JERUSALEM, ISRAEL— April 18, 2022 – Sometimes I like to shake things up. Like many Israelis, I am a jews junkie. I follow local news through a variety of sources in Hebrew and English, and for a wider international perspective I switch between CNN and FOX. When I am tired with CNN and FOX offering me different sides of the same news story, often ad nauseum, I will turn the channel to Al-Jazeera for a change of perspective that’s sometimes interesting, but often offering its own unique editorial opinion and different perspectives disguised as news.
This past week, I tuned in to Al-Jazeera to watch the live funeral of their journalist Shireen Abu-Akhel who was killed in Jenin under circumstances that are not yet clear. What is known is that she was shot in the head in the midst of a gun battle between Israeli troops and Palestinian Arab terrorists. Who shot the bullet is unclear, even according to the “best” Palestinian Authority report. But facts don’t seem to matter to Al-Jazeera which reported that Israeli troops singled out Abu-Akhel and murdered her deliberately, as if it were as conclusive a fact as gravity.
As one who likes to deal in facts, deliberate lies and misrepresentations are troubling. I am all for understanding the different narratives of different people whose perspectives are shaped by their world view. However, if these are not based on fact, I am less sympathetic or interested in blind rhetoric.
Some years ago, I learned about how people’s narratives are shaped by how they view the world and based on where they are raised up close and personal. I was exchanging emails with a relative by marriage. He’s a Moslem Arab, born and raised in an Arab country. He was educated in a top western university and as such, I ascribed a degree of intellect to him even though I didn’t know him well. Overall, I had great respect and liked him.
We’d been in touch on other things before, but one email got particularly heated. I had written about one of the “battles” in which Israel was engaged in Gaza at the time, explaining that I call it a battle rather than a war because it’s just more fighting of the unfinished War of Independence that was thrust upon Israel when it declared independence this week in 1948. Sure, two Arab countries had made peace with Israel then, and four more since. But the war for Israel’s independence has not ended and this was just another battle in that war.
My relative replied harshly. He wrote that what Israel was doing was not a battle but a wholesale slaughter of Palestinian Arabs in Gaza. He had no facts and did not want to hear my perspective. He called it genocide. Since then, we have not been in touch, which is fine, but sad. I learned from this that no matter how well educated someone may be, the world view is shaped by many things. He was a product of the (anti-Israel) Arab environment in which he was raised. In retrospect, the only thing that surprised me was that it took so long to scratch below the surface to reach the inbred hostility for which he had for Israel, and me and my family as “settlers” “occupying” “Palestine.”
So much for civil discourse.
There are many reasons why he thinks what he does. I was thinking of him this week watching the Abu-Akhel funeral on Al-Jazeera which went far beyond what one might graciously deem a different narrative, and actually invents its own facts. Their bias and dishonesty was so over the top, I wanted to yell at the TV. The problem is that Arabs and others who don’t know any better drink it up like hate-laced Kool Aid.
At one point, their correspondent in Ramallah, noted that this week Palestinians observe what they call the “nakba,” the Arabic word for catastrophe. The catastrophe to which they refer is Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948. That’s important because it underscores that from their perspective, Israel is and always has been illegitimate. However, their correspondent conveniently misled the viewers saying that the “nakba” was from 1967. Even Pinocchio would blush at the lie, but it’s more than just a lie. While the Palestinian Authority, and much of the Arab world still believe that Israel is illegitimate, they like to claim that the big crime is the “occupation” which they (mostly) will say began in 1967 as a result of the Six Day War.
Their correspondent deliberately misled the public to think that the catastrophe was from the 1967 “occupation,” and not Israel’s very birth is dishonest. It’s funny that the Orthodox Israeli Jewish “settler” was the one to pick up on that.
Al-Jazeera engaged in a broad libelous accusation of Israel deliberately targeting Abu-Akhel. It is perhaps one thing to report that she may have been killed by an Israeli bullet, or share the circumstances of her death. But to actually cite a deliberate murder (look at the screenshot), is an outright lie.
I also noticed that during part of the funeral they were reporting from “Occupied East Jerusalem” and brought on pundits to buffer the allegations of a deliberate Israeli crime rather than, at best, a reporter being “embedded” among terrorists and being shot by accident. Israeli sources report that Palestinian terrorists fired more than 1000 rounds indiscriminately while Israel used more targeted snipers. (The operation had been to arrest a wanted terrorist, and Israel never goes in with guns blazing.) Part of the reporting (as in the egregious lie about the “nakba” by the reporter) came from “Ramallah, Occupied West Bank.”
What I don’t understand is that if Al-Jazeera believes that there is, or ever was, a State of Palestine that’s been “occupied,” why not report that they were in “Ramallah, Palestine.” The answer is simple. The same way they mislead viewers by alleging the “nakba” took place in 1967, use of the term “West Bank” is pejorative and further indictment and incitement against Israel.
Facts are important, but not to Al-Jazeera. One can have their own narrative. I respect that. But not their own facts. I don’t know what Jazeera means in Arabic, but to me its just a bunch of lies and slander.
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Part II – Friday, May 20, 2022