April 26, 2024 | Townhall

Washington Should Clip Qatar’s Media Wing

April 26, 2024 | Townhall

Washington Should Clip Qatar’s Media Wing

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre recently criticized a new Israeli law that allows the government to temporarily shutter Al Jazeera’s Israel operations. “If it’s true, a move like this is concerning. We believe in freedom of the press,” she said.

But Jean-Pierre is confusing Al Jazeera, a Qatari-owned pro-Hamas propaganda network, with a traditional news gathering outlet. And restricting the freedom of propaganda organs is not taboo in Washington or the West.

In 2013, the U.S. sanctioned Iran’s Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, noting Tehran’s “campaign to filter out unwanted TV content and broadcast its own propaganda.” Washington sanctioned Russian television stations in 2022 for “having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of” Moscow. The European Union likewise sanctioned Russian state media for “concerted propaganda” and “gravely distorting and manipulating facts.”

Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV and Hezbollah-run Al-Manar are also designated in the U.S. for inciting violence and helping recruit fighters, as are numerous other television stations that serve bad actors around the globe. 

Al Jazeera claims to produce “accurate” reporting that “upholds the value of truth.” That is risible. Coupled with providing Hamas political and financial backing, Qatar employs Al Jazeera to benefit itself and partners, including Hamas. Israel knows this, which is why Jerusalem announced its intent in October to “shut down” Al Jazeera, “which is used for Hamas propaganda, incitement, and damage to the security of the State during the war.” Even U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Doha to “turn down the volume on Al Jazeera’s coverage” of Gaza “because it’s full of anti-Israel incitement.”

That is an understatement. As Hamas terrorists rampaged through Israeli communities on October 7, Al Jazeera aired a recording of Hamas military chief Mohammad Deif encouraging Palestinians to “kill, burn, destroy, and shut down roads” in the Jewish state. “If you do not have a gun, take up your cleaver axe, Molotov cocktail, truck, tractor, or car,” he declared.

Qatar’s news agency also continues to spread propaganda, peddle lies, and even aid Hamas on the battlefield.

Al Jazeera quickly blamed Israel for an October 17 explosion at Gaza’s al-Ahli Arab hospital, echoing false claims by the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Many Western outlets also fell for the ruse, but Al Jazeera continued to mislead the public after AmericanFrench, and Israeli intelligence indicated that an errant Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket caused the blast.

Last month, Al Jazeera propagated another lie: that Israeli soldiers raped Palestinian women during a counterterrorism operation at Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital. After the supposed witness admitted that she fabricated her testimony to “arouse” Palestinian “fervor and brotherhood” — and Hamas issued a rare admission that that scoop was false — Al Jazeera quietly removed the story from its website but did not publicly retract it.

Equally bad is Al Jazeera’s deliberate use of language that validates Hamas’s commitment to destroying Israel. The network uses the term “martyr” to describe all Palestinian deaths, civilians and terrorists alike, and “occupation” to describe Jewish presence anywhere in Israel, including within the 1948 borders internationally recognized as Israeli territory.

But Al Jazeera isn’t only serving Hamas in the information war — it’s apparently assisting Hamas on the battlefield too. Jerusalem said in October that Al Jazeera was “passing sensitive information” to Hamas, leaving Israeli troops vulnerable to attack.

Al Jazeera also counts terrorists among its ranks. The Israeli military published evidence in February showing that Al Jazeera correspondent Muhammed Wishah moonlit as a Hamas military commander. The military subsequently revealed that another correspondent, Ismail Abu Omar, “held the position of deputy commander” in Hamas’s Khan Younis battalion. Abu Omar even filmed himself participating in the October 7 attacks.

Al Jazeera’s track record should not come as a surprise given that Qatar is home to Hamas political headquarters, harbors Hamas leaders, and provides Hamas upwards of $300 million per year. Doha held “Israel alone responsible” for Hamas’s October 7 attack but continues to pose as an honest broker.

American lawmakers are already on Al Jazeera’s case. In 2020, the Department of Justice ordered the network’s American subsidiary, Al Jazeera+, to register as a foreign agent as required by U.S. law. Four years later, Al Jazeera has yet to comply. And the Biden administration has shown little, if any, inclination to enforce the law.

Washington should not legitimize media organizations acting as agents of outside powers under the guise of professional journalism. If the Biden administration wants to defend the free press, it’s time to hold Al Jazeera and its Qatari owners to account.

Natalie Ecanow is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonpartisan research institute in Washington, D.C., focusing on national security and foreign policy. Follow FDD on X @FDD.


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