Qatar’s flagship media network Al Jazeera continues to be a major exporter of hateful content against the Jewish people, Israel, and the United States. For this reason, it is particularly urgent for U.S. officials to evaluate the separate legal question of whether or not Al Jazeera should be required to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent over to its extensive ties to the Qatari regime. This would be an important signal to potential consumers that Al Jazeera’s messages should be approached with greater caution.
In November 2017, the U.S. Justice Department forced the broadcaster for Russia’s propaganda outlet RT to register as a foreign agent over its ties to the Russian government. Other foreign media outlets with less nefarious profiles, such as companies linked to South Korea and Japan’s public broadcasters, are also registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
FARA was passed in the lead-up to World War II in order to ensure greater transparency from entities that were spreading domestic propaganda on behalf of Nazi Germany. The standard for registration under FARA is basically whether or not an entity such as a media outlet seeks to influence U.S. public opinion or policy on behalf of a foreign political entity such as a government. Organizations or individuals that register under FARA have to declare their activities for public disclosure, and the label tips off the American public that such actors may have an ulterior motive for their work. It would not in any way censor Al Jazeera’s freedom of speech.
This issue has been in the news lately because members of Congress, in responding to the Justice Department’s important action regarding RT, have written to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE urging him to assess whether or not Al Jazeera fits the same legal criteria. These members noted that Al Jazeera was founded and funded by the Qatari state, and that the U.S. Ambassador to Doha determined a number of years ago that Qatar’s government uses Al Jazeera as a tool of Qatari statecraft.
It also is worth noting that Al Jazeera and Qatar’s corporation for public broadcasting are both overseen by the same board chairman. And that Al Jazeera’s coverage of Mideast current affairs vacillates wildly based on whether or not Qatar’s rulers are getting along with other countries’ leaders at any given time.
If Al Jazeera was required based on the legal merits to register under FARA, its disclosure requirements would mirror an important new trend taking place in the private sector.
Earlier this year, YouTube began requiring disclaimers under Al Jazeera’s videos that note “Al Jazeera is funded in whole or in part by the Qatari government,” a requirement it has also begun applying to many other government-linked broadcasters. Other social media companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, should follow YouTube’s lead, most notably because Al Jazeera has been specifically targeting social media users with its youth-oriented AJ+ channel, which spreads such problematic messages as moral relativism about terrorism.
Under international pressure, Qatar’s ruler reportedly pledged in early 2018 to make unspecified changes at Al Jazeera to moderate its content. Since then, U.S. officials have asked us whether the replacement of Al Jazeera Arabic’s director on May 10 signals a shift in Al Jazeera’s intolerant messaging. Sadly, however, we have determined that Al Jazeera continues to propagate a steady stream of hateful content since that date.
Al Jazeera has sought to cast doubt upon the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people and millions of others, referring to it in a May 23 news story as “the alleged Holocaust.” That phrase was repeated in a June blog published by Al Jazeera that also called Israel a metastasizing “cancerous gland.” Similarly, Al Jazeera broadcast a speech in July by Hamas official Fathi Hamad in which he encouraged “the cleansing of Palestine of the filth of the Jews” by 2022 and called for the establishment of a Caliphate “after the nation has been healed of its cancer, the Jews.” The network continues to provide a platform for terrorist leaders, much as it has given favorable coverage in the past to leaders or funders of al-Qaeda.
Al Jazeera also routinely glorifies violence against Israeli Jews, regularly calling Palestinians killed in the act of trying to murder Israelis as “martyrs.” The network also uses this term for any Palestinian operative of the armed wing of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad who is killed by Israeli forces, despite the fact that both of these groups avowedly seek to slaughter Israeli civilians. Al Jazeera also still refers to these groups as “the resistance” and to members of their armed wings as “resisters.”
A recent political cartoon from Al Jazeera encapsulates the intolerance and fear-mongering that the network generates. It depicts U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as poisonous snakes preparing to devour the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, simply because the U.S. opened an embassy facility in the western half of the city.
Another blog recently published by Al Jazeera declared that, by moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE was “firing the final bullets in the heart of the Islamic Arab Ummah.” The article celebrated what it foresaw as “the collapse” of “the West,” accused the Jewish people of “killing the Prophets,” and falsely asserted that the historical existence of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem is a malicious fabrication.
The network even published a recent article on its Arabic news webpage targeted at youth to decry the supposed “control of the Jews over the pornography industry.”
Al Jazeera is anti-Israel, anti-America, and downright hateful to the Jewish people. Americans deserve to know if it is also acting as a foreign agent for the Qatari regime.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt is CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.