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Comparing the spin on Israeli settlements from Al Jazeera America and Al Jazeera English

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 21 Comments

The announcement that Al Jazeera would be creating a US branch is a hopeful departure from the rest of mainstream coverage of the Middle East. While some initial reports implied Al Jazeera America would rely on its Doha headquarters for 40 percent of its programming, it now seems they will be operating rather independently- hiring their own White House correspondent  etc.  Strategically, they have already hired a number of recognizable figures from US cable media (ABC News’s Lisa Fletcher and Kate O’Brian as well as CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and Joie Chen) to bring familiarity to US audiences.

But already, that familiarity is extending beyond the names of those delivering the news into the content.

Both Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera America published articles online on August 13 regarding Israel’s announcement of 942 new settlements in Gilo in the midst of yet another round of US mediated peace talks.

The first lines of the articles set different tones —

Al Jazeera America: “Israel has approved 942 new settlement housing units in East Jerusalem, according to a local official”

Al Jazeera English: “Israel’s latest announcement of more than 900 new illegal settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem ‘threatens’ talks with the Palestinians, a senior Palestinian official has said”.

While discussing the legitimacy of such settlements, Al Jazeera America writes “Gilo is an existing Israeli settlement in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as part of their future state. The U.N. deems illegal all Israeli settlement on land conquered in the war of June 1967, which includes East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza”

Al Jazeera English explains, “The last talks in 2010 broke down on the issue of settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

While Al Jazeera America seems to be concerned with treading lightly, Al Jazeera English does what it is admired for- delivering facts and connecting the dots between actions and their potential ramifications for future peace negotiations. Why wouldn’t Al Jazeera America call the settlements “illegal settlements”? Why include that Israel “conquered” the land in the war of 1967? Why not mention that the continuation of settlement building in the midst of talks where “all options are on the table” exposes Israel as a partner that is not interested in peace but in PR?

While I have high hopes the Al Jazeera America will introduce a certain degree of integrity into the US media landscape, I am fearful that a familiar US-centered policy towards Palestine and Israel will remain.

Keren Carmeli
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21 Responses

  1. Justpassingby
    August 14, 2013, 11:22 am

    Thats not surprising. The whole deal with an americanized Al jazeera is to publish these kind of articles that are not negative on Israel/US.

  2. Citizen
    August 14, 2013, 12:10 pm

    The key is not only that the America version is already less objective and informative, but that the Al Jazeera English will not be available to Americans; at least that’s what I read online. If so, who decided this new deal? Anybody know? What exactly are the US cable TV powers doing here? The same thing they’ve done in effect with CSPAN’s lop-sided coverage of the I-P issue on Washington Journal?

    • Hostage
      August 14, 2013, 6:23 pm

      The key is not only that the America version is already less objective and informative, but that the Al Jazeera English will not be available to Americans;

      The Roku Newscaster AJE Channel is still on for now, but you can always get it directly over a private VPN connection to another region. I do that all the time anyway to view Canadian, BBC, and ITV programming.

  3. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    August 14, 2013, 12:15 pm

    Helpful comparison, Keren. Thank you.

    I suspect AJ America’s editors are tuning their editorial tone to the American ear, and are sensitive to being dismissed out of hand as reliably biased against America and Israel for “the enemy.”

    Frankly, it seems daunting to write and report for Al Jazeera, against a tide of Islam-ophobia. Among successful white retirees, the references to “news outlets” at social gatherings is heavily weighted to the Fox/CNN spectrum, and points rightward, except when its academics, where PBS, NPR, occasionally BBC figure in reliably.

    I’ve never heard anyone else point me to Mondoweiss or Al Jazeera or even Hasbara seems to work to some extent. I think a reference to Al Jazeera would be pretty provocative at these gatherings. It would be interesting to see how many people read Mondoweiss, what its market demographics are, compared to Glenn Beck, for example.

    • Talkback
      August 15, 2013, 9:50 am

      David Doppler says: “Helpful comparison, Keren. Thank you.”

      I agree. These comparisons should continue in a series or articles, if Keren can find the time and is interested!

  4. seafoid
    August 14, 2013, 12:23 pm

    …”which Palestinians see as part of their future state. ” always makes me laugh.

    Say your car is stolen. You go to the police. They file a report that says “the car which x sees as hers” .
    Only in Israel.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      August 15, 2013, 12:31 pm

      LOL! That’s one of my favourites too. It’s always been a BBC fave, and The Guardian have become fond of it now too. Under interational law, East Jerusalem is unquestionably part of Palestine and illegally annexed by Israel. It’s not about what certain people ‘see’. It’s an objective fact. But using the above phrase makes it seem like Jerusalem is something the Palestinians simply covet, just….. because. If AJA are using it, that says a lot about what sort of ‘news’ we can expect from them.

  5. MRW
    August 14, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Al Jazeera America is doomed, I fear. Won’t have 20% of Greenwald’s spine or integrity.


    If so, who decided this new deal? Anybody know?

    The usual suspects: Israel-Firster media types or owners.

  6. pabelmont
    August 14, 2013, 12:30 pm

    “I am fearful that a familiar US-centered policy towards Palestine and Israel will remain.”

    Right. From the early results, sounds like AJA wants to be on the USA cables and get some USA advertising. Business is business after all. No surprise.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    August 14, 2013, 1:32 pm

    RE: “Why wouldn’t Al Jazeera America call the settlements ‘illegal settlements’?” ~ Keren Carmeli


    [EXCERPT] It’s really something watching Secretary of State John Kerry tie himself in knots condemning Israeli provocations while insisting they mean nothing. Above is video of Kerry from a press conference yesterday in Bogota, Colombia saying the U.S. views “all Israeli settlements as illegitimate.” . . . ~ Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz on August 13, 2013

    P.S. Illegitimate is not a legal term except in very limited instances, and it has various meanings. An “illegitimate child” is still a child having all of the rights of any other child (except inheritance from his/her putative father)!

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Legitimacy (law)]:

    (EXCERPT) In common law, legitimacy is the status of a child born to parents who are legally married to each other; and of a child conceived before the parents receive a legal divorce. Conversely, illegitimacy (or bastardy) is the status of a child born outside marriage. The consequences of illegitimacy have pertained mainly to a child’s rights of inheritance to the putative father’s estate and the child’s right to bear the father’s surname or title. Illegitimacy has also had consequences for the mother’s and child’s right to support from the putative father. . .

    SOURCE –

    • DICKERSON3870
      August 14, 2013, 4:41 pm

      P.P.S. Israel has never payed much attention to international law (unless it favored them). Now the United States’ blank check support of Israel is causing the U.S. to also skirt international law. This is yet another reason I fear that Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment! ! !
      “Down, down, down we [the U.S.] go into the deep, dark abyss; hand in hand with Israel.”


  8. James Canning
    James Canning
    August 14, 2013, 2:08 pm

    Fair assessment of the situation.

  9. Les
    August 14, 2013, 2:12 pm

    “Occupied East Jerusalem” is not in the bible used by American print and broadcast journalists.

  10. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    August 14, 2013, 3:20 pm

    ”While I have high hopes the Al Jazeera America will introduce a certain degree of integrity into the US media landscape,”

    Then you clearly haven’t read Glenn Greenwald’s writing on the internal politics behind the launch of AJA:

    It’s been obvious for a while that AJA is going to play by American rules when it comes to Israel. In fact, it’s been toning down its coverage even on AJE in anticipation of that. There is no chance that AJA is going to be a breath of fresh air on American TV. If it was, it would never have got its licence.

    • Phil Perspective
      Phil Perspective
      August 15, 2013, 2:39 am

      If it was, it would never have got its license.

      They don’t need any license because they are on cable. What they do need is to make deals with the different cable providers. Meaning Comcast(owner of NBC/MSNBC/CNBC), Time Warner and Charter Communications among others. So in this instance the cable providers serve as the gatekeepers.

  11. gingershot
    August 14, 2013, 8:10 pm

    When is Wolf Blitzer making the switch to Al Jazerra America?

    How else will Americans even recognize it’s news if it’s not AIPAC-certified garbage?

  12. quercus
    August 15, 2013, 7:08 am

    I watch Al-Jazeera english on my computer and while it has some very well produced and written documentaries, and it has a nice “across the color spectrum” group of presenters and commenters, and it has more detailed coverage of news from parts of the world often ignored by American media, it too often leans toward prevailing western viewpoints, at least from what I hear.

    Until just a few years ago, the Iranian “Press TV” was on air in England (a place I visit often). There one could hear very different views of events. Of course, it has now been taken off the air because western governments don’t want Iranians disseminating their propaganda, only western propaganda can be disseminated to western audiences. Our news is carefully controlled as most of you should know. When something like Press TV would be allowed on our airwaves, then we would truly have a “free press”.

    • NickJOCW
      August 15, 2013, 4:51 pm

      You will find RT is taking up the baton al-Jazeera is letting slip. Also you can still get Iranian Press TV online, plus they have a good app.

  13. James Canning
    James Canning
    August 16, 2013, 2:00 pm

    I agree the loss of PressTV in Britain is regrettable.

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