A year ago Al Jazeera stunned Britain’s political establishment with a four-part series on the Israel lobby, based on months of investigation that entailed planting an undercover reporter in pro-Israel meetings. “How Israel penetrates different levels of British democracy,” Al Jazeera announced the series; and in the most damning episode, an Israeli embassy operative offered a Conservative Party official a list of members of Parliament he wanted to “take down” because they had criticized Israel. One of them was a deputy foreign minister.
The explosive news following that investigation was that Al Jazeera had done the same thing in the United States. Al Jazeera announced as much in October 2017 after the British broadcast regulator Ofcom cleared the channel of breaking rules on fairness, privacy, and anti-Semitism– as Israel lobbyists had complained of the series. EI:
[T]he satellite channel’s Investigative Unit revealed that it will soon be broadcasting an undercover investigation of the Israel lobby in the United States.
Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s director of investigative journalism, told the network’s Arabic channel on Monday that the documentary had been held back pending the outcome of the [British] Ofcom investigation.
Swisher said he was announcing for the first time that “at the same time we had an undercover [reporter] in Britain, we also had an undercover in the United States.”
Just to be clear: Al Jazeera completed its American undercover investigation at the same time as the British one — 2016 — but the American documentary was being held up because of the British official inquiry. Then the doc was cleared for takeoff in October 2017 and would air “soon”.
Well a lot has happened since then. And– no documentary.
What has happened is that the Qatari government, which funds Al Jazeera, has been making nice to the Israel lobby. Rightwing advocates Alan Dershowitz and Mort Klein have both visited the tiny country; and Dershowitz promptly became a Qatar lobbyist. From Haaretz, Jan. 20:
Last week, prominent New York attorney Alan Dershowitz published an article on the Hill website, following his visit to Qatar at the invitation of the country’s powerful emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Dershowitz wrote that he was surprised to hear the Qatari response to many of the accusations hurled at the Gulf state, and urged the Trump administration and Congress to reexamine the issue.
Dershowitz spoke of cooperation between Qatar and Israel:
I heard a lot of positive statements regarding Israel from Qatari leaders as well as hints of commercial relationships between these isolated nations.”…
As for Mort Klein, a year back he called on Trump to block Qatar Airways from coming into the U.S. But this year he has visited the Emir and talked about Al Jazeera. Again from Haaretz:
Earlier this month… Klein had visited Qatar at the invitation of the Emir, and had a private meeting with him in Doha, the Emirate’s capital city. The visit… took place at the same time that other prominent public figures who are known as supporters of the Israeli government, such as Alan Dershowitz and Mike Huckabee, visited Doha…
“They invited me to go a number of times – in September, October, November and December… At first I refused, because of their support for Hamas and the anti-Semitism being broadcast on Al Jazeera. But over time, I saw that more and more Jewish leaders were going there, and I realized that at this point, they won’t be able to use me for propaganda, because everyone is already going, but I might use the visit to push them on these issues.”
Al Jazeera is clearly a pressure point. Haaretz quoted an anonymous Israeli official complaining that while Israel wants to work with Qatar, “at the same time, there are problems arising from their use of Al Jazeera.” CNN reported last summer that Qatar was under pressure from the U.S. government “to tone down al-Jazeera programing.” At that time Qatar hired a Republican Jewish lobbyist, Muzin, a former aide to Ted Cruz. While on the other side of the aisle, pro-Israel Democratic political consultant Steve Rabinowitz complained to Haaretz about Al Jazeera, “Qatar has its own billion dollar world-wide whitewash, I mean PR effort, that includes its own television network.”
Bottom line, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we haven’t seen an explosive undercover investigation of the Israel lobby coming out of Al Jazeera; and I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for any to run.
An honest news organization should not suppress such a report. And you’d hope that American outlets would put pressure on Al Jazeera to say what it was going to say. But American networks have their own ghastly record of suppressing criticism of Israel. Like the famous “Would you fellate a donkey for Israel?” skit from SNL that never aired.