WHO IS AL JAZEERA?
Al Jazeera is Qatari-state owned media and the largest media platform in the Middle East. In other words, most of the news that comes out of the Middle East — especially to the western world — comes from Al Jazeera.
To reiterate: Al Jazeera is Qatari state-run media, not unlike Russian state-media. The same government that controls Al Jazeera’s coverage is also the very same government that is Hamas’ largest donor. Hamas is the paramilitary, authoritarian, terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.
In recent years, Qatar has tried to depict itself as more “moderate” on the international stage, yet it continues to fund various repressive, deeply violent Islamist groups, including the Taliban and Hamas. Qatar subsidizes Hamas between $360 to $480 million per year, pays its public salaries, and essentially fully controls its social services.
Like Hamas, the Qatari regime is severely repressive of human rights, scoring 25/100 in the Freedom House scale. To this day, Qatar holds migrant workers in slave-like conditions.
WHY DOES AL JAZEERA/AJ+ SEEM PROGRESSIVE?
To put it plainly: it appears that it’s a calculated move on Qatar’s part to influence its regional and global geopolitical interests.
This is not just conjecture. In 2010, a WikiLeaks article confirmed that the Qatari government manipulates Al Jazeera’s coverage of events. In the WikiLeaks cable, Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani commented that “[Al Jazeera’s] ability to influence public opinion is a substantial source of leverage for Qatar.”
To left-leaning westerners unaware of the complexity of the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East, including — but not limited to — Israel-Palestine, Al Jazeera and its “hipper” counterpart AJ+ present themselves as grassroots, progressive media outlets. This is not accidental.
Al Jazeera and AJ+ frequently report on minority issues, such as Indigenous issues in the Americas (interestingly, Indigenous issues in the Middle East never seem to get much coverage — if any), LGBTQ+ issues, feminist issues, racial justice issues, and other progressive topics that other mainstream Western media does not cover. This gives people uneducated on antisemitism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict the illusion that Al Jazeera is a progressive, grassroots outlet. It’s not. Unsurprisingly, Russian state-sponsored media uses the exact same tactic.
Its channels in Arabic, however, tell a different story. Al Jazeera Arabic and AJ+ Arabic are rife with blatant, Nazi-esque antisemitism (as opposed to the more subtle antisemitism in their English channels), misogyny, LGBTQ-phobia, racism (including open support for slavery in Arab states), and more.
DECEPTION OF ENGLISH-SPEAKERS
The Arab speaking world is well-aware of what Al Jazeera is and isn’t. In fact, even the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly accused Al Jazeera of serving as a platform for Hamas, the Palestinian Authority’s longtime rival. This isn’t too much of a reach, given Al Jazeera’s favorable coverage of Hamas, as well as the fact that Qatar owns Al Jazeera and Qatar is also Hamas’ biggest donor.
After Israel raided the Jenin refugee camp for terrorists this summer, the Palestinian Authority allegedly threatened to “take action” against Al Jazeera, which it accused of “promoting sedition among Palestinians” and “harm[ing] civil peace and the fabric of society.”
Al Arabiya, the second largest Arab media platform after Al Jazeera, has reported on the discrepancy between Al Jazeera’s English and Arabic channels. For example, it noted that its English channel criticized Saudi Arabia for “banning gender mixing at concerts and cinemas,” whereas its Arabic channel platformed a man who said women and men mixing at the same events was “akin to pornography.”
On numerous occasions, Al Jazeera has failed to or been slow to report on protests, upheavals, and uprisings in the Middle East so as not to upset Qatar’s interests. When unrest first broke out at the very beginnings of the Syrian Civil War, Al Jazeera was suspiciously silent, prompting protestors to chant, “Al Jazeera, where are you?”
According to David Pollock, “Al Jazeera Arabic balances breaking news with Qatari interests, however awkward this approach may be. Accordingly, US audiences should understand that the news viewpoints published on its English website are often not seen on the Arabic site…Unfortunately, Al Jazeera’s English/Arabic bifurcation helps to ensure that these constituencies never see eye to eye. As long as this practice continues, Al Jazeera should not be touted as a true reformer or promoter of democracy.”
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