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Why does Israel believe the world would be better without Al Jazeera?

Al Jazeera news room [file photo]
Qatar's Al Jazeera news room [file photo]

According to the official Israeli perspective, the world was better without Al Jazeera, the network that occupied our eyes and ears when it launched a new media era in the Arab world in 1996. The Arabs were exposed to something else other than the monotonous official propaganda channels in their capital cities. Public discussions took place and opposing views were expressed when Al Jazeera paved its own way, followed by other Arab media outlets later. With the flourish of electronic networking, communities began to show their presence in an unprecedented manner, interacting with news material presented by Al Jazeera and others.

The situation was different 20 years ago. The Israelis stood in their corridors, boasting about their media experience that included, for example, the establishment of a radio station speaking in Arabic, called “Voice of Israel”. It had a number of Arab listeners, who showed interest in the station in order to know what was happening in their countries.

Read: Israel is sleepwalking towards tyranny not practising democracy

Aj Jazeera logo [File photo]

This era ended with the emergence of Arab media experiences that rivalled others in the world, such as that of Al Jazeera, which broadcasted in several languages and whose screens showed the faces of the world. Successive Israeli governments were angered by the fact that this media openness directly showed the Israeli occupation authorities and their forces’ actions on the ground. The problem wasn’t with Al Jazeera itself, but with the reality its screens were showing to the Arabs and the world. This reality is imposed by the occupation via its forces, violations, bombings, settlements and walls, and in the era of Al Jazeera it cannot sweep any of this under the rug.

The Israeli governments slept well when they made major deals with Egypt, the Palestinian leadership and Jordan. All this went smoothly before the emergence of Al Jazeera, satellite channels and social networking sites. What happened was that weak Arab leaders who feared the future were pushed by their fears to accept agreements they were not honest with their people about. They didn’t even present them to experts and specialists in their own countries. The official Arab media promoted the agreements that were prepared in secret and claimed they would make their countries heaven on earth, according to the newspapers and screens at the time.

Today, there seems to be an urgent need to return to that time of naive media, in preparation for major new deals being pushed by Arab leaders who are terrified of the future and democracy, of course without discussing the content of these agreements with their people. For example, who in the Arab world wants generations to ask about their money, which Trump is talking about sucking by the hundreds of billions in order to provide “jobs, jobs, jobs” for his voters?

Read more: Israel is squeezing press freedoms, like Arab dictators do

A large-scale multi-level process has been occurring in the Arab world’s media industry for a while now, aiming to return to the pre-Al Jazeera era. This of course will comfort the Israeli side, which decided to fully embrace its share of the process. Netanyahu’s government decided to stop allowing Al Jazeera to broadcast in the country while the Israeli forces storm various television stations’ media offices in the West Bank. During this time, it has also escalated its hostility and aggression towards journalists and photographers in order to intimidate and arrest them.

According to official Israeli reports, these measures were taken in line with steps taken by Arab countries it described as “reasonable and moderate”. What these reports failed to mention is that these countries do not recognise freedom of press to begin with. The Israeli attack on Al Jazeera will also affect other channels, as it is not this television channel’s trademark that Israel is targeting, but the press coverage it is providing. Netanyahu’s government is currently acting like its soldiers in the field, who use their meaty hands to block press cameras from filming what they are doing.

The Israeli authorities believe now is their best chance to destroy Al Jazeera in the hopes of turning back time. This rough option was chosen after Israeli propaganda lost the media competition in the Arab world a while back. For example, when Ariel Sharon’s government decided to launch a satellite television station aimed at Arab viewers in order to re-establish the glory of Israeli radio, no one tuned in and the experiment quickly failed.

Read: End of Al Jazeera, a dark day for the Middle East

Israeli spokesmen ignore the fact that Al Jazeera, in particular, gave them an unprecedented chance to address the Arabs face-to-face. Senior officials and army spokesmen compete to appear on Al Jazeera’s screens in order to justify crushing the Palestinians and committing violations. However, these appearances did not succeed in winning the hearts and minds of the Arabs.

The problem with the Netanyahu government is its excessive self-confidence, which results in it embarking on adventures it cannot afford. After it embarked on its recent adventure in Jerusalem, without considering the world’s reactions, it has now decided to crush the media in its own way. It may succeed in implementing its decision to stop Al Jazeera’s coverage and revoke its correspondents’ permits, but the following day, Al Jazeera will gain large audiences carrying smart phones and they will start capturing and broadcasting on their own, without having to answer to anyone.

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  • John the Savage

    They’ve never liked the pro-Palestinian media, and now that they have a chance to consolidate a right-wing Zionist dictatorship they will take it.

    • Michael Abramov

      Come on John. You know perfectly well that Al Jazeera cannot possibly be unbiased regarding Israel. I have been watching Al Jazeera and reading articles on MEM for years and at no point have I ever found a ‘balanced’ view of Israel. Al Jazeera will pick on anything to slag-off Israel.

      What is more important is to fight for the release of the Al-Jazeera journalist in Egypt where reporting has become ‘restricted’ unlike Israel.

      • John the Savage

        As my comment pointed out, Al-Jazeera is “pro-Palestinian”, not unbiased. But that is not a reason to ban them from the country. As for Egypt, I understand Israel’s and the US’ relationship with them is better now than it has ever been.

        • Michael Abramov

          John – Yes it is hard to believe but, there are more Arab countries talking to Israel than ever before. How does this reflect on the progress of the Palestinians and their negotiations? It is making the Palestinian cause more isolated.

          Well, for a start Al-Jazeera can acknowledge this. For years, the Arab states have not supported the Palestinians in any constructive way other than by cash handouts. Jordan has been more then generous in accommodating the Palestinian refugees, Lebanon has used the Palestinians as a pawn in a game of political chess and the other Arab states just don’t give a s–t.

          Al-Jazeera has to be honest with itself and admit it is not focusing positively on Israel. All it’s comments and editorials are full of condemnation. So, why should Israel put up with this? On the other hand, I do not want Israel to shut their offices down. Unlike Egypt and Turkey, Israel is a leading example of a free thinking nation unencumbered by political restraint.

          • John the Savage

            We’ve known for a long time that Israel’s narrative of a lone wolf among 70 wolves is a false one – and now Israel are trying to say, look how popular we are! We must be right!. Sometimes you will never win the argument. As for media bias against Israel, Israel would do a lot better with them if they didn’t just decry all their critics as leftists and anti-Semites, and spew their usual cr*p about “the most moral army in the world” and “only democracy in the ME” and “would any other country…” and what about Syria or the DPRK?” and instead engaged with the content of the criticism, as well as the international bodies who examine it.

          • Michael Abramov

            John – the fact is that Israel is and has been a lone wolf in an area of hostility. It is not false. You are taking the thaw in relations with Arab countries as a cynical move. Why?

            For years I have tried to create a dialogue with the pro-Palestine lobby resulting in some 90% saying, in no uncertain terms, they do not wish to talk to me. Funnily enough, it has been Arabs that have engaged with me, not the middle-class Corbynites.

            Finally, if you feel that it is unimportant that Israel has a moral army and is also the only democracy in the ME, then I must seriously question what your values are and what you see as laudable factors in running a country that has been at war since 1948?

            Over to you.

          • John the Savage

            Because Israel has never been a lone wolf in an area of hostility. It is true that for various reasons – not all having to do with the Palestinians – Israel’s neighbours have been hostile to its existence and attacked it from time to time, but Israel has always had the security of US financial backing and a far superior army. The recent thaw in Israel’s relationships have nothing to do with Israel’s own behaviour or military strength but the changing politics of the region.

            As for middle-class Corbynites, You may have heard or seen about the attack in the USA on anti-racist protesters by Neo-Nazi’s. To which the response has been an outpouring of sympathy towards the white supremacists and against left-wing anti-racism protesters. Some of the more vile journalists have taken the opportunity to attack Jeremy Corbyn. I don’t know your views on the alt-right Nazi’s in Virginia or on the so-called antifa, but in such a climate I would not blame any leftist who shuts up shop and refuses to engage with anybody to their right. Islamophobia is now normal in the Labour Party, to support a fully-funded NHS is Marxist and hard-left, anti-Semites are supported on the basis that they are pro-Israel, and you are asking us for dialogue?

            I am at a loss as to by which objective standards is the IDF moral or Israel a democracy. My values are morality and democracy, which is precisely why I so heavily criticize Israel. The very basic I ask Israel to do is obey international law, engage with its more respected critics like Amnesty and MSF and not demonize Arabs, leftists, or asylum seekers.

          • Helen4Yemen

            Do you not get it that the white man known as
            the Ashkenazi inserted his European a^^ on Arab
            soil and displaced the native Palestinians …unless
            of course, you will tell me that the following are
            native to Palestine:

            Yezernitsky
            Scheinermann
            Yezernitsky
            Mabovitch
            Yezernitsky
            Mileikowsky

          • Michael Abramov

            Yawn

  • I do not think it is best to ban everything you dislike. Say if the U.S. suddenly decided to permanently ban RussiaToday because it has many anti-American news reports.