Al-Jazeera abandoned commitment to fairness, coddles extremists
In their confrontation with Qatar, the Gulf Cooperation Council has demanded that Al-Jazeera close its doors. That may sound tough and extreme to some given its many years of battling racism and discrimination in America. But in recent years, Al-Jazeera’s has made a steady downward slide away from journalism into the far reaches of the extreme fringes. Instead of journalism, Al-Jazeera peddles unprofessional advocacy lined with partisan agendas and a clear opposition to ay Arab country that dares to pursue peace based on compromise with Israel. Al-Jazeera has been the mouthpiece that has nurtured extremism in the Arab World.
By Ray Hanania
The Arab World can’t assert justified criticism against the Western mainstream media for fueling racism and hatred against Arabs unless it takes a strong stand against the bias and unjournalistic activism of Qatar’s experiment-gone-wrong, Al-Jazeera.
Al-Jazeera’s launch in 1996 was a moment of pride, not because it was so great or so impactful but because it was expected to be the first step in righting the wrongs of the Western news media against the Arab people that had gone unchallenged for generations.
The Western mainstream news media is responsible for fomenting the worst stereotypes of the Arab people. They are responsible for creating the base of understanding that fuels racism and violence in America against Muslims.
The Western mainstream news media has nourished the growing extremism in Israel including Israeli government policies that violate human rights far more than anything that has ever happened in the Arab or Muslim World.
No one at the time cared that Al-Jazeera was funded by the Qatari royal family. All that was important was that finally someone was going to expose the lies the mainstream news media spewed out every day against Arabs, Muslims, Christian Arabs, and Palestine.
The mainstream news media in America is the most corrupt and hypocritical institution in the West. But who knew Al-Jazeera would instead become like them?
America unknowingly gave Al-Jazeera cover for its extremism in the Arab and Muslim World when in 2004, the U.S. government launched Alhurra.
Clearly, the West was not going to tolerate the Arab World standing up for itself or challenging its lies that were advocated through biased and corrupt Western news media reporting.
Al-Jazeera has many great writers and editorial staff who do embrace professional journalism. They want to do the right thing and report on news fairly, accurately and as professionals. But, the problem remains the coddling of extremist views by the managing editors and by Qatar, allowing some of its activist writers to viciously attack others in the Arab World just because they disagree with their politics.
Al-Jazeera could change and oust many of these radicals, but that’s unlikely considering many of them are deeply embedded in the system and given Qatar’s close ties to radical Arab elements including Iran, Hezbollah and the Government of Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Alhurra’s launch came in an onslaught of attacks by U.S. President George W. Bush who asserted that Al-Jazeera and other Arab World media were unfairly covering the American war in Iraq by reporting on American violence against Arab and Muslim civilians.
Al-Jazeera was blacklisted and banned in the United States. For a decade, America’s largest cable TV broadcasters, who filled their channels with pro-Israel lies and exaggerations, and racist stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims, refused to include Al-Jazeera in its lineup.
As we fought to bring what seemed like the voice of the Arab people to the West and the American people, we did not pay attention to the political extremism that was slowly but steadily corrupting Al-Jazeera’s mission.
While it often slammed Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians, and the violent racism against Muslims in America, it coddled the extremists in the Arab and Palestinian community who dared to support peace based on compromise.
Al-Jazeera writers and columnists not only took on Israel’s lies, they also began policing the American Arab community, chastising, censuring and demonizing anyone who dared to support peace. Those attacks against moderate Arabs and moderate Palestinians went unchallenged. Al-Jazeera refused to give victims of the bullying opportunities to challenge the lies and politicized reporting.
In fact, in this recent spat between the Arab World and Qatar, Al-Jazeera’s owners and directors, the crescendo of Al-Jazeera’s assaults against countries like Saudi Arabia were driven by the fact that the Saudis and other Gulf Nations were seeking ways to bring the Palestine conflict and regional distress to a just end.
The extremists have attacked Saudi Arabia repeatedly, but one has to ask what has Qatar ever done for Middle East peace, to support the rights of American Arabs and Muslims besieged in Western nations like America?
Qatar has tolerated Al-Jazeera’s two-pronged political strategy: assert itself as the voice of injustice for Palestinians and defender of Muslims; libel anyone in the Arab and Muslim World who promotes moderation or dares to challenge extremist values.
Instead of strengthening the image of the Palestinian cause in the West and righting the wrongs of Western racism and stereotypes against Arabs and Muslims, Qatar has selfishly pursued its own political agenda by using Al-Jazeera to demonize anyone who demands on them accountability.
Some who argue that the Gulf Coalition’s demands on Qatar that include the closing of Al-Jazeera is unjustified have failed to see how Al-Jazeera has actually made anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism and hate stronger in America and the West.
Instead of strengthening the Arab and Muslim voice in America, Qatar has allowed Al-Jazeera to become a cover for extremism by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, extremist Hezbollah rhetoric that destabilizes the region, and worst of all, Iran’s radical regime.
If the demands of the Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Saudi Arabia and other moderate mainstream Arab and Muslim countries, can force Qatar to curtail its support for extremism and its exploitation of Palestinian suffering for its own political agenda, that would be a monumental step forward in empowering the Arab World.
Al-Jazeera won’t be missed because today, unlike when it was lunched 21 years ago, we have a wealth of great Arab media that pursue journalism and challenge racism and bigotry correctly, honestly and with principle.
Don’t me wrong though. Al-Jazeera has many great writers and editorial staff who do embrace professional journalism. They want to do the right thing and report on news fairly, accurately and as professionals. But, the problem remains the coddling of extremist views by the managing editors and by Qatar’s government, allowing its activist writers to viciously attack others in the Arab World just because they disagree with their politics.
Al-Jazeera could change and oust many of these radicals, but that’s unlikely considering many of them are deeply embedded in the system. And given Qatar’s close ties to radical Arab elements including Iran, Hezbollah and the Government of Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad, it would be difficult.
Just because Al-Jazeera publishes a few stories that expose Israeli lies, shouldn’t justify closing our eyes to its extremist core that produces even greater injustices against voices of moderation in the Arab and Muslim World who advocate peace through compromise and justice.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Editor’s Note: The author wrote features for Al-Jazeera but separated from the news organization over differences of opinion over the coverage of the Palestinians and Israel, and the support of the peace process.
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
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, Hanania 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. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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