Just a thought: Cheering Al Jazeera America

In an excellent commentary on “Al Gore’s Al Jazeera sellout” in Ha’aretz, James Kirchick highlights some of the issues that have caused considerable concern about the profitable sale of Current TV that was acquired by the Qatari network in order to build up “Al Jazeera America.” Krichick begins by recalling that in July 2008, Al Jazeera celebrated the release of the notorious Lebanese terrorist and murderer Samir Kuntar – whom Israel exchanged for the remains of two abducted soldiers – by hosting a televised birthday party for him. During the program, the head of Al Jazeera’s Beirut office praised Kuntar as a “pan-Arab hero.”

While Al Jazeera later acknowledged that its enthusiastic coverage of Kuntar’s release had been inappropriate, Kirchick argues that “[such] coverage is all too typical of Al Jazeera, and it is important to keep the above scene in mind as American liberals, so-called ‘media studies’ experts, and other denizens of the global cosmopolitan class trip over themselves in praising the Arab Satellite network’s acquisition of Current TV.”

Kirchick goes on to argue:

“Indeed, vital to understanding Al Jazeera is acknowledging that it does have an ideology. This is something that many of its Western fan boys choose to ignore. Calling the network’s ethos an ‘ideology’, however, gives its modus operandi a little too much credit; the network, despite its protestations, is ultimately a tool of Qatari foreign policy. The network’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is invariably influenced by the fact that the Emir of Qatar has heaped hundreds of millions of dollars on Hamas. See, for instance, its highly manipulative and irresponsible presentation of the ‘Palestine Papers’ two years ago, which emboldened the implacable terrorist organization while portraying the Palestinian Authority as feckless, Zionist collaborators.”

Kirchick then focuses on the New York Times editorial board that praised Al Jazeera as “an important news source” that “could bring an important international perspective to American audiences” because it “often brings a nuance to international stories that can be lacking on American networks.”

Somewhat sarcastically, Kirchick adds:

“One wonders what specific ‘nuance’ the Times commends. Is it the musings of Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, who shares his thoughts on permissible spousal abuse to 60 million viewers via his program ‘Shariah and Life?’ It was on Al Jazeera Arabic that Qaradawi, the most popular Sunni cleric in the world, declared that Adolf Hitler ‘managed to put [the Jews] in their place.’ The Holocaust, he declared, ‘was divine punishment for them,’ even though, of course, they ‘exaggerated’ it.”

Western praise for Al Jazeera is also remarkable given the restrictions upheld in Qatar. Here are some of the relevant passages of the 2011 Freedom House report on Qatar:

“While Qatar permits its flagship satellite television channel Al-Jazeera to air critical coverage of foreign countries and leaders, journalists are forbidden from criticizing the Qatari government, the ruling family, or Islam, and are subject to prosecution for such violations. […]

As a government-subsidized channel, Al-Jazeera refrains from criticizing the Qatari authorities, providing only sparse and uncritical local news. […]

The concentration of media ownership within the ruling family as well as the high financial costs and citizenship requirements to obtain media ownership licenses continue to hinder the expansion and freedom of the press.

Approximately 69 percent of the Qatari population used the internet in 2010, a major increase from 32 percent in 2007. Sixty-three percent of households have access to the internet. The government censors political, religious, and pornographic content through the sole, state-owned internet-service provider. Both high-speed and dial-up internet users are directed to a proxy server that maintains a list of banned websites and blocks material deemed inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political, and moral values of the country.”

That Qatari authorities are very serious about enforcing these restrictions is illustrated by the case of a renowned Qatari poet who has been given a life sentence for “a poem considered offensive to the nation’s symbols.”

Presumably, this kind of story is not one of the “nuances” that the New York Times hopes to get from Al Jazeera America.

Update:

Clifford D. May has another excellent article on this matter in National Review Online. May cites two journalists who worked for Al Jazeera but left due to a pro-Islamist and anti-American bias; he also quotes an interesting commentary from 2001 by Fouad Ajami, who noted that

“[Al Jazeera] may not officially be the Osama bin Laden Channel, but he is clearly its star . . . The channel’s graphics assign him a lead role: there is bin Laden seated on a mat, his submachine gun on his lap; there is bin Laden on horseback in Afghanistan, the brave knight of the Arab world. A huge, glamorous poster of bin Laden’s silhouette hangs in the background of the main studio set at Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. […] Although Al Jazeera has sometimes been hailed in the West for being an autonomous Arabic news outlet, it would be a mistake to call it a fair or responsible one. Day in and day out, Al Jazeera deliberately fans the flames of Muslim outrage.”

May also highlights Qaradawi’s star role at Al Jazeera:

“One more reason to be less than optimistic: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is the host of Al Jazeera Arabic’s most popular program, Sharia and Life. Qaradawi endorsed Ayatollah Khomeini’s call to execute novelist Salman Rushdie for blasphemy, called what Hitler did to Europe’s Jews ‘divine punishment’ (adding that ‘Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers’). In 1991, one of his acolytes, Mohamed Akram, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in America, wrote a memorandum, later obtained by the FBI, asserting that Brothers ‘must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and by the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.’”

3 responses to “Just a thought: Cheering Al Jazeera America

  1. Pingback: Ali Abunimah and the Islamist reign of terror in Mali | The Warped Mirror

  2. Pingback: France’s War in Mali is “Racist Par Excellence” — Winds Of Jihad By SheikYerMami

  3. This Qaradawi fellow ought to pray that I never cross paths with him.

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