Reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the wider Israeli-Arab Conflict is arguably the most politicized in the world. Both Israelis and Palestinians frequently complain of media bias, and, as such, if you have little background on the subject, it can be hard to know where to look. Naturally, many Westerners have come to distrust western media outlets, such as CNN, The New York Times, Fox News, and more.
For this reason, many people, particularly on the left, turn to other, seemingly “independent” media outlets. Among these outlets is Al Jazeera, as well as the supposedly “progressive” AJ+, both of which arguably control the majority of the media that comes out of Southwest Asia (the Middle East). The problem is that Al Jazeera is hardly an independent, grassroots media outlet as it portrays itself to the west.
Al Jazeera is Qatari state-run media, not unlike Russian state-media. In 2010, a WikiLeaks article confirmed that the Qatari government manipulates Al Jazeera’s coverage of events. Not only that, but Al Jazeera is both virulently antisemitic and deeply pan-Arabist. What’s even more damning is that the same government that controls Al Jazeera’s coverage is also the very same government that is Hamas’ largest donor (Hamas, of course, being the Islamist*, authoritarian, antisemitic group that governs the Gaza Strip).
We *should* be suspicious of Al Jazeera, considering that the majority of the news that comes out of the Middle East is controlled by the same people that control one of the largest players (i.e. Hamas) in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
*Islamism is an antisemitic, totalitarian political ideology; Islam is a religion. It’s not the same thing.
QATAR & HAMAS
To ignorant Westerners, Al Jazeera (and especially AJ+) has branded itself as a progressive news outlet. This is completely absurd and blatant propaganda. 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. This “progressive” branding is merely a way for Qatari interests to influence international public opinion. As stated in a previous slide, in 2010, a WikiLeaks article revealed that the Qatari government manipulates Al Jazeera’s coverage of events.
In recent years, Qatar has tried to depict itself as more “moderate” on the international stage (e.g. in its bid to host the 2022 soccer World Cup), 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. While Hamas continues underpaying its workers — according to a 2021 AP report, Hamas civil servants receive 55% of their salary at best — it instead uses Qatari cash and “humanitarian aid” to pay for weapons and explosives, as well as to construct an intricate network of underground tunnels, which, according to reports, could rival some of the most efficient subway systems in the world (these tunnels, of course, are used to hide weapons, militants, and for the purposes of terrorism, when they could be used as bomb shelters).
Ismayil Haniyeh, the current chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, and Khaled Mashaal, its previous chairman, both reside in mansions in Doha, Qatar.
HAMAS & MEDIA
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad often harass and obstruct journalists, and international journalists report threats to their lives if they dare to publish content outside of the official Hamas party line. Journalists suspected of collaborating with Israel are harassed, jailed, and tortured. Palestinian reporters that expose Hamas human rights abuses are also imprisoned and tortured.
In 2019, Palestinian journalist Hani Al-Agha was arrested by Hamas and tortured for over 20 consecutive days. Also in 2019, Hamas arrested and tortured hundreds of civilian protestors, including journalists.
In 2016, Palestinian journalist Ayman Alul stated that he no longer would report on Hamas’ repressions, after Hamas arrested him for “manipulating public opinion.” Alul was imprisoned for 10 days and was presumably tortured.
Rami Aman, a Palestinian peace activist and journalist, was arrested by Hamas multiple times, most recently in 2020, when he was held for 200 days and punished with “physical and psychological torture.”
Following the latest outbreak of Israel-Gaza violence this year, the Associated Press reported that Hamas had issued a series of rules for journalists reporting from Gaza, including not to report on Gazans killed by misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad missiles or the military capabilities of Palestinian armed groups. They also ordered journalists to blame Israel for the escalation. Though they rescinded the rules after the Foreign Press Association spoke with the authorities, Hamas still issued “expectations” for journalists and continued to threaten Palestinian reporters and translators.
The above, of course, are just a few examples.
HAMAS & ANTISEMITISM
Both Hamas and Al Jazeera have a long history of antisemitism, so much so that I would argue antisemitism is a core part of who they are.
Hamas is the Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization that governs the Gaza Strip. It was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In 2006, following Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative election. In 2007, Hamas won the Battle of Gaza (a Palestinian civil war), and it has been the authoritarian governing party ever since.
The 1988 Hamas charter is openly antisemitic. It is chock-full of antisemitic tropes, such as the claim that Jews are responsible for every man-made tragedy since the French Revolution (Article 22). It encourages the complete annihilation of Jews (Article 7), an incitement that has been described as genocidal. The Charter references the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a virulently antisemitic text that influenced Hitler, and quotes Islamic religious texts as justification for the murder of Jews, making no distinction between Israelis or Jews in the Diaspora. Article 28 continues with more antisemitic conspiracies; for example, it claims that “Zionist organizations” aim to destroy society through moral corruption (e.g. drug trafficking, alcoholism) and eliminating Islam. Article 22 also claims that Jews control the United Nations and that we are supported by imperialistic forces in the “Capitalist West and Communist East.” Additionally, Hamas has openly denied the Holocaust.
In 2010, the Hamas leader claimed that the charter is no longer relevant but could not be changed “for internal reasons.” A new charter was issued in 2017, which whitewashes its antisemitic positions, using euphemisms for “Jews.”
AL JAZEERA & ANTISEMITISM
Like Hamas, Al Jazeera has a long history of antisemitism. For instance, it has dabbled in blatantly antisemitic conspiracies, such as the erroneous claim that Jewish World Trade Center employees were warned of the events of 9/11 beforehand, therefore implying that Jews (or Israel) bore at least some responsibility for what happened (if you need a reminder: Qatar, which controls what is published in Al Jazeera, has deep financial ties with both the Taliban and Al Qaeda).
A former Al Jazeera weekly show, “Sharia and Life,” was hosted by Yusuf Qaradawi, a virulently antisemitic Egyptian cleric who claims that hatred of Jews and/or Israel is “Islamically sanctioned.”
The Al Jazeera English-language Twitter account has published antisemitic memes. In 2019, AJ+ Arabic posted a video denying the Holocaust. Al Jazeera has also frequently alluded (or outright stated) that Mizrahi Jewish identity is a “Zionist invention,” something that most Mizrahim find a deeply offensive form of erasure.
Unsurprisingly, Al Jazeera is blatantly anti-Israel, often publishing biased, cherry-picked content on the conflict. Al Jazeera Arabic is open in its antisemitism, unlike its English counterpart, which usually hides behind euphemisms.
Al Jazeera’s manipulation of western viewers is insidious. I’ve personally noticed two main methods: (1) peppering in lies with the truth, and (2) depicting themselves as a progressive outlet, generally by reporting accurately on issues pertaining minorities in the West (despite the fact, of course, that minorities in the Arab world, particularly Indigenous minorities, are still denied their very basic human rights).
(1) for example, Al Jazeera’s online timeline on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict begins in 1799. This is a completely arbitrary start date, because Jewish history didn’t start in 1799; it started some 3000+ years ago (and yes, it’s all relevant). Al Jazeera begins its timeline by stating that, in 1799, “Napoleon offers Palestine as a homeland to Jews.” This is cherry-picked information at best: first, the region that is today Israel/Palestine was not Napoleon’s to offer, and second, the basis for this claim is that, during Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt and Syria, a major French newspaper published an article claiming that Napoleon was in favor of the reestablishment of a sovereign Jewish state in Jerusalem.
The authenticity of the letter is hotly debated, as there is no verifiable documentation of Napoleon ever making such a proclamation. Some historians believe that the article was published for propaganda purposes, in order to convince the Jews of Southwest Asia and North Africa to join Napoleon in his military campaigns. Realistically, it’s unlikely that Napoleon would support an autonomous Jewish nation, considering that his main goal for the Jews was not political independence, but rather, assimilation.
(2) Al Jazeera and AJ+ frequently report on minority issues, such as Indigenous issues in the United States, 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.
PAN-ARABISM & ISLAMISM
Pan-Arabism is a political ideology that advocates for the unification of countries in North Africa and Southwest Asia (the Middle East) in an effort to reunify what was once the Arab Empire. The Arab Empire, also known as the Arab Caliphate(s), spread through violent conquest starting in 610 CE. Pan-Arabism homogenizes an enormous region of the world, effectively crushing all Indigenous identities in favor of a pan-Arabist one. Pan-Arabism is closely tied to the beginnings of Arab nationalism. For example, Amin Al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the leader of the Arab Higher Committee (the Palestinian Arab leadership during the period of the British Mandate) was openly pan-Arabist himself. Pan-Arabists are oftentimes secular and can lean toward socialism, though not always.
Islamism is an extremist political ideology. Islamist (again, not to be confused with Muslims or Islamic) beliefs vary widely; however, what different Islamist groups have in common is that they believe nation states and geographic regions should be reconstituted to return to “authentic Islamic practice.” Some Muslim scholars have described Islamism as an “anti” ideology: essentially, anti everything that they perceive to violate their interpretation of Islamic laws. Islamist groups are virulently antisemitic and have posed a violent threat to Jews for decades.
Hamas, of course, is an openly Islamist organization. It also, however, has serious pan-Arabist leanings; for example, Article 22 of its official charter claims that Jews instigated World War I as a pretext to abolish the Arab Caliphate (i.e. the Arab Empire).
Since its founding in 1996, Al Jazeera has promoted Islamist positions and pan-Arabist positions. For example, it supported the pan-Islamic, Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in the early days of the Arab Spring. A main criticism of Al Jazeera is that it homogenizes the entire region in its coverage (i.e. pan-Arabism).
Virtually all governments in the world publish what could be described as propaganda as part of their public relations strategy. After all, it’s in their best interest to look good. Israel is certainly not exempt from this, but it’s also not unique in this regard.
The problem here lies in the fact that both Hamas and Al Jazeera depict themselves as grassroots freedom fighters and a grassroots media outlet, respectively, when in reality, they are both anything but. Hamas, like Palestinian Islamic Jihad, is an Iranian proxy AND until 2017, was a wing of the (international, pan-Islamic, pan-Arabist) Muslim Brotherhood. It also is primarily funded by the Qatari regime, which, in turn, controls what is or is not published in Al Jazeera, arguably the largest, most popular news outlet in the Middle East.
None of this is to say that Gazan citizens are not suffering tremendously, because they are. As of November 2021, 45 percent of Gazans are unemployed, while 59 percent live under conditions of poverty. After the 2007 Battle of Gaza, both Egypt and Israel enacted a permanent blockade on the Gaza Strip, which has resulted in a deteriorating humanitarian situation (the Egyptian blockade has historically been exponentially harsher, though unsurprisingly, little attention is paid to it).
Various Hamas leaders are billionaires, with their net worth around the 2-5 billion range. The Gaza Strip receives billions in aid annually. In 2009, 2016, and 2022, Hamas workers were caught diverting millions of dollars in humanitarian aid into the hands of Hamas leadership.
There are many issues at play here, but ultimately, it’s the civilian population that is suffering. Parroting Al Jazeera — and by extension, Qatari and Hamas propaganda — does nothing but fuel conflict, pain, trauma, and suffering for both Palestinian and Israeli civilians.
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