of someone claimed to be an Israeli soldier being held by its armed wing. “I wonder if [Israel’s] leaders are thinking of Israeli soldiers in captivity, worrying about them and working for their release. I am dying every day. I feel the hope to be near my family beating in my heart. Please help me,” the voice says. The parents of Avera Mengistu, a civilian believed to be held captive by Hamas after apparently entering the Gaza Strip in 2014 in unclear circumstances, have denied it is their son. No Israeli “soldier” is believed to be held in Gaza, though Hamas likes to falsely claim that the two soldiers whose remains it holds might be alive to increase its bargaining power.

In addition to frequently providing Hamas leaders with a platform for incitement against Israel, Al Jazeera also publishes a great number of extreme anti-Israel opinion pieces, only rarely if ever balanced by views to the contrary. It also disseminates actual misinformation across its various platforms.

In what is supposed to be a news story providing background on one of the most contentious issues at the heart of the recent conflict, the Sheikh Jarrah dispute, Al Jazeera producer Linah Alsaafin offered up another inaccurate and biased “explainer”.

The misleading sub-headline “Israel ordered six Palestinian families to leave their homes”, implying government involvement, is revealed later in the article to refer to a ruling of the Jerusalem District Court, part of Israel’s independent judiciary. Instead of explaining that the matter is a very long-running private landlord-tenant dispute concerning non-payment of rent, Alsaafin perpetuates a false impression by referring to “Israel’s settlement project” and “forced displacement”, and quotes one Palestinian’s slanderous assertion that “Israeli courts – judge, jury and legislation – are all in the service of the Jewish settlers.” This despite the fact that an Israeli court had previously ruled that the Palestinian families involved enjoyed a protected tenancy status and could not be evicted so long as they complied with the normal conditions of tenancy, such as payment of rent.

Glossing over the proven fact that the subject properties were purchased in the 1870s by the local resident Jewish community, she describes it as a mere allegation that “the land originally belonged to Jews.” Meanwhile, although there is no serious dispute as to the validity of the transactions through which the current Jewish owners obtained title, Alsaafin omits the judicial context and quotes a Palestinian who claims he’d found a document negating Jewish ownership but which the Israeli court had promptly rejected, elevating by implication this claim to a proven fact.

Alsaafin’s bias is hardly surprising. In 2014 in a tweet (since deleted) she expressed support for Hamas executing more than 20 suspected collaborators: “lol to all those non-Palestinian activists hurt by Hamas executing collaborators. Just don’t talk, ok? That’s the least of what they deserve.”

Her social media posts and other writings display an active history of glorifying terrorists and terrorism, supporting Hamas, and demonising Israel.

Mohammad Alsaafin, reportedly Linah’s older brother, also works for Al Jazeera as a senior producer at AJ+ and has publicly expressed similar views and promoted falsehoods such as this tweet from June 1: “The concept of ‘co-existence’ between Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel has always been a myth (Israeli law explicitly creates tiers of citizenship based on religion)”.

Al Jazeera management is either very careless or unconcerned by the fact that its content producers are purporting to pass off propaganda as fact.

A news item published on Al Jazeera’s website on June 1, in the aftermath of the conflict, failed to report accurately even the most basic chronology. Journalist Anchal Vohra stated disingenuously, “Last month … Israel carried out an 11-day bombing campaign on the besieged Gaza Strip and Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Strip, fired rockets back.” It was, of course, Hamas that undisputedly initiated hostilities by firing missiles at Israeli civilian population centres, necessitating the Israeli response.

The article asserted that “Israel seemed to be losing ground in the battle of perception in the United States”, a position the author clearly sided with herself. The only American opinions that Vohra quoted were those of congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, two of the so-called “Squad” of progressive Democrats and perennial critics of Israel who even some colleagues accuse of antisemitism. Only in the article’s penultimate sentence does Vohra acknowledge “support for Israel has not waned”.

Al Jazeera even published a 10-minute video on AJ+ which purports to instruct other media how to cover the conflict fairly, but in actuality looks effectively like a primer on how to run a pro-Hamas propaganda channel.

It is presented by Sana Saeed a producer/host on AJ+, Al Jazeera’s online news and current events channel. Saaed, like so many other Al Jazeera employees, has a history of anti-Israel and thinly-veiled antisemitic activism, tweeting for example that Zionism equates to Islamophobia, and “Palestinian life is made disposable because it’s inconvenient to the goals of Zionism. Inconvenience breeds need to displace or destroy.”

Saeed’s ten-minute video purports to instruct media companies on how they should have reported the recent conflict and how they need to change in the future. For a start, she says, they should not use the word “conflict”, but rather the “decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestine and a now recognised system of apartheid.” You should not report on a “war”, she lectures, but on “the Israeli military assault on Gaza” or alternatively on Hamas “whose military wing is up against one of the world’s most technologically advanced and well-funded militaries.” If you do not, Saeed insists, you “sanitise” and “whitewash” the situation.

Outrageously – given her account of events entirely airbrushes Hamas’ aggression from the narrative – she claims that other media reports are “devoid of seven decades of context”, but she provides it. The Sheikh Jarrah dispute is thus re-cast as part of “seven decades of settler colonialism whose purpose has been the dispossession and subjugation of the indigenous population.”

Many more examples of such activism on Al Jazeera platforms could be cited over any given period.

Al Jazeera’s professed adherence to “the journalistic values of honesty, courage, fairness, balance, independence [and] credibility” itself completely lacks credibility. This is a network that is happy to accept praise and awards from the terrorist organisation Hamas, and regularly amplifies Hamas’ messages as much as possible, because its identification with Hamas is almost total. Too many Australian traditional journalists, editors and media administrators have fallen for Al Jazeera’s spin about journalistic integrity and professionalism because it is slick and well-funded and strikes a “progressive” pose, despite serving an oppressive absolute monarchy with a terrible human rights record. Hamas’ open praise for the network’s role in serving the terror group’s agenda really should be a wake-up call to these misguided journalists.

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