By Ray Hanania
I’ve never been a big fan of Al Jazeera (alJazeera, Al-Jazeera), the Arabic language satellite network launched by Qatar in 1996 in response to the closing of the BBC Arabic language broadcasts. The news operation is sometimes too heavily influenced by extremist editors who have emphasized their special blend of extremist politics above good journalism.
God knows I have been attacked by Al Jazeera reporters and columnists in the past, usually in commentaries that were devoid of facts and driven by inaccuracies and political biases reflecting the extremist agendas of the non-journalism writers.
When Al Jazeera launched its English-language branch, Al Jazeera America (AJAM), I was a big booster, hoping the station would finally prioritize professional news reporting above political considerations. Sadly, AJAM has been plagued by internal political problems stemming from a policy of trying to cater to the loudmouth extremist elements in the American Arab community.
That’s how the Arab World has traditionally dealt with the extremists and the terrorist enablers by trying to buy them off with credibility and acquiescence.
Yet, despite these problems, is Al Jazeera any different than the mainstream American news media which is even less professional and even more political?
The only difference is that Al Jazeera tries to offer a balanced view of the violence in the Middle East by including stories that factually point out Israel’s use of violence and terrorism and its oppression and denial of legal rights to Christian and Muslim Arabs. In contrast, the mainstream American news media is in an Israeli-controlled headlock, tip-toeing through the Middle East conflict and pretending to be balanced, while always conveying Israel as the victim of violence and minimizing, or more often than not ignoring the violence of Israel’s military and its settler terrorist network.
This past week, an obscure employee named Matthew Luke filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court in what is clearly a politically motivated legal assault to participate in the growing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim extremism spreading through America and in the American judicial system. The lawsuit asserts almost incredulously that, according to Luke, he heard employees at Al Jazeera criticize Israel.
He specifically attacked one employee in the lawsuit, Osman Mahmud, claiming that Mahmud had been anti-Israel and also engaged in sexist discrimination against female employees. Luke asserts that he was fired when he tried to bring the issues up to Al Jazeera’s management.
Al Jazeera America’s CEO Ehab Al Shihabi was quoted in the news media asserting that AJAM does not tolerate discriminatory conduct and described as “absurd” accusations that Al Jazeera is “anti-Semitic, sexist and anti-American.”
There is no doubt that Luke is driven by politics and a pro-Israel agenda. And it’s not a coincidence that his lawsuit comes in the wake of a series of lawsuits that have been filed by several pro-Israel political activists alleging that Arab institutions, such as the Arab Bank, have supported and financed terrorist attacks against Israel. These ridiculous lawsuits have found ground in America’s pro-Israel anti-Arab environment and legal system, and in the pro-Israel atmosphere of the biased anti-Arab and racist mainstream American news media.
I definitely think Al Jazeera needs to get its act together. It does have some extremists who, rather than being tolerated and given platforms to spout their politically motivated personal attacks against other American Arab rivals, should be fired and replaced by objective journalists who can sift through the journalism atrocities of bias and bigotry that dominate the mainstream American news media.
Yet, I also believe that Al Jazeera, more than any other news operation in America, has tried hard to provide a truly balanced approach to the Middle East conflict. And yes, I will emphasize “balanced.” While Al Jazeera has interviewed many racist and extremist Israelis, giving them legitimacy and going out of their way to be ‘fair” to the pro-Israel fanatics, the Israeli media has boycotted many Arab activists and embraced Israel’s political agenda as if they were actually Israeli political organizations rather than Israel media. The Israeli media is more driven by propaganda than by accuracy, explanations and defense of Israeli atrocities rather than exposure of Israel’s misconduct.
With some exceptions, the Israeli media is among the most biased media in the world, when it comes to covering Israel, the Arab World and the Middle East conflict. In contrast, Al Jazeera has been objective, fair and open to all viewpoints including the most incendiary views of pro-Israel fanatics who should be exposed as the liars that they are rather than being given a platform to spout their propaganda and distortions.
Don’t expect the biased New York judicial system to fairly review the politically motivated accusations. The lawsuit is just another attack on the effort to bring balance to Western media coverage of an important part of the world, the Middle East.
What Al Jazeera needs to do is to review its staff and eject those who are activists rather than journalists. They don’t need to promote the Arab cause or Palestine. All they have to do is cover the news fairly. Just tell the truth. All they have to do is be balanced in presenting both sides. And that’s what Israel’s extremists fear the most. Because when you put the truth against Israel’s propaganda, Israel always loses out.
But, when you exaggerate the facts to make Israel look worse than it is, you undermine the justice of the Palestinian cause and give Israel cover for their atrocities. It’s a tragic Arab practice that Israeli violence is never violent enough and Arabs often exaggerate the severity and even the number of victims of Israeli attacks because Israeli sins are never bad enough. All they have to do is show Israel for what it is. All they have to do is record the facts, present both sides and do it in a way that allows the public to see, for the first time, the truth of Israel’s lies.
Unfortunately, extremist Arabs often get in the way and hijack the story and the focus. Instead of seeing Israel’s war crimes, the world sees the Arab over-reactions and excessively emotional rhetoric.
Al Jazeera needs to do a better job of not only reporting the news to the primary audience — the American public — but also to rid its ranks of the real threat to its journalistic integrity, the extremist activists who have infiltrated its ranks due to politics.
The real question is whether or not Al Jazeera is a propaganda arm of the Arab dictators, or a truly objective and honest journalism organization struggling in an environment filled with potholes of violence, fanaticism, and bias.