The integrity of
coverage of the current fighting between Hamas and Israel by Australia's
national broadcaster, ABC, and its sister organisation SBS,
has been compromised by their problematic and repeated use of reports by al-Jazeera,
an organisation owned by the government of Qatar.
Biased against Israel
in its coverage even at the best of times,al-Jazeera must
be seen as having an egregious conflict of interest when it comes to the
Israel-Hamas conflict, because Qatar is currently the biggest funding source
for Hamas, and, together with Turkey, had been actively shilling a ceasefire
plan that transparently serves Hamas' interests.
(For several more
AIJAC blogs covering the bias of al-Jazeera,
see here, here and here.)
The bias of al-Jazeera during
this escalation has been criticised on Capital Hill by Democratic congressman
Brad Sherman, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Web
site Algemeiner reported.
"Every one of those rockets [fired by Hamas into
Israeli cities] is a war crime, almost every one," Sherman said, noting
that Hamas seeks to hit civilian targets. "Of course it's a war crime
committed by Hamas. And of course the owners of this TV network help fund
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem
Posthas reported that
al-Jazeera has pushed Hamas' agenda in the current conflict more than most
other media in the Arab world.
Eyal Zisser, a Middle East expert from the Moshe Dayan
Center at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post on
Sunday that al-Jazeera is
fully supporting Hamas, and not the Palestinian people.
Zisser said that the Qatar-owned station has been supporting the Muslim
Brotherhood and was against the overthrow of former Egyptian Brotherhood
president Mohamed Morsi. Qatar also funds Hamas.
Due to the way many of ABC's
radio news feeds are only partially archived on the internet, it's difficult to
determine the precise number of times al-Jazeera has
been used by the network during this escalation.
In a sampling of four
news reports since Friday, however, al-Jazeera was
used all three times - and especially in prime time slots, when most people are
At 6:50 p.m. on
Newsradio's Drive program a report by al-Jazeera's Nicole
Johnston, for example, included an interview with an unnamed Hamas official,
who said that Israel's ground incursion would "destroy the two-state
solution, because the Palestinians will not, anymore, believe that the
Israelis, or trust the Israelis are looking to have a political solution."
Johnston left this
absurd statement unchallenged, ignoring the fact that it is Hamas that has led
the rejectionist camp of the Palestinians that has always rejected the concept
of a negotiated peace with Israel. In light of this, a fair journalist might
have raised the question whether the destruction of the two-state solution is
actually the projection of Hamas' desire in the violence, not Israel's.
Johnston, of all the
journalists currently in Gaza, was also selected to be interviewed live about
the situation in Gaza on Radio National's Drive program on Monday by host
At 9:20 a.m. on Sunday
morning, Cameron Green, hosting of Newsradio's Weekend
Breakfast program aired a lengthy four-minute interview with al-Jazeera's
commentator Marwan Bashara and conducted by Martine Dennis that reads like an
infomercial for the Hamas ceasefire plan. While the interview bashed Egypt for
its own ceasefire plan, at no point in the clip was it mentioned that Hamas'
plan was being pushed by the network's owner Qatar - again, at risk of
repeating myself, the funders of Hamas!
Marwan Bashara: This
is the thing that we haven't heard before, because of the Egyptian initiative
for a ceasefire that was based on consultation with Israel only, or, as some
say, was an Israeli initiative with Egyptian wrappings. This time around,
there's a genuine, apparently, Hamas initiative that does take into
consideration some very basic demands that says, look, if we're gonna arrive at
a ceasefire after all of the destruction in Gaza, we cannot go back to the
status quo and to being one big prison camp. That there has to be some basic
changes to the status quo, at least, by lifting the siege and releasing the
Dennis: Indeed. You're pointing out what I'm looking at as
well. Because it seems very much as though these Hamas set of conditions is
seeking to change the reality on the ground way beyond an immediate halt in
Bashara: Well, of course. Because Hamas rejects the notion
of quiet for quiet after Israeli bombardment of hundreds of communities and the
killing of hundreds and thousands of casualties. Hamas now demands that we go
back to the 2012 understanding and that the siege is lifted. Because, look, at
the end of the day, Israel can't keep doing the same thing and expecting a
different result. That's actually a sign of craziness or desperation. This war
is not winnable. Everyone understands that. You cannot win against 1.5 million
Palestinians. You cannot win against communities. It's not a war to be waged
against communities. So, at the end of the day, Gaza's going to have to live in
some sort of a semi-normal situation until a just and final peace is reached.
Until then, the Palestinians cannot live as subhumans in one big prison camp.
The most impoverished, oldest prison camp in the world today. This is not a sustainable
situation. Everyone understands that. And the situation tends to be demystified
by Israel somehow as if it's a war against Hamas per se when we know for a fact
Hamas' popularity has only increased over the last ten days because of the
Dennis: What about the issue, the issue of prisoners. In
this document that we have in front of us, it says that Israel should complete
its obligations under the Shalit deal. Remind us of what that was all about. Of
course, that relates to the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.Marwan
Bashara: You know, at the end of the day, there are two
sets of prisoners in Israeli jails and Israeli prisons. There are Hamas
prisoners from past eras and there were Hamas prisoners that were released in
2012. But they were put back in prison after the latest killing of three young
Jewish settlers on the West Bank. So what Hamas is saying, look, we never took
responsibility for that act of killing the three people. We had nothing to do
with it. You had no right to - after a deal that was signed, and you released
those prisoners, you have no right to put them back again in prison. So those
prisoners need to be released and other prisoners need to be released as well
because, you know, if you can arrive at the ceasefire and that paves the way to
some sort of a settlement, certainly political prisoners would not remain in
jail, and you know, there are thousands of them in Israeli jails.
Finally, on Monday
World Radio News' Brianna Roberts used snippets of al-Jazeera's
reports to create a monstrous image of Israel, airing unsubstantiated
allegations of war crimes from officials in Hamas-run hospitals without giving
any Israeli official a chance to respond to them.
Brianna Roberts: Doctors
called it Bloody Sunday in Gaza, with more than 80 Palestinians reportedly
killed in one day. At least 50 of those were from one district alone, in
Shejaiya, east of Gaza City. A doctor at the Sahaba clinic in Gaza, Basman
Alashi, has told al-Jazeera the
situation in Gaza is shocking.Basman
Alashi: They are shelling indiscriminately, just shooting
at everything that is moving. A child, a woman, an old man, even an animal,
they are shooting at it. This has to end. The world has to see it. The world
has to hear what's going on. It's a massacre in Gaza, done by the Israeli
Not satisfied with one
allegation sourced from al-Jazeera, Roberts then introduced another clip from
Brianna Roberts: A
Norwegian doctor in Gaza, Mads Gilberts, told al-Jazeera people
are growing increasingly desperate.Mads
Gilberts: The Israeli forces do not allow ambulances to
access those people who are trapped in Shejaiya. There may be more than a
hundred or hundreds. We don't know the exact number of injured in the area but
the access of ambulances is a major problem. A father just came running with
his daughter screaming that we need ambulances, we need ambulances, we need
Roberts did not
interview any Israeli government of military official to allow them to respond
directly to the allegations, saying only, in her own words, that while the Arab
League has accused Israel of war crimes in Shedjaya, "Israel says its
ground operation is necessary to target a network of Hamas tunnels."
...ABC and SBS have let
Australian listeners down by using in whole or in part reports from al-Jazeera.
That organisation's biased track record on its reporting on Israel, taken
together with its owner's deeply-rooted relationship with Hamas, should
invalidate it as a source for Australia's news organisations, and particularly
publicly funded ones.
There are many sources of audio and video that can be
sourced in the current conflict. Al-Jazeera, which
represents the interests of Hamas' chief allies in the Arab world, should
certainly not be among them.