Al-Jazeera America has faced one major political hurdle after another as it tries to break through the politically motivated bias that dominates the often biased and racist mainstream American news media which prioritizes pro-Israel news above facts. Now, the allegations of one obscure employee is being used to challenge the professionalism of the news organization which provides the only real balanced coverage of Arab, Muslim and Middle East issues in America
By Ray Hanania
I was always a big fan of Al Jazeera (alJazeera, Al-Jazeera), the Arabic language satellite network launched by Qatar in 1996 in response to the closing of the BBC Arabic language broadcasts. Still, the news operation is sometimes too heavily influenced by extremists who have emphasized their special blend of personal politics above good journalism.
God knows I have been attacked by a few freelance columnists at Al Jazeera in the past, usually in commentaries devoid of facts, driven by inaccuracies and political biases reflecting the extremist agendas of the non-journalism writers.
When Al Jazeera launched its English-language branch, Al Jazeera America (AJAM), I was a big booster, hoping the station would finally prioritize professional news reporting above political considerations. Sadly, AJAM had a struggle breaking into American front room and computer screens, and had some issues dealing with the loudmouth extremist elements who have disrupted the effectiveness of the American Arab community.
That’s how the Arab World has traditionally dealt with the extremists and the terrorist enablers. They try not to confront them and they give them credibility and acquiescence so they can turn their extremism in another direction.
Yet, despite these problems, is Al Jazeera any different than the mainstream American news media which is even less professional and even more political?
The only difference is that Al Jazeera tries to offer a balanced view of the violence in the Middle East by including stories that factually point out Israel’s use of violence and terrorism and its oppression and denial of legal rights to Christian and Muslim Arabs. In contrast, the mainstream American news media is in an Israeli-controlled headlock, tip-toeing through the Middle East conflict and pretending to be balanced, while always conveying Israel as the victim of violence and minimizing, or more often than not ignoring the violence of Israel’s military and its settler terrorist network.
This past week, an obscure employee named Matthew Luke filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court in what is clearly a politically motivated legal assault to participate in the growing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim extremism spreading through America and in the American judicial system. The lawsuit asserts almost incredulously that, according to Luke, he heard employees at Al Jazeera criticize Israel.
He specifically attacked one employee in the lawsuit, Osman Mahmud, claiming that Mahmud had been anti-Israel and also engaged in sexist discrimination against female employees. Luke asserts that he was fired when he tried to bring the issues up to Al Jazeera’s management.
Al Jazeera America’s CEO Ehab Al Shihabi was quoted in the news media asserting that AJAM does not tolerate discriminatory conduct and described as “absurd” accusations that Al Jazeera is “anti-Semitic, sexist and anti-American.”
There is no doubt that Luke is driven by politics and a pro-Israel agenda. And it’s not a coincidence that his lawsuit comes in the wake of a series of lawsuits that have been filed by several pro-Israel political activists alleging that Arab institutions, such as the Arab Bank, have supported and financed terrorist attacks against Israel. These ridiculous lawsuits have found ground in America’s pro-Israel anti-Arab environment and legal system, and in the pro-Israel atmosphere of the biased anti-Arab and racist mainstream American news media.
I definitely think Al Jazeera needs to get its act together. It does have some extremists who, rather than being tolerated and given platforms to spout their politically motivated personal attacks against other American Arab rivals, should be fired and replaced by objective journalists who can sift through the journalism atrocities of bias and bigotry that dominate the mainstream American news media.
Yet, I also believe that Al Jazeera, more than any other news operation in America, has tried hard to provide a truly balanced approach to the Middle East conflict. And yes, I will emphasize “balanced.” While Al Jazeera has interviewed many racist and extremist Israelis, giving them legitimacy and going out of their way to be ‘fair” to the pro-Israel fanatics, the Israeli media has boycotted many Arab activists and embraced Israel’s political agenda as if they were actually Israeli political organizations rather than Israel media. The Israeli media is more driven by propaganda than by accuracy, explanations and defense of Israeli atrocities rather than exposure of Israel’s misconduct.
With some exceptions, the Israeli media is among the most biased media in the world, when it comes to covering Israel, the Arab World and the Middle East conflict. In contrast, Al Jazeera has been objective, fair and open to all viewpoints including the most incendiary views of pro-Israel fanatics who should be exposed as the liars that they are rather than being given a platform to spout their propaganda and distortions.
Don’t expect the biased New York judicial system to fairly review the politically motivated accusations. The lawsuit is just another attack on the effort to bring balance to Western media coverage of an important part of the world, the Middle East.
What Al Jazeera needs to do is to review its staff and eject those who are activists rather than journalists. They don’t need to promote the Arab cause or Palestine. All they have to do is cover the news fairly. Just tell the truth. All they have to do is be balanced in presenting both sides. And that’s what Israel’s extremists fear the most. Because when you put the truth against Israel’s propaganda, Israel always loses out.
But, when you exaggerate the facts to make Israel look worse than it is, you undermine the justice of the Palestinian cause and give Israel cover for their atrocities. It’s a tragic Arab practice that Israeli violence is never violent enough and Arabs often exaggerate the severity and even the number of victims of Israeli attacks because Israeli sins are never bad enough. All they have to do is show Israel for what it is. All they have to do is record the facts, present both sides and do it in a way that allows the public to see, for the first time, the truth of Israel’s lies.
Unfortunately, extremist Arabs often get in the way and hijack the story and the focus. Instead of seeing Israel’s war crimes, the world sees the Arab over-reactions and excessively emotional rhetoric.
Al Jazeera needs to do a better job of not only reporting the news to the primary audience — the American public — but also to rid its ranks of the real threat to its journalistic integrity, extremist activists who have insinuated themselves with commentary submissions that target other Arabs.
The real question is not whether Al Jazeera is a “propaganda arm” of the Arab dictators, as it’s critics contend, or, is it a truly objective and honest journalism organization struggling in an environment filled with potholes of violence, fanaticism, and bias?
I think Al Jazeera can do well and is struggling in a difficult environment with enemies from every direction, here in America and in the Middle East, too.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia as the Special US Correspondent for the Arab News at www.ArabNews.com, the TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appeare in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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