Al Jazeera under fire for again promoting #AntiSemitic content

| May 20, 2019

Al Jazeera has been forced to delete a video which claimed that Jews “exploited the Holocaust” and that Israel was the genocide’s “greatest beneficiary”. The video, published by its online Arabic ‘AJ+’ channel, was removed only after it was met with outrage and disgust online, writes Louis Auge.

The anti-Semitic content suggested that the Jewish community’s access to “financial resources [and] media institutions” meant that it was able to “put a special spotlight” on the suffering of the Jews, and claimed that “the reparations that Israel received were disproportionate” after the Holocaust.

Al Jazeera removed the video and issued a terse statement claiming that the video “violated the network’s editorial standards” but offering no stronger condemnation. Two journalists involved in the production of the content were also suspended, according to the network.

Many commentators and online users have been quick to point out that this is not the first time that the Qatari state-run network has published anti-Semitic or extremist content. Rather than a one-off, they noted, this latest incident is just a further episode in a long-running series of questionable and extremist content broadcast by Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the video represented “the worst kind of pernicious evil” and added “that’s how Al Jazeera brainwashes young people in the Arab world and perpetuates hatred of Israel and the Jews.” A Spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to Al Jazeera as an “inciting propaganda machine”. On Twitter, numerous users, including US President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, called on Facebook to ban AJ+ for “openly publishing Holocaust Denial Videos.”

Since the deletion of the video, it has also come to light that one of the journalists involved in the video, Marah Elwadia, had posted anti-Semitic tweets as early as 2012. One of these tweets featured the hashtag “#fuckjews”.

This revelation has further called into question the channel’s true “editorial standards”. That the video was deleted only after a social media outcry prompted even more speculation as to just what these “standards” entail.

Many users also expressed bewilderment as to how the video could have passed through layers of editorial oversight without serious concerns being raised about the obviously anti-Semitic content it contained.

These editorial standards have been called into serious question before. In 2009, Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi was featured on Al Jazeera praising Hitler for perpetrating the Holocaust. The same cleric was, last week, found to have written an introduction for an app, ‘Euro Fatwa’, that featured anti-Semitic language and was later banned by Google for violating guidelines on hate speech and offensive content.

More recently, in 2017, the English Al Jazeera channel tweeted, and then deleted, an antisemitic cartoon which alleged a Jewish plot to deny climate change.

The latest incident comes at a time of rising concerns about state-owned news outlets operating in the West. The UK banned Iran’s Press TV over concerns that its editorial decisions were being taken in Tehran rather than London; and it has been reported that Press TV has now been “shut down” on Google’s platforms, including YouTube and Gmail.

UK Media regulator, Ofcom, also confirmed this month that it is conducting an investigation into China Global Television Network (CGTN), the international news channel of China Central Television (CCTV) which could see it meet a similar fate to Press TV.

It remains to be seen if this latest example of anti-Semitism broadcast publicly by Al Jazeera will prompt investigations and renewed calls for British and European leaders to take action against the channel.

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