The “matchbox”, as it was called by Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president overthrown by the Arab Spring, has since established itself in the global audiovisual landscape and has even developed a multilingual audiovisual group, also present on the Internet via the online medium AJ+, the little sister of the Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera.
No competing Arab news channel, all created in its wake in the hope of competing with its audience and influence (rather than its market share, as news media in the Arab world are rarely profitable), has so far succeeded in threatening Al-Jazeera’s hegemony. And yet, both human and material resources have been mobilized, and there is something for everyone. But it seems that the Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood axis has a much stronger following than the others, at least if the relative audiences of the Qatari media’s two main competitors are anything to go by: Al-Arabiya, which benefits from substantial Saudi funding, and Al-Mayadeen, aligned with Damascus and Teheran, which called on Samy Kuleib, formerly of Al-Jazeera, for its launch. The same Kuleib who categorically denied any link with the Syrian government when we first met in 2012 via a Syrian diplomat in Beirut.
Although Al-Jazeera remains dominant in the Arab news broadcasting market (it should be remembered once again that calling this sector a market is questionable, as the obligation of profitability is often not a priority, even if there is indeed a market for audience and influence, which, however, does not directly generate profits), its competitors, and in particular the two aforementioned, nonetheless have an audience, which is admittedly not as numerous, but which is just as strategic: these are the secularized and socialist (a controversial translation of Baathist) elites and middle classes, as well as minorities, in line with the new Aounist marketing of the alliance of minorities.
But when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only the Qatari channel has credibility among all sectors of the Arab public, secularists and Christians included, and its audience share has risen even further since the Abraham Accords, as trust in the media of the Saudi-Emirati axis has declined.
Al-Jazeera, which made a name for itself by broadcasting Osama bin Laden’s delirious speeches exclusively, and almost live, after September 11, 2001, has long since sided with Hamas, both in the internal Palestinian struggles and, more broadly, in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is hardly surprising, given that since the ousting of grandfather Al-Thani by his gargantuan son, Qatar has pursued an aggressive diplomacy of support and legitimization of the Muslim Brotherhood, as seen in its involvement in the wars in Libya and Syria, as well as in the financing in Europe of anti-Western Muslim separatist movements that advocate disrespect for the rules of law and humanist democratic values that enlighten this part of the world.
But the originality of Al-Jazeera in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to have waged a war of images of unprecedented intensity against Tsahal, which some, perhaps also propagandists, call the “least immoral” army in the world.
These asymmetrical images regularly feature poor children who are victims of this war because they are all too often taken hostage by Hamas, whose strategy is to send deadly rockets at Israeli civilians and then hide in the middle of the civilian population, knowing well that any attack will provoke retaliation, thus echo certain clichés of the most despicable European anti-Semitism about the child-killing Jew. While the Israeli army is indeed guilty of causing collateral damage to Hamas targets, the reality is that, without Hamas’s ongoing terrorist activities, Israeli reprisals would be far less frequent. In this respect, it should be stressed that many voices are being raised in Israeli civil society to denounce these reprisals, which affect Palestinian civilians.
This biased and spectacular coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although intentional from the point of view of Qatar’s politico-religious objectives, can also be seen as a clear incitement to Hamas to pursue this strategy of violence against Israeli civilians, which will systematically provoke a warlike reaction from Israel, leading to the exploitation and broadcasting of resounding and shocking images, which rightly move not only Arab crowds but also international public opinion, the media and European NGOs.
All the more so since the maximalism, isolationism and radicalization of the current Israeli authorities, who failed to prevent the greatest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, have overshadowed the eminently critical and denunciatory view that we should all have, without exception, of Hamas, whose nauseating charter stipulates the destruction not only of the State of Israel but also of its Jewish population. After the Jews, who? Christians? Muslims opposed to the fundamentalists? The Druze? The Mankind? And to think that Hamas terrorists find refuge in Qatar!
The creation of an English-language Al-Jazeera channel, which initially served as an international normalization campaign after the bin Laden video scandal, and that of an online media outlet, AJ+, which has a version in four languages (Arabic, English, French and Spanish), have considerably reinforced this war of images initiated by Qatar, not so much because of their audience but because English- and French-speaking journalists who today work for international news channels such as BBC World News or France 24, some of whom have passed through the non-Arabic-speaking channels of Al-Jazeera, have taken up the rhetoric of their former Qatari channel when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, either out of orientalism, opportunism or mimicry, which in all cases amounts to refusing a balanced and objective treatment of reality.
The AJ+ online media, meanwhile, is aimed directly at Western audiences and follows a strategy comparable to General Aoun’s Alliance of Minorities, which is just as untenable. It’s what’s increasingly known as wokeism: talking about the (real) oppression of women, LGBT people and racial minorities, the better to introduce and disseminate the highly controversial and indefinite concept of Islamophobia, and its utterly fallacious Middle Eastern counterpart of Palestinian genocide, even though there have indeed been too many deaths and massive forced displacements of Palestinian populations, as far back as 1948, of which the refugees in Lebanon and Jordan are the descendants, and even though a similar threat exists today against the population of Northern Gaza.
Al-Jazeera, whose involvement is more political and militant than journalistic, contributes collaterally to the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by encouraging, through its biased reporting, the staging of the war and by presenting Hamas as the resistance to Israel, whereas it is first and foremost a corrupt terrorist movement which enslaves the Palestinian populations and deprives them of everything, thus inciting them to endlessly oppress their Jewish neighbours.
As a result, Al-Jazeera has a damaging influence on Arab and international opinion, based on old and notorious anti-Semitic clichés, notably the accusation of ritual murder by Jews! Israel is guilty enough of misdeeds against the Palestinians without the need to invent accusations as delirious as they are false and monstrous!
As for Hamas, backed by the Iranian mullahs and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Qatar, this terrorist group is constantly guilty of serious human rights violations against the Gazan population, deprived of the most basic civil and political rights, and against the Israeli population, as in the unspeakable pogroms perpetrated in the kibbutz, which nothing and nobody can ever justify!
To this day, France remains the only Western country to have understood the harmfulness and perversity of Al-Jazeera, which is why it decided to thwart the project for a French-language channel broadcast to French-speaking European countries, despite the lobbying of Qatar’s agents of influence in the hexagon, including former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has exempted Qataris from taxes since 2008, bearing in mind that they also have numerous intermediaries, notably through their investments in major French companies such as Accor, Vinci, Vivendi and Lagardère, where a Qatari representative even sits on the Board of Directors of this group owned by Vincent Bolloré!
So when will we see a salutary awakening in the West and Europe to the damaging influence of Al-Jazeera and its Qatari mentor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as in so many other areas alas?
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of MENA Research Center.
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