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Al Jazeera - a Hamas Mouthpiece against Fatah? By: Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Palestinian Media Watch | Thursday, December 21, 2006


Fatah leaders have accused Al Jazeera TV of being biased in favor of Hamas, and of being subservient to the Islamic extremist movement – the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas has been defending Al Jazeera, calling it reliable and objective. Hamas has even accused senior Fatah officials of torching three cars belonging to Al Jazeera.

Given Al Jazeera’s global image of moderation, it is noteworthy that the radical Islamist organization Hamas is defending Al Jazeera, while Fatah is attacking the network.

The following are two recent articles documenting the debate over Al Jazeera's alleged support of Hamas. The first item is from Al-Risalah, the Hamas newspaper, defending Al Jazeera. The second, attacking Al Jazeera, is from the Fatah-controlled PA daily Al Hayat Al Jadida.

Al-Risalah [Hamas], December 18, 2006:

"The satellite channel Al Jazeera from Qatar has always been thorough in conveying the suffering of the Palestinians and their message to the world in a professional and respectful manner… This has given the channel its good reputation, and the channel’s broadcasts reach every Palestinian home…

This achievement has been met by Fatah Representative, Muhammad Dahlan with an attack of incitement. He accused it [Al Jazeera] of serving Israel… and that it is subservient to the Muslim Brotherhood. Dahlan’s attack was not the only one to come from the Fatah movement, and most Fatah members 'inside' [the PA areas] attacked the channel.

Following Dahlan’s statements, the Fatah movement published a public statement in which it accuses Al Jazeera of selling its soul to the Muslim Brotherhood, and that it is biased in favor of the Hamas movement at the expense of the truth. A Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, Dr. Jamal Nazzal said: 'Al Jazeera is biased in favor of Hamas, it highlights certain elements of reality, and pushes other elements to the side.'

Al-Risalah, [the Hamas newspaper]… spoke on the phone with the director of the channel’s office in Palestine, Walid Al-Umari, who clarified that his channel is not interested in commenting on Dahlan and Fatah’s statements: '…We do not want to comment on such declarations, this is not the first time that people attack and incite against the channel.' In the past, his [Al-Umari's] car was torched and his office in Ramallah was closed.

It should be noted that the Al Jazeera office in Ramallah was torched by armed militants in June 2006, and later it turned out… that the former [Fatah] Minister of Supplies, Abu Ali Shahin was responsible for torching the office's cars. Abu Ali Shahin had accused the satellite channel Al Jazeera that it is 'Hamas-ized' and is biased in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Many observers link the torching of three cars of the channel in Ramallah to the accusations of the Palestinian Authority’s former [Fatah] Minister of Supplies, Abu Ali Shahin and with the declarations of Jamal Nazzal, Fatah’s spokesman in the West Bank, who accused the channel, from Al-Doha [Qatar’s capital], of being biased in favor of Hamas.

Al Hayat AlJadida, [Fatah] November 4, 2006:

Headline: "Fatah accuses Al-Jazeera of being biased [in favor of Hamas] and of a lack of objectivity… The recruitment and organization office of the Fatah Movement accused the Al Jazeera channel of bias and lack of objectivity and professionalism in Palestinian issues. It is apparent to everyone … the obvious bias and the lack of objectivity… unfortunately, this shift came after Mr. Waddah Khanfar was put… in charge of directing the channel, and he is known for identifying with the Muslim Brotherhood Movement … there is a systematic media preference for the interests of one Palestinian party [Hamas] at the expense of the Palestinian public… We have turned many times to Al Jazeera reporters … and the connected structures and to others, but to no avail. To clarify, we are pointing out that the reporters of Al Jazeera are continuously exposed to threats and intimidation [lit: terror] to the point of being threatened to be fired from their job. We have confirmed reports of an agreement between [Al Jazeera head] Waddah Khanfar and the said Palestinian side [Hamas], to replace the current reporters, especially in the Gaza Strip, with people associated with them [Hamas] … We demand Al Jazeera reconsider its operational procedures … and to fix them, and to stay away from interfering with the internal Palestinian affairs in favor of one side at the expense of other sides."

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Itamar Marcus is the founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch. He was appointed by the Israeli government to be the Israeli representative (communication specialist) to the Trilateral (Israeli-American-Palestinian) Anti-Incitement Committee established under the Wye Accords. From 1998 to 2000, Mr. Marcus served as research director of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, writing reports on PA, Syrian, and Jordanian schoolbooks. He holds a BA in political science from City College of New York and an MA in Hebrew culture from New York University. Barbara Crook is associate director and North American representative of Palestinian Media Watch. She teaches at the School of Journalism and Communications at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She holds an Honors BA in English literature from Queen's University, an MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and is a Southam Fellow at the University of Toronto.

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