The gruesome history of Al Jazeera, Qatar's propaganda arm

The Middle Eastern news network was caught publishing a fake news story about a rape to demonize Israel. This is just one more stain on a history riddled with lies, terrorism and antisemitism.

Recently, Qatari-funded news network Al Jazeera decided to retract and remove a series of stories accusing the Israel Defense Forces of committing sexual abuse at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

The controversy reached wide circulation Sunday after Al Jazeera published the testimony of a woman who claimed to have witnessed rapes of Palestinian women inside the Gazan hospital.

The Qatari media deleted the article shortly after without adding many more details. The report was, however, picked up by many other media. In her testimony, the Palestinian woman claimed that IDF soldiers threw the bodies of mutilated women to their dogs, among other gory descriptions of violence.

A former Al Jazeera director made some clarifications through a post on social media. Abu Hilalah, who was part of the leadership of the Qatari state-funded platform, assured that the story published by Al Jazeera was not true. Without citing sources, he added that the woman who gave her testimony ended up confessing that the story was not true.

This fake news story led, strikingly, to several pro-Palestinian media outlets and influencers, such as Sulaiman Ahmed, who say they doubt the rape of Israeli women by Hamas terrorists during the Oct. 7 massacre, immediately believing this false story, which they spread without hesitation as if it were real.

The emergence of Al Jazeera in the 1990s, and a history riddled with controversy

Al Jazeera was founded by the Qatari Royal Family in 1996. Although it was born as a radio station with limited reach, it had great aspirations.

Al Jazeera's path to success accelerated during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at the beginning of the 21st century, when it managed to cover both conflicts with a large press corps.

Following its success between 2002 and 2006, the Qatar government invested a fortune to expand its staff and launch an English channel (Al Jazeera English) to reach a greater number of viewers internationally.

The gigantic investment was able to be made, in part, thanks to the fact that the Gulf country was amidst a great economic boom due to the high prices of oil and gas and the financial investments made by state companies, which also allowed it to launch a sports network called beIN Sports and a channel in the United States (Al Jazeera America).

However, in 2011 the economic boom in Qatar began to slow, and Al Jazeera's audience and reputation began to decline, since during the coverage of the Arab uprisings and armed conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen, the interests of the Qatari government became evident, even for its Arab audience. In fact, Al Jazeera America closed its doors less than three years after its launch.

The difficulties that Al Jazeera encountered in expanding around the world led the Qatari government, former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his son Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, successor to the throne in 2013, to enact ambitious policies to exert their influence, both within the Arab and Muslim world and in the West.

The channel's journalists operate with the objectives of the Gulf country's leadership in mind, meaning that the station must function as a kind of secret press department for the Qatari authorities. In turn, Al Jazeera tries to maintain its relationship with the West while maintaining its link with radical Islamist organizations. This is reflected in the type of guests who are interviewed on Al Jazeera in Arabic, where members of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas, among others, appear, while journalists communicate with Western representatives, including Americans and Israelis, in other sides of the company.

The coverage carried out by Al Jazeera in some conflicts in the Middle East reflected that the news network informs and misinforms according to the interests of the Qatari government, especially when it comes to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, where it has a marked anti-Israel stance.

Al Jazeera was also accused of encouraging demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, during the 2011 revolution and of having ties to the radical Islamic organization Muslim Brotherhood.

Furthermore, a few years ago, some journalists from the network were accused of espionage in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and their broadcasts were suspended in those countries.

Distrust in Al Jazeera is not new

In an interview with the Argentine newspaper La Nación in 2005, before the launch of Al Jazeera English, Nigel Parsons, who ran this station until 2009, said: “We will not be afraid to ask tough questions of Arab leaders or to show the ugly things in the Middle East, such as violence, corruption and poverty. Of course, we will have to be more careful when using the word terrorist, because what for some is a terrorist, for others can be someone who fights for their freedom.” He added: “We do not seek to be a translation of Al Jazeera in Arabic, we are a global channel and we will have a more plural personality. Although we are based in Doha and offer an Arab perspective on main world news, we will cover other parts of the world extensively, with in-depth information from Asia, Latin America and Africa, which are often regions relegated by large news corporations.

Regarding the public's distrust in the station, Parsons said: “We will offer fair, balanced journalism, which covers all points of view of a story and lets the viewers generate their own judgment. The problem is that until now, the American public has been the subject of a misinformation campaign about Al Jazeera, and since it is a channel that most people cannot understand, due to the language barrier, they have not been able to form a balanced judgment. I hope that now, when we start broadcasting in English, our journalistic merits will help us let this stigma end. ... We just need to be given the opportunity to really be judged for what we do.”

Al Jazeera's relationship with terrorism is not new, and the La Nación journalist consulted him regarding Tayssir Alouni, a reporter for the channel in Madrid who had been sentenced to seven years in prison for having contacts with Al Qaeda. In this regard, Parsons said: “We will appeal this sentence. ... We hope that Tayssir Alouni will be vindicated and released, as we believe his links to Al Qaeda have been only in his capacity as a correspondent."

Alouni served his sentence under house arrest until 2012, when he was released.

Qatar's efforts and investments to manipulate the minds of young Americans

Qatar has always been in the West's sights for its support of Islamic extremism, and the Palestinian case is no exception. In fact, the Gulf country houses top Hamas leaders, offering them all the possible luxuries, while the residents of Gaza are suffering from war due to the decisions of their authorities, which paradoxically are supported by the vast majority of the same civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas.

However, American foreign policy seems to look the other way. As journalist Eli Lake wrote in an article published by The Free Press, this is because “for the last 25 years, this small, energy-rich state has pumped billions into America to purchase influence and good favor.”

The American author explained that “The Qataris have spent their lavish fortune at American law firms, on lobbying contracts with former senior officials, and on junkets and partnerships with big media companies.” However, he added, “The biggest recipients of Qatari largesse, though, have been major universities and think tanks.

According to a study published in 2022 by the National Association of Academics, Qatar was at the time the largest foreign donor to American universities. “Between 2001 and 2021, the petrostate donated a whopping $4.7 billion to U.S. colleges,” said the author.

The association of these universities with Qatar continues, despite Qatar's foreign minister saying shortly after Oct. 7 that “Israel alone is responsible” for the massacre carried out by Hamas, or for harboring the terrorist organization's leaders.

This funding may explain, in part, the antisemitic demonstrations taking place on the campuses of many universities in the United States.

Lake further stated that many of these universities have had to compromise their values ​​on their Doha campuses. In some cases, American think tanks cooperated with Qatar's strategic interests. “The Qatar campus of Northwestern, whose U.S. journalism school is ranked as one of the best in the world, signed a memorandum of understanding with Al Jazeera, the Qatari-funded news channel that has provided a sympathetic platform for Hamas and other Islamist groups over the years, to help train its reporters,” the journalist wrote.

Lake added that Al Jazeera aired a weekly program hosted by Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi between 1996 and 2013. And he recalled that in a 2009 sermon broadcast by the platform, the religious leader stated: "I will shoot at the enemies of Allah, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus I will seal my life with martyrdom."

In 2015, Stephen Eisenman, then president of Northwestern's faculty senate, concluded in a report on his school's Doha campus that faculty there enjoyed only “limited academic freedom.”

Eisenman also acknowledged that “the ethics of establishing a campus in an authoritarian country are murky, especially when it inhibits free expression, and counts among its allies several oppressive regimes or groups.”

Despite Qatar's alliance with Islamic extremism, the United States considers the country a kind of necessary evil. In this sense, Lake explained that “one reason why Qatar has been able to invest so much in American institutions is because U.S. foreign policy has embraced the country since the war on terror began after 9/11. Even though Qatar is aligned with Hamas, and to a lesser extent, Iran, it also hosts the Al Udeid Air Base (managed by the Americans in the Arab nation).”

The journalist added that “the Qataris are an important interlocutor between America and Iran. After President Biden’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, Qatar agreed to process more Afghan refugees than any other Arab ally. Today Qatar holds the $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues that America unfroze in September and refroze after the October 7 Hamas pogrom.”

Qatar 'aims to demonize Israel'

Lake also explained the way in which Qatar attempts to control intellectual discourse in the West to demonize Israel.

“One of Qatar’s soft power aims is to advance the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that spawned Hamas and the ruling party in Turkey,” Lake said. He added: “According to a 2021 analysis from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Qatar funds the International Union of Muslim Scholars, the clerical arm of the Brotherhood. In 2017 Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates imposed a trade and travel embargo on Qatar in response to its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Doha’s embrace of political Islam is one factor that distinguishes it from its Gulf Arab neighbors who turned on the movement after the Arab Spring in 2010 and 2011.”

Lake cited Charles Asher Small, from the Institute for the Study of Global Policy and Antisemitism, who said that one consequence of Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, in its soft power operation abroad, was to make Israel appear toxic in Western political and intellectual discourse.

“Their soft power is aimed at demonizing Israel as well as promoting anti-Western and anti-democratic discourse to weaken the West. Antisemitism is the fuel to light that fire,” Small said.

Al Jazeera, a nest of Islamic terrorists

Qatar was not only providing economic support to Islamic extremism, financing antisemitic hatred in U.S. universities and disguising its press department (Al Jazeera) as a news channel, but also disguising Islamic terrorists as innocent journalists.

Throughout the war between Israel and Hamas, after the Oct. 7 massacre, the Jewish state has accused some Al Jazeera journalists of being part of the ranks of the Palestinian terrorist organization.

American journalist Jonathan Schanzer mentioned some of them in an article published in Commentary.

In March, the author noted, the Israeli military arrested Al Jazeera reporter Ismail al-Ghoul during an exchange of fire with Hamas terrorists at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. The Qatari television channel immediately criticized his arrest, insisting that he was an innocent journalist. More than a week later, the Israelis released him, so the platform used the circumstances to reinforce its argument that al-Ghoul was innocent.

A month earlier, Schanzer noted, Al Jazeera claimed the IDF was responsible when one of its correspondents was injured during an offensive carried out by an Israeli drone. However, the Arabic-language spokesman for the IDF responded that Ismail Abu Omar “held the position of deputy company commander in the Eastern Battalion of Khan Yunis of Hamas. Abu Omar even filmed himself participating in the bloody massacre in Nir Oz on Oct. 7 and posted it on social media.” Schanzer added that the reporter signed his name to a photo posted on Telegram of a murdered IDF soldier whose body was taken by Hamas to Gaza. After the scandal, Al Jazeera denied any wrongdoing and stated that its “employment policies and regulations stipulate that the employee must stay away from political affiliations that could affect their performance.”

Another incident that demonstrates how Al Jazeera journalists were allegedly involved in terrorist activity occurred in January, when reporter Hamza al-Dahdouh and a colleague of his were killed in an Israeli airstrike against a vehicle carrying both from Khan Younis to Rafah. As expected, the Qatari channel condemned the Israeli offensive. Hamas announced Dahdouh's death and added his name to a list of journalists allegedly killed in the war. However, the IDF stated days later that the vehicle was bombed because both reporters were operating a drone that posed a threat to Israeli soldiers near Rafah. Later, the Israeli military added that Dahdouh was a agent of the “Electronic Engineering Unit” and a regional official of the “Rocket Unit” of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al Jazeera rejected the Israeli accusation and condemned “attempts... to justify the murder of colleague Hamza Wael Al-Dahdouh and other journalists.”

The other reporter who died in the offensive was cameraman Mustafa Thuraya, who the IDF said was operating the drone and who appeared on a list of terrorists fighting for Hamas' Al-Qadisiya Battalion.

Another Al Jazeera employee who was allegedly involved in terrorist activity is Muhammad Wishah, who works at the Al Jazeera Mubasher channel. On Feb. 11, the IDF confiscated his laptop in the northern Gaza Strip, on which, according to the IDF's Arabic-language spokesperson, images and documents were found proving that Wishah is a Hamas military wing commander. The Qatari channel has not responded to these accusations. However, after the IDF revelations, Wishah deleted social media posts showing him shaking hands with Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh.

These incidents, along with other intelligence, resulted in the Israeli government introducing a bill to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel. However, the proposal has been under discussion for months and has not yet been officially approved. In parallel, authorities from the Jewish state continue negotiating with Qatar for the release of those kidnapped by Hamas.

Schanzer opined in Commentary that “the Israelis are likely to continue dealing with the Qataris until a hostage deal is reached. But this does not explain why the United States continues to treat the terror-supporting Gulf nation as an ally. The support that Qatar has provided to terrorist groups like Hamas, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and even the Islamic State is beyond dispute. And the string of incidents in Gaza indicating a collaboration between Al Jazeera and Hamas are consistent with what American forces dealt with during the Iraq War, when Bush administration officials complained that Al Jazeera journalists somehow knew exactly where to be and had their cameras rolling during attacks that targeted American servicemembers."