Last week, thanks to decisive action by Iraq’s interim government, the U.S. took a significant step toward winning the ever-elusive hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Iyad Allawi, Iraq’s acting prime minister, announced that al-Jazeera–the Arab world’s one-stop shop for Islamist, anti-American, and anti-Semitic propaganda–would be banned from operating in Iraq for 30 days.
Accusing the Qatar-based network of “inciting hatred,” Allawi said that an independent panel had evaluated al-Jazeera’s Iraq coverage and concluded that the station advocated violence against both Coalition and Iraqi security forces.
The al-Jazeera shutdown came just days after the French government declared that it was banning al-Manar, the official television network of the terrorist group Hezbollah, from French airwaves “due to its anti-Semitic content.”
As expected, both networks loudly protested the closures. Al-Jazeera argued that it had only recently implemented a station-wide “code of ethics” that would ensure balanced reporting on Iraq. In turn, a representative from al-Manar labeled the French ban “restrictive” and a violation of “liberty and principles.”
Considering that both stations serve as sounding boards for Islamist terrorists who advocate the destruction of the U.S. and Israel, it’s rather difficult to sympathize with their plight.
Disturbingly, since its inception in 1996, Al-Jazeera has served as the foremost source of information about the West for much of the Arab and Muslim world. The station helps shape the worldviews of an estimated 45 million Middle Easterners, in addition to scores of Arabic-speaking Europeans and 150,000 American households.
And therein lies the problem: Al-Jazeera portrays the United States and Israel as twin Satans while casting jihadists and despots as courageous victims of Western aggression.
Al-Jazeera has drawn the frequent ire of the Bush administration for its skewed coverage of Iraq, which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has labeled “vicious, inaccurate, and inexcusable.” For instance, in violation of the Geneva conventions it has showed footage of the interrogations of captured U.S. soldiers. Plus, American troops in the field are portrayed as arrogant imperialists who intentionally target Iraqi civilians and holy sites.
The station has also broadcast several audio and video communiqués from Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, and other terrorists. But it never reveals how it obtained the tapes.
To make matters worse, for post-tape commentary and analysis, Al-Jazeera often turns to two notorious Al-Qaeda sympathizers, Muntasir Al-Zayat and Abd al-Bari Atwan.
The Cairo-based Al-Zayat has worked as a lawyer for a number of Islamists with terrorist ties. Utwan, who is editor-in-chief of the radical Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, once referred to bin Laden as “a legitimate jihad fighter.” So much for impartiality.
Additionally, the weekly al-Jazeera program, Ash-Sharia wa Haya (“Sharia and Life”), has played host to well-known jihadists like Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, an avowed advocate of suicide bombings; Safar Al-Hawali, a Saudi cleric with ties to Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers; and Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, spiritual leader of Hezbollah.
While Al-Manar may not yet enjoy the same name recognition as al-Jazeera, its pro-terrorist message does manage to reach an estimated 200 million viewers worldwide via satellite. Al-Manar regularly airs programs that glorify suicide bombers, including one that shows Palestinian “martyrs” preparing for suicide missions. It also broadcasts frequent footage of Hezbollah terrorists attacking Israeli soldiers.
In recent months, the network ran a Syrian-produced mini-series, Al Shatat (“The Diaspora”), which was based on libels found in the notorious anti-Semitic tract, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The series depicted Jews in Israel plotting a world takeover. One typically outrageous scene showed Jewish leaders engineering the murder of a Christian boy in order to drain his blood for Passover matzah.
Given the increasing number of violent attacks against France’s Jews by the country’s burgeoning Muslim population, is it any wonder that the French government decided to ban a station that propagates such incendiary anti-Semitic rhetoric?
Despite its setback in France, however, al-Manar remains a thriving operation, with bureaus already established in Dubai, Egypt, Iran, and Jordan–and is planning to open another in Britain.
As for al-Jazeera–which, just last month, was cleared by the Canadian government to begin broadcasting in Canada–it continues to gain mainstream acceptance. An August 9 New York Times editorial lauded it as “a healthy and crucially important force for change,” and the network even had a skybox at the recent Democratic National Convention.
Indeed, the positive measures taken by the Iraqi and French governments seem to have had little effect on the global standing of either al-Jazeera or al-Manar. As a result, the pro-terror propaganda machine rolls on, much to the West’s disadvantage.
–Erick Stakelbeck is senior writer and Ali Babingyi is a terrorism analyst at the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based counter-terrorism research institute.