07-17-09 Aljazeera kicked out of West Bank exposes issues

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Aljazeera Arabic under siege in West Bank and in its editorial offices
By Ray Hanania —
Aljazeera Arabic became the first television station to broadcast balanced news about the Middle East, but over the years its editorial staff has expanded to include several people who are less about journalism and more about partisan political activism, mainly supporting Hamas and the growing Islamic extremist movement. The biggest complaint has been about its coverage, which critics have called biased and supporters have said does not advocate pro-Palestinian and Islamic views enough.

The station has exposed corruption and government oppression in almost all of the Arab countries, except in its host country Qatar whose royal family launched the station using its huge oil profits, and the station has paid for that journalism.

It has been banned in several of the Arab World countries for challenging and criticizing the host governments, but it remains banned in the United States where pro-Israeli cable companies have refused to include it in its daily lineup, scheduling, instead, Shalom Israel and other pro-Israeli and rightwing programming.

But this week, the satellite TV station was banned in the one country where it has done the most good to expose government injustice, Palestine. For years, Aljazeera has lead the charge in breaking major news stories in Palestine that the biased mainstream American news media has refused to report because of pro-Israel partisanships.

It’s biggest critic has been Israel, which regularly censors the media and imposes bans against media who too harshly criticize the Israeli government. But the ban did not come from Israel, which can afford to tolerate Aljazeera’s tough news reporting. It came from the Palestine National Authority and the besieged and beleaguered government of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas acted to ban Aljazeera after a longtime critic and extremist member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Faruk Kaddoumi, accused Abbas of involvement in the “murder” of a sacred Palestinian icon and national hero, Yasir Arafat. Kaddoumi’s extremist views and his rejection of all compromise with Israel are notorious and are in part responsible for the failure of the Palestinians to have established a country after the 1948 Nakba or “Palestinian catastrophe.”

But instead of ignoring the irrelevant Kaddoumi, Abbas responded by shutting down all of Aljazeera’s West bank operations. It’s a stupid move but typical of the stupid moves the Palestinian leadership has made over the past 62 years since Israel was established.

The truth is Aljazeera does have some elements of bias and activism, editors recruited from pro-Hamas bastions like Chicago who openly use their journalism skills to skewer the truth and promote Hamas, the terrorist organization which has used violence and suicide bombings to undermine the peace process and the achievement of the “two-state solution” between Israel and Palestine.

There is little at Aljazeera Arabic can do to change things. The practice of cutting ones nose off to spite their face is a cornerstone of Arab and Islamic culture. The rejection of solutions has always been the Arab and Islamic response to conflict. The extremists who hold the Arab and Islamic World’s hostage have helped bring Palestine to its knees, giving Israel every benefit to expand their occupation and annexation of civilian lands over the years.

Although Palestinians won’t admit it, because sometimes the truth is too painful to accept, it has been Palestinian extremist practices that have helped to reinforce the Israeli occupation and to enslave refugees in lifetimes of poverty, hopelessness and limbo.

The failure of Palestinians to use reason not emotion to develop strategies to confront the threats of destruction from Israel’s own extremists have undermined Palestinian national aspirations and have emboldened the destructive fanatics whose extremist policies are designed to benefit themselves personally.

Israel was quick to jump on the news of the PNA ban on Aljazeera issuing a statement calling the first Arab TV satellite station to break the barriers of Arab World oppression. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, “What Al-Jazeera does is not journalism. It is political militancy.”

He’s not far off. But what Aljazeera does is far more professional in terms of true journalism than most Israeli or mainstream American news media who base their coverage of the Arab World on a savage and sometimes hateful anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim spirit.

Without Aljazeera, and a few other independently professional Arab TV satellite stations like Alarabiya, truth will continue to be the primary victim in the journalism coverage of the Palestinians and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Clearly, both Israel and the Arab governments, including the ineffective Abbas regime, share that same goal.

But while that may be true, Hamas is issuing phony proclamations about how the action has suspended freedom of speech and civil rights. Are you kidding me? Over the past decade, Hamas has been the leader in forcing women to veil, closing down dance and music stores, threatening and beating individuals selling alcohol and engaging in practices teaching children that violence, not reason, is the answer to suffering.

Aljazeera needs to clean its house of the handful of pro-Hamas activists who veil themselves in the phony cloth of journalism to promote their pro-Hamas and pro-Islamicist agendas.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist, author and Chicago radio talk show host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com