Al-Jazeera's Agenda in Libya and its American Apologists

by CLIFF KINCAID March 24, 2011
 
Having encouraged a revolution in Libya, Al-Jazeera is now critical of President Obama’s U.N.-backed effort to protect the people being slaughtered by dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The channel is running a piece by Phyllis Bennis of the far-left Institute for Policy Studies arguing that the Western air and naval strikes on the regime lack “credibility.” The fear is that Obama might somehow—through this badly conceived U.N. operation—protect the national security interests of the U.S. and the West in Libya before the country falls into the hands of radical Jihadists.
 
Al-Jazeera insists that “The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.” So what is Al-Jazeera’s editorial policy? It is to inflame, incite and sew chaos and confusion, so that the most radical forces on the scene can take power. As radical and anti-American as Gaddafi has been, it could conceivably get worse. After all, the U.S. State Department has listed a one-time al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. This is a group that claims Gaddafi has been “un-Islamic” and has sought his overthrow.
 
WikiLeaks reports that Gaddafi has been turning over the names of Jihadists to the CIA and that he had developed a “strategic partnership” with the U.S. 
 
Don’t forget that Al-Jazeera’s real editorial director, the Muslim cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, has called for Gaddafi’s murder, suggesting he has some idea as to what comes next. One thing is for sure: it can’t be good for America or Israel.
 
Qaradawi, who left Qatar, where he was based (along with Al-Jazeera) before returning to Egypt, has been a fixture on Al-Jazeera Arabic for years. However, he has been kept away from the Al-Jazeera English audience, who might recoil in horror at his anti-American and anti-Semitic diatribes.
 
Cable systems like Comcast that are considering carrying Al-Jazeera need to know that Qaradawi is the face and voice of Al-Jazeera. He is poison and hate in the media market and a threat to ignite more cases of home-grown jihadism.
 
Qaradawi has stated that Islam will conquer Europe through peaceful means; that Hitler was divine punishment for the misdeeds of the Jews and that the Holocaust was exaggerated; that he desires to end his life in the service of Jihad by visiting Israel and throwing a bomb, becoming a “martyr” in the process; has called for the death of all Jews; and has called for the collapse of the U.S. if it doesn’t end its “unjust ways.”
 
So why are American academics associating with this terror TV channel? It is a question I have been trying to answer.
 
My column, “Al-Jazeera Hosted American Academics at ‘Opulent’ Forum,” notes that two academics, Marc Lynch of George Washington University and Philip Seib of the University of Southern California, were featured speakers at the recent Al-Jazeera Forum in Doha, Qatar, sponsored by the terror channel. Both have failed to respond to questions about whether Al-Jazeera paid for their appearances.
 
The Al-Jazeera Forum, an annual event, featured a top official of Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group that just launched a new round of mortar attacks on Israel. Al-Jazeera refuses to label Hamas a terrorist organization and instead calls it a “resistance” movement. Israel had just intercepted a ship named the Victoria carrying rockets and other arms for Hamas or other terrorist organizations. (Al-Jazeera featured the claims of Hamas and Iran that the reports of the weapons were “propaganda” and false.)
 
Other participants in the Al-Jazeera Forum, including Americans Danny Schechter and Steve Clemons, and Matt Wells and Francesca Panetta of the British Guardian, say they were “guests” of the channel or “travelled to Doha courtesy of Al-Jazeera.” This is code language for the channel paying for airfare and luxury accommodations at what Schechter acknowledged was the “opulent” Sheraton Hotel. Known as the “Pyramid of the Gulf,” the Sheraton Doha has a view of the sea, landscaped gardens, and a private beach.
 
An official of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim Brotherhood spin-off, also spoke at the Al-Jazeera Forum.
 
While professors Lynch and Seib remain mum over the financial aspects of their relationship with Al-Jazeera, which is funded by the Arab monarchy ruling Qatar, I have been contacted by apologists for the terror channel. They are worried that the facts about Al-Jazeera’s pro-terrorist bent and the corruption of the ruling elite in Qatar might jeopardize the channel’s campaign to get carriage on more U.S. cable and satellite systems. Qatar, after all, is an Arab dictatorship just as much as the Mubarak regime in Egypt was. It recently detained a blogger clamoring for human rights. As noted by Reporters Without Borders, human rights activist and blogger Sultan Khulaifi was arrested on March 1 and was taken to an unknown place of detention by security forces of the regime.
 
One supporter of Al-Jazeera wrote to me saying that my column on the forum was in error in two ways. First, he says Al-Jazeera did cover the Palestinian massacre of members of the Fogel family who were living in the Israeli settlement known as Itamar. Second, he says Al-Jazeera did cover the assault of CBS News correspondent Lara Logan during the riots in Egypt.
 
The answers to these accusations tell us a lot about the channel and those who defend it.
 
Ignoring the Victims
 
As of this writing, according to a search of the Al-Jazeera English website, the channel has not identified the members of the Fogel family who were killed and the channel has not shown any photographs of the victims. The victims were the Fogel parents Udi (36) and Ruth (35), and their children Yoav (11), Elad (4) and Hadas (3-months). All of the dead were stabbed to death or had their throats slit.
 
The name of the family is critical to understanding how Al-Jazeera operates. If you put the name “Fogel” into the Al-Jazeera search engine, as I did, you turn up nothing about the targeted Israeli family. On the other hand, there are two articles about some Israelis being killed. I acknowledge that I missed these stories because I assumed that any reasonable account of what happened would have included the names of the victims.
 
Both stories on the Al-Jazeera website are said to be updated, meaning they include new information as the story has developed. At first, the victims were not named, but the names and the photos of the victims were subsequently released.
 
One Al-Jazeera story, dated March 12, is headlined, “Five Israelis killed in West Bank. Israeli media says a Palestinian infiltrator stabbed to death a couple and three children in the settlement of Itamar.” It features a photograph of Israeli soldiers and recites a series of grievances about the conduct of Israeli settlers, as if the settlers are to blame for any violence directed their way. Another story, also dated March 12, is headlined, “Killings provoke Israeli ‘manhunt.’ Army detains 20 people after stabbings of five Israeli settlers, including three children, in occupied West Bank.” This story also features a photograph of Israeli soldiers.
 
The reason my search of Al-Jazeera did not turn up these stories is because I had put the name “Fogel” in the search engine, assuming that any reasonably complete story with updated information would name the victims.
 
The strategy should be obvious. Al-Jazeera failed to run a story identifying the Israelis by name because to do so would humanize them. Instead, Israelis are depicted in the photographs accompanying the stories as soldiers—not civilians. This is consistent with the portrayal of the Israelis as occupiers of Palestinian lands. Al-Jazeera regards the Israelis as the enemy. That is also evident in the channel’s support for the terror group Hamas, sometimes merely labeled as a group of “fighters” by the channel.
 
How to Slant the News
 
What’s equally interesting is how the stories are written. One story quotes Al-Jazeera’s Cal Perry, formerly a CNN correspondent, as saying the Israeli military had dubbed the assault a “terror attack.” It is presented as simply a claim made by Israel. What’s more, Al-Jazeera’s Perry goes on, “This grouping of settlements is really seen and has a reputation among the Palestinians as housing some of the most staunch settlers; some of the most religious settlers.” In other words, the settlers are fanatics.
 
But it gets worse. In discussing the Israeli settlements, the story goes on, “About half a million Israelis live in more than 100 settlements constructed since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are illegal under international law.”
 
Notice that there is no citation for the claim that “The settlements are illegal under international law.” In fact, Israelis flatly reject the notion they are illegal. The Obama Administration, on February 18, 2011, vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have declared Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal.
 
However, the Al-Jazeera story was important in that it reported that “Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said it offered its ‘full support’ to any actions taken against settlers.” This was a flat-out endorsement of bloody murder and terrorism.
 
Yet, a Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, was a featured speaker at the Al-Jazeera Forum. He has been on Al-Jazeera many times and is usually based in Damascus, Syria.
 
The Lara Logan Assault Cover-up
 
The other complaint about my column was that Al-Jazeera did cover the assault on CBS News correspondent Lara Logan. This complaint can be easily dealt with. It turns out that Al-Jazeera eventually “covered” the assault in what is called a “live blog,” not in any kind of serious news story. I never considered this “live blog,” which can be found at the bottom of this long list of posts, to be a story in any traditional sense. It is mind-boggling that a defender of Al-Jazeera would point to this as evidence of a serious effort by the channel to cover an assault on a reporter for an American news organization.
 
As I have reported, Al-Jazeera’s cover-up of the Logan assault on February 15 was so brazen that liberal commentators such as Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post wrote about it and asked Heather Allen of Al-Jazeera to explain the curious omission. She claimed the story was being ignored out of respect for the Logan’s privacy. This didn’t wash with the Post or anyone else.
 
Referring to Al-Jazeera English, Capehart noted on February 17, “There was and continues to be nothing there [about the Logan assault]. Or at al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language site.”
 
Blogger Catherine Forsythe had commented, “For Al Jazeera, the recent Lara Logan in Egypt is a non-story. There is no reporting of the beating and sexual attack of a fellow journalist. The recent Lara Logan attack is not a story that Al Jazeera has covered yet. What does this say about a news service that touts itself as ‘honest, courageous and distinctive’? Perhaps Al Jazeera should add a qualifier to that description. That qualifier may be ‘when politically expedient.’”
 
Mark Joyella of Mediaite confirmed this, reporting, “Forsythe attempted varying spellings of Logan’s name and still had no results. When we tried the same experiment, we also got no mention of the story on the AJE [Al-Jazeera English] website.”
 
As Capehart suggested, in discussing the blog on Al-Jazeera that was eventually posted, it just didn’t qualify as serious coverage, especially when you’re discussing a channel that had reporters on the ground in Egypt during the riots and demonstrations. He noted that there had been no television story and no online story about the assault. That is the cover-up I was referring to as well. It is significant and revealing.
 
Blogger Joseph Mayton, who was closely following coverage of events in Egypt, noted, “It seems very few media observers noticed, but Al Jazeera English did not report on the brutal attack against CBS correspondent Lara Logan in Egypt last week. Shocking, yes, but the truth. Sure, there was a brief mention on their blog, but there was no report, no discussion, Al Jazeera English said no to the story, even as it blew up and became the top story for a 24 hour news period.”
 
So my conclusion that Al-Jazeera ignored the story, despite the brief blog post, was hardly unique. It was a widely-shared perception based on reality.
 
Here’s what the Al-Jazeera “live blog” said:
 
“Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher expresses his condolences for Lara Logan from CBS News in the US. She was beaten and sexually assaulted while covering the protests in Egypt. ‘Thoughts with my friend and former colleague @CBSNews Lara Logan who suffered brutal attack in #Egypt—hope she gets well and recovers soon.”
 
This information was also included:
 
“Social networks were a-buzz and people were angered by reports that a female news correspondent for the American broadcaster CBS was sexually assaulted and beaten while reporting in Cairo at the time of Mubarak’s fall. Lara Logan was reporting from Tahrir Square when she, her team and their security ‘were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration,’ CBS said in a statement. Logan was recovering in a US hospital, the statement said.”
 
The blog then linked to an Associated Press report about the topic on YouTube.
 
This hardly qualifies as news coverage in any real or significant sense.
 
It is rational in researching coverage of people like Lara Logan or members of the Fogel family to use their names in Al-Jazeera’s search engine. The results revealed a failure to cover these dramatic news developments.  
 
The slant is evident: Al-Jazeera wants to ignore stories that put Arabs and Muslims that it favors in a bad light. At the same time, Israeli victims of terrorism will be blamed for what happens to them and any notion that they were human beings with names and faces will be discouraged.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Cliff Kincaid is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at cliff.kincaid@aim.org.
 

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