The Al Jazeera TV channel first went on the air towards the end of 1996, advertising itself as "Opinion and the Other Opinion," and purporting to create a new kind of media presence in the Arab world, one that would not simply repeat government propaganda - as did all the other existing government channels. It soon became clear, however, that this channel, which advertised itself as being objective, was infected with very specific agendas, especially with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist offshoots, and most especially when it came to Hamas. In fact, Al Jazeera's staff is wholeheartedly committed to helping these organizations thrive.
Recently, we were privileged to hear an admission of guilt from the chief newscaster, the first man ever to appear on Al Jazeera's screen and the man who has the greatest influence on Al Jazeera's agenda – except for the Emir of Qatar, who funds the channel. He is Jamal Rian, a Jordanian-Palestinian born in Tul Karem. This past December, he appeared on a program called "We are Al Jazeera" in which a broadcaster talks about himself for half an hour, telling the audience about his family, where he was born and raised, his hobbies and professional background.
During Rian's half hour, he said the following, concerning an interview he conducted with me during the regular news broadcast on June 1, 2008, about eight years ago, the day the government of Israel decided to built a few hundred apartments at Har Homa and Pisgat Ze'ev in the Jerusalem area.
The original interview is here:
(Note: the parentheses contain my comments)
"Mistakenly, there are broadcasting stations that ask me why Al Jazeera hosts Israelis. On the contrary, I am one of those who encourage that. Yes. I feel that when we have an Israeli guest on our news program, he is my prey, and when he presents his narrative, I can refute it. (Note that Rian admits that he does not interview Israelis objectively, but sees them as prey). Al Jazeera is based on 'Opinion and the Other Opinion,' but without hearing the other side's voice, we are unconvincing. Of course, when it comes to the Palestinian problem, I feel that I provide a stage for defending the Palestinian cause."
"Sometimes, of course, there are personally difficult situations when I am interviewing Israelis (that is, when he doesn't succeed in 'devouring' the Israeli). Let me give you an example (from June 2008): I had a professor from Bar Ilan University, named Mordechai Kedar, and the interview's objective was to talk about the reasons for continued [Israeli] settlement in the West Bank and settlement expansion in Jerusalem and other places. I posed the question: 'What's the point?' and he answered: 'Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. Period. It is our capital and has been forever. You Arabs and Muslims [must realize], I was already in Jerusalem when your forefathers drank wine, buried girls alive and worshipped idols. So why should we even discuss it? It has been our city for 3000 years and will be ours forever.'
"(Jamal continues): I said to him: 'If we want to talk about history, you cannot erase Jerusalem from the Koran.' Of course, he is a Ph.d. and understands things, like that the name of Jerusalem does not appear in the Koran - really and truly, Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran, but Allah came to my aid that moment and I said to him (to Kedar): 'Glory is to him who made his servant go (Koran, Chap 17:1) mentions El Aksa.'"(But then I [Kedar] stressed once again that Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran - even once!).
Below is Rian's "half hour" during which he talks about the 2008 interview:
The significance of these two minutes is that Al Jazeera's chief broadcaster has still not recovered from the fact that he did not succeed in "devouring" an interviewed Israeli – me, that is - during a live broadcast. What is interesting is that he remembers entire sentences that were uttered eight years ago, what I said and what he said. It seems that those few minutes were quite traumatic for him.
Why does Israel allow this hostile channel to work from within the country, why allow its reporters to spread anti-Israeli propaganda from within the Knesset?
Another instance, one in which Al Jazeera did manage to "devour" me was during Operation Protective Shield, in the summer of 2014. I was invited to Al Jazeera's broadcasting studio in Tel Aviv for a half hour live debate with a Hamas representative in Gaza. The debate took place in a very unusual setting: Al Jazeera's technicians purposely turned the Gazan's voice off so that I could not hear him or respond to what he said. Viewers saw me on the split screen, heard him speak against Israel, but did not know that I could not hear him and therefore was unable to refute his accusations. The channel's unethical anti-Israel behavior serving Hamas' interests was more suited to a con man than to the media - and simply beyond belief.
However, this is not about me, Mordecai Kedar, but about Al Jazeera, whose anti-Israel agenda is now exposed and has been clearly admitted to by its chief broadcaster. And I want to ask from the pages of this article: Why does Israel allow this hostile channel to work from within the country, why allow its reporters to spread anti-Israeli propaganda from within the Knesset, reports that seem trustworthy because of the place from where they are broadcast?
Israel knows exactly how to keep hostile media outside its territory: Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV channel and Iran's El-Alam TV network are not allowed to work from within the Jewish state. Al Jazeera should be given identical treatment. I once discussed this with a well known Israeli lawyer and asked him if there is a legal basis for ejecting Al Jazeera from Israel. He answered in the positive, because no foreign media outlet has legal standing in the state of Israel, and all the foreign media based in the country are here only because Israel permits them to be. Israel does not even have to explain why it ejects any of the foreign media and since none have standing in court, they cannot sue the state to allow them to remain.
Now that Al Jazeera's ugly face has been unmasked, Israel must shut the channel's offices in Israel. The channel will not give up easily and will beg to keep its offices in the country. At that point Israel can agree if there is a change in the rules of the game: every time Israel is mentioned in any way, the channel will be obligated to broadcast an official Israeli response and allow an official Israeli spokesperson to present Israel's point of view without interruption or editing.
In my opinion, Al Jazeera will agree to any condition forced upon it by the Government Press Office (GPO), because without reports from Israel – that include anti-Israel slander and propaganda – the channel would lose much of its attraction and many of its viewers.
Al Jazeera belongs to Qatar, but Qatar rarely appears in its reports. It is essentially a way for the Emir of Qatar to stick his nose into other countries' business and endanger their stability (note the states of Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain,), cause their citizens' blood to be shed, topple their regimes and bring the Arab world to the sorry state it has reached today. Without the incessant incitement and propaganda from Al Jazeera against Arab regimes, it is possible that the Arab Spring would not have reached the disastrous dimensions we are witnessing at present.
Now that Al Jazeera's chief broadcaster has unequivocally admitted his channel's destructive agenda, there is no justification to continue for allowing it to work from within Israel in the way it has been doing, with its only mission being to "devour" Israelis. If Israel wants to survive, it must act like a nation that is willing to defend itself from vile and deceitful liars of the likes of Al Jazeera's; if Israel does not, it is on the path to self destruction.
Written for Arutz Sheva, translated from the Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, Op-ed and Judaism editor.