October 26, 2016

KRAVITZ’S KORNER | The Uncomfortable Truth About AJ+

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In just over a year since its founding in September 2014, AJ+ has exploded onto the scene to become the second largest news video producer on Facebook. In October 2015, AJ+ amassed over 1 billion views across its platforms. It’s safe to say that AJ+ has risen to social media preeminence.

Owned by the Al Jazeera Media Network, a Qatari-based multinational multimedia conglomerate, AJ+ produces digital media news coverage from around the around about social justice issues. It is a self-described “global news community for the connected generation. We highlight human struggles and achievements, empower impassioned voices and challenge the status quo. We bring you the stories that are shaping our world.”

While masquerading as a hip and progressive news outlet, AJ+ has used its platforms to disseminate misinformation, particularly about Israel, while hiding gross human rights abuses occurring in Qatar, where the network is based.

AJ+ has produced several videos that deceive viewers about events involving Israel. In June of 2016, as tensions were mounting on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem over the period of Ramadan, AJ+ released a video portraying Israel initiating violence on the Temple Mount by allowing Jews to visit the site and by harming Muslim worshipers. The video leaves out the fact that Israel imposed additional restrictions on non-Muslim access to the Temple Mount during Ramadan in order to placate Muslim worshippers. There is also no mention of Palestinians desecrating the Al-Aqsa mosque and throwing rocks at all non-Muslims during this period. Rather than providing a complete account of what occurred, AJ+ chose only to report on the Israeli response to Palestinian violence.

AJ+ has often highlighted the seemingly noble stories of many Palestinians, while wholly omitting other relevant details. AJ+ produced a video that lamented the imprisonment of 12-year-old girl Dima al-Wawi and tried to draw attention to immoral juvenile incarceration methods practiced by Israel. The video did not mention that she had attempted to stab an Israeli security guard and regretted afterwards that she wasn’t successful and didn’t die a martyr for the Palestinian cause. They also created a video about Janna Jihad, a 10-year-old Palestinian who films protests and Palestinian encounters with Israeli security forces in the West Bank, while leaving out the fact that she was exploited by her family to instigate conflict between Israeli security personnel and Palestinians in order for the violent encounters to be videotaped and shared online. The video also failed to mention that her relative, Ahlam Tamimi, escorted a suicide bomber to an Israeli Sbarro restaurant, killing 15 people and injuring 145.

In some cases, AJ+ shamelessly promotes terrorism. AJ+ published a video that celebrated the ingenuity of a Gazan artist who uses natural materials for paint. The artist is shown next to her painting that depicts a hand wielding a bloodied knife, in solidarity with Palestinian lone-wolf knife attacks against Israeli civilians.

It should come as no surprise that AJ+ has become a forum for anti-Israel hatred, given AJ+’s affiliation with the widely watched news network Al Jazeera. This is the same organization that reported that Jews had been informed in advance not to go to work on the day of the September 11 attacks, indicating that the attacks were an inside job perpetrated by Jews/Israel. Al Jazeera also aired a birthday party for Samir Kuntar, a member of Hezbollah who killed four Israelis, including a four-year-old girl, who was recently released from prison. The reporters on the scene lauded the terrorist as a “pan-Arab hero.” Al Jazeera also hosts a weekly show titled “Sharia and Life,” featuring Egyptian cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, who considers every Jew in the world to be an enemy of Islam. Qaradawi has also described Adolf Hitler as having put Jews “in their place.”

On top of this, AJ+ has chosen to devote no attention to legitimate human rights abuses in other places in the Middle East, particularly in Qatar, where AJ+ is based. The U.S. State Department found that there is widespread forced labor and prostitution in Qatar. Moreover, Qatar strictly forbids alcohol consumption, extramarital sex, and homosexuality under Sharia law. In fact, harsh penalties, including stoning, flogging and death, can be meted out in many Muslim-majority countries, particularly Qatar, for these “offenses.” Strangely enough, none of this is considered newsworthy by AJ+.

AJ+ is misleading viewers through its viral and attention-grabbing videos, with Al Jazeera’s pernicious agenda manifesting itself clearly in AJ+’s news coverage. I urge Cornellians to carefully investigate their news sources and to be sure that they present events in a balanced manner.