In a major blow to Al-Jazeera’s drive for acceptance and respectability in the West, the government of Israel says that one of the channel’s correspondents has confessed to acting as an agent of the terrorist group Hamas. The Israeli government also claims to have uncovered a network of Hamas operatives using Al-Jazeera as a cover.
The U.S. State Department designates Hamas as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” and states that it “was formed in late 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Hamas does not recognize Israel, and its founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. The group considers Israeli settlers and civilians legitimate military targets.
Samer Allawi, a Palestinian who ran Al-Jazeera’s Kabul, Afghanistan, bureau, was released, sentenced to time served, and agreed to pay a $1,400 fine. He was arrested on August 9 and held in an Israeli prison. Various press freedom groups had clamored for his release.
Some commentators are saying that the treatment of the Al-Jazeera correspondent is evidence of a tougher policy by Israel toward Qatar, an Arab dictatorship which completely finances Al-Jazeera and selects its news and editorial personnel. A classified report prepared by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and leaked to the Israeli media in August outlined Qatar’s more radical stance in the Arab and Muslim world and noted evidence of more frequent Hamas visits to Doha, the capital, and funding by Qatar of Hamas.
A story on the Israelnationalnews.com website about the report also indicated that Israel may start restricting the activities of Al-Jazeera correspondents inside Israel. It said, “Qatar is also the home of Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera, which the Foreign Ministry considers extremely anti-Israel. As a result, the Ministry has worked in recent months to prevent reporters from the network from operating in Israel, and has stopped giving them visas. Currently, the only way for an Al-Jazeera reporter to enter Israel is using a passport from a country that has full diplomatic relations with Jerusalem, but the Ministry is seeking ways to keep these individuals out of Israel as well.”
Although the emir of Qatar pours hundreds of millions of dollars into the channel, making it effectively a propaganda machine for the regime, he prohibits a free press and free elections at home. Bloggers critical of the royal family are simply taken away and tortured, while Al-Jazeera turns a blind eye and deaf ear to their fate.
But because the country hosts a U.S. military base, it enjoys a moderate and even pro-Western reputation. Qatar uses expensive public relations and lobbying firms like Barbour, Griffith & Rogers (BGR) and Brown Lloyd James.
The Allawi incident confirms what Accuracy in Media has been saying for years—that the channel functions as a mouthpiece for terrorist organizations ranging from al-Qaeda to Hamas and Hezbollah. Nevertheless, Al-Jazeera continues to maintain that it is a legitimate news-gathering operation that deserves carriage on major U.S. cable and satellite systems. It operates out of studios in Washington, D.C. and has a major presence at the United Nations in New York. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even praised it for offering “news” to viewers.
Allawi claimed after his release that his contacts with Hamas “were part of his work as a journalist,” the channel reported. His lawyer had acknowledged that Israeli authorities had obtained his “computer login information,” which apparently led to the evidence that forced the plea bargain and his decision not to challenge the charges.
It is true that the channel regularly maintains contacts with Hamas. Indeed, as AIM has reported, Hamas operatives appear at the annual Al-Jazeera Forum sponsored by the government of Qatar. This year’s event featured Osama Hamdan, a top member of the political bureau of Hamas,
We noted at the time: “Americans attending this event included Steve Clemons of the George Soros-funded New America Foundation. An openly gay figure in the U.S. foreign policy community, he has been a cheerleader for Al-Jazeera and his blog features a ‘Watch Al-Jazeera Now’ ad. He reports that he was at the Al-Jazeera Forum as a “guest” of Al-Jazeera, apparently meaning that the terror channel paid his way and accommodations.”
Hamdan was on a panel with former Obama adviser Robert Malley of the George Soros-funded International Crisis Group. The title of the panel was, “Palestinian national strategy in the new Middle East.”
A writer of the recent Soros-funded Center for American Progress report on alleged “Islamophobia” in the U.S. went on Al-Jazeera to promote the charges against leading American conservatives.
Another American participant in this year’s Al-Jazeera Forum was Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim Brotherhood spin-off. He reported on his Facebook page that his presentation went well and that he was “Getting ready for a guided tour of Al Jazeera headquarters.”
But that headquarters, according to the Israeli information released in connection with the Samer Allawi case, may very well be a meeting place for Hamas representatives.
Israeli authorities claimed in a release about the Allawi case that he admitted that in 2000, during a meeting with a Hamas operative in Dubai, he “agreed to carry out military or organizational activity for Hamas” and “even proposed, on his own initiative, to work to aid Hamas in advancing its goals by utilizing his position as a journalist with Al Jazeera.”
The Israeli government went on to say, “In 2006, Allawi met with Hamas operatives in Qatar, who served as Al Jazeera correspondents, and agreed with them that they would exploit their work with Al Jazeera
in order to strengthen Hamas by—inter alia—criticizing American operations in Afghanistan and expressing support for the Palestinian ‘resistance.’ In 2010, during an additional meeting with Hamas operatives in Qatar, Allawi was asked to work to strengthen public opinion in support of Hamas and the Palestinian struggle by—inter alia—criticizing American activities.”
In another scandal involving the channel, disclosures by WikiLeaks that U.S. officials had been pressuring Al-Jazeera to tone down its anti-American coverage have led to the resignation of Al-Jazeera’s director Wadah Khanfar, who has been replaced by a member of the Qatari royal family, Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, an executive at Qatargas.
A cable released by WikiLeaks appeared to show Khanfar taking the U.S. complaints seriously and trying to water down the channel’s inflammatory coverage. This made Khanfar, in the eyes of radical Islamists, an American lackey who had to go.
The cable shows that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was monitoring the channel, apparently because its coverage was leading to the killing of American service personnel in the Middle East. The complaints involved the “use of inflammatory language; a failure to balance of extremist views; and the use of terrorist tapes.” However, Khanfar was quoted as saying in regard to the latter that the channel would continue to use the tapes from terrorist groups. “We have always said that we are going to use these tapes and we will continue to use them,” he says in the cable. “The question is how.”
Other questions are how and why Al-Jazeera always seems to have inside access to terrorist groups.
Al-Jazeera continues to run a “Demand Al-Jazeera in the USA” campaign featuring “Al Jazeera English Testimonials” from such figures as Rachel Maddow of MSNBC; Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and Senator John McCain.
However, as we noted in an earlier story about the arrest of Samer Allawi, critics of Al-Jazeera have called upon Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, to hold hearings on Al-Jazeera’s involvement with terrorist organizations and whether that activity qualifies the channel to be officially designated by the U.S. Government as a global terrorist entity.
Such a designation could lead to the banning of the channel’s broadcasts, the closing of Al-Jazeera bureaus in the U.S., and perhaps the expulsion of its correspondents.