Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

Al Jazeera suspends staff after outcry over anti-Semitic video

The network’s Arabic-language AJ+ channel ran a report asking ‘How true is the Holocaust’

A general view of a studio of the TV Channel Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar. EPA
A general view of a studio of the TV Channel Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar. EPA

Al Jazeera suspended two journalists on Sunday about a video that claimed the extent of the Holocaust was being misrepresented and exploited by Jews.

The seven-minute film was published on May 17 on AJ+ Arabic, a youth-focused arm of the Qatari government-owned channel. It was captioned "The gas chambers killed millions of Jews … so the story says. How true is the #Holocaust and how did the Zionists benefit from it?"

Six million Jews were systematically killed by the Nazis during the Second World War.

With images of book burnings and labour camps scrolling through the background, Al Jazeera journalist Muna Hawwa asks "why is there a focus only on them [Jewish victims]?"

From twitter account of Halawa Mark
From twitter account of Halawa Mark

The video, removed a day after it was published, suggested the answer. It said Jewish-owned “financial resources, media institutions, research centres and academic voices” put a spotlight on Jewish victims.

It also suggested that people are divided between those who deny it took place, others who think it is over exaggerated and a third group who believe it has been “blown out of proportion in the service of the plan to establish what would later be known as the ‘State of Israel’.”

The World Jewish Congress published a statement on May 18 and called the video an “appalling, unabashedly anti-Semitic piece” and that its claims “crossed all lines of decency and entered into the realm of blood libel”.

The network disowned the content and said that staff would undertake "mandatory bias training".

The Qatari broadcaster removed the video, saying it did not meet editorial standards, but many journalists and readers online pointed out that it was not the first time Al Jazeera has published anti-Semitic content.

They also pointed out that while many readers around the world are familiar with the Al Jazeera English service, the Arabic-language edition is vastly different.

In 2017, the network’s English edition deleted a tweet containing an anti-Semitic cartoon to promote a story about climate change denial. Again, they apologised and said it had been shared by mistake.

However, the network in general and the Arabic-language section, in particular, is also at the centre of issue that led the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain to cut ties with Qatar.

The GCC states accuse the network of giving a platform to extremists and militants and publishing content harmful to neighbouring states.

Al Jazeera Arabic gave the first media interview to Mohammed Al Joulani, leader of former Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al Nusra, now rebranded as Hayat Tahrir Al Sham.

Several Al Jazeera staff members also quit over the strong links between the station and Syrian rebel groups as well as its interference with fair coverage of the country's civil war.

In 2008, the network praised the release of Hezbollah commander Samir Kuntar by Israel as part of a prisoner exchange. Kuntar was convicted of murdering five Israelis, including a 4-year-old girl during a cross-border raid in which he said he wanted to take hostages back to Lebanon.

US State Department internal communications released by WikiLeaks in 2010 included a memo that said the Qatari government manipulates Al Jazeera coverage to suit political its interests.

The station interviewed the Doha-based spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf Al Qaradawi. The 93-year-old was banned from France and Britain for his extremist views and makes derogatory references to Jews when speaking about historic fatwas.

In 2013, 22 members of Al Jazeera’s Egypt bureau resigned, saying the network’s coverage after the 2011 revolution was biased in favour of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood under Egypt's divisive president, Mohammed Morsi.

Updated: May 20, 2019 04:44 PM

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