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memri
August 6, 2014 No.
1109

Al-Jazeera TV Journalists Use Their Facebook, Twitter Accounts As Propaganda Mouthpieces In Service Of Hamas

By: Y. Yehoshua and B. Chernitsky and Y. Graff*

Introduction

One of the blatant manifestations of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani's absolute support of Hamas was the Qatari channel Al-Jazeera's coverage of the latest conflict in Gaza. During this confrontation, the channel became a prominent propaganda mouthpiece of Hamas. It undertook to convey the movement's messages, and its coverage of the conflict was slanted and one-sided to the point that any speakers on the channel's live programs who were even slightly critical of Hamas were met with censure and reproach. In fact, Hamas supporters launched a "One Million Thanks to Al-Jazeera" campaign on Twitter to express their gratitude for the channel's "leaning in favor of the resistance."[1]


"One Million Thanks to Al-Jazeera"

The channel's pro-Hamas stance was also reflected in the online activity of its reporters, hosts and anchors on social media. On their Facebook and Twitter pages, they showered praise upon Hamas's military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, in its war agaisnt Israel, including the firing of rockets, use of tunnels and alleged abduction of Israeli soldiers. In line with Qatar's foreign policy, they also expressed harsh criticism of Egypt and its president, 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi, and of the Egyptian media's coverage of the conflict.

An article in the Qatari daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi explained this phenomenon: "The Al-Jazeera journalists' pain and anguish over the tragedy of the Palestinians in the [Gaza] Strip, in the West Bank and in occupied Jerusalem caused many of them to increase their efforts on the social media the minute they left the news room..."Al-Jazeera anchor Khadija Benguenna told the daily that "this time around, the social media played a greater, more active and more fervent role than the conventional media. The images and reports reached the viewers in real time, as the shelling was occurring, [and] every viewer could see the rockets of the resistance flying in the skies of the Israeli cities..."[2]

The following is a sampling of posts by Al-Jazeera reporters and presenters on social media.

Support For Rocket Fire On Israel

The Al-Jazeera journalists showed sympathy for Hamas' military action against Israel and praised it for its achievements. In a series of July 9 tweets,[3] correspondent 'Amer Al-Kubaisi expressed support for Hamas' rocket fire at Israel, writing: "Despite [Egyptian President] Al-Sisi's siege of Gaza and the elimination of the tunnels, Hamas is upgrading its rockets both in quality and in quantity, and is terrorizing Israel and surprising it in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem."

Later the same day, he tweeted: "Hamas will not relinquish one single long range rocket. It developed them by itself and fired them at Haifa and Jerusalem. This is what terrifies Israeli intelligence. Being armed means being alive."

In an additional tweet, he added: "The chemical weapons facilities are in Haifa. A hit on one of them is the same as exiling a quarter of Israelis from historic Palestine. Israel is fighting against being evacuated."


Al-Kubaisi's tweets

On July 17, Al-Kubaisi tweeted a poster showing Hamas' various rockets with details about each one's range, asking followers to retweet it. He wrote: "Here, in one image, you can get to know Al-Qassam's rockets, their ranges, and which cities they can reach. If you like this image, retweet it."


Poster tweeted by Al-Kubaisi

Hamas' rocket fire at Israel also received sympathetic coverage from Ahmed Mansour, host of Al-Jazeera's Without Borders program. On July 9, Mansour wrote on his Facebook page: "Israel is stupefied and confounded by the rockets of the Palestinian resistance that struck deep in Israel and reached Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa, despite the siege of Gaza by Al-Sisi and his government... If the resistance is provided with arms and allowed to deal with the cowardly, petrified and stunned Israel, then Israelis will either live in shelters or flee the country."[4]


Ahmed Mansour's post

Anchor Jalal Chahda tweeted on July 15: "The Israeli Iron Dome system is a paper tiger, weaker than a spider's web, a failure, and helpless against the rockets of the honorable resistance that defends the honor of the ummah."[5]


Jalal Chahda's tweet

Another Al-Jazeera journalist sympathizing with Hamas rockets was In Depth host Ali Al-Zafiri, who on July 12 tweeted: "Al-Ja'bari[6] bombs you from the grave." He added the hashtag #Praise_Qassam to his tweet.[7]


Ali Al-Zafiri's tweet

In a July 29 tweet, Al-Jazeera Pakistan correspondent Ahmad Muwaffaq Zaidan praised Hamas' military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, and their leader Muhammad Deif. He tweeted that they "have raised up our heads" with their rocket attacks on Israel. The next day, he called on Allah to protect them.[8]


Ahmad Zaidan's tweets

Support For Incursions Into Israel, Capturing Soldiers

Al-Jazeera journalists also expressed support for other Hamas actions against Israel and Israeli soldiers. On July 17, Ahmed Mansour posted a Facebook status praising the Hamas tunnel incursion near Kibbutz Sufa, saying that it "should be taught at the greatest military academies as one of the most outstanding resistance operations against large armies. It is an operation that surpasses every Hollywood film, in a reality that is stranger than fiction." He added: "The Al-Qassam Brigades and Palestinian resistance are recording the glory and heroism of the ummah."


Ahmed Mansour's post

Jalal Chahda supported Hamas' tunnels, tweeting "Gaza's tunnels are the Zionists' graveyard." He also praised armed resistance in general: "In the past, I believed that armed resistance in occupied Palestine was one of the methods of liberation, and today I believe that armed resistance is the only method."


Jalal Chahda's tweets

Reporters rejoiced when Hamas claimed to have captured Israeli soldier "Shaul Aaron"; Israel later pronounced St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul killed in action, place of burial unknown. Just prior to Hamas' announcement of the capture, 'Amer Al-Kubaisi tweeted: "In 10 minutes Hamas will make an important announcement. Personally, I smell a [Gilad] Shalit." Al-Kubaisi later bragged of being "the first journalist in the world to talk of the capture of a 'new Shalit,' even before Al-Qassam's announcement."


Al-Kubaisi's tweets

Anchor Salma Al-Jamal was also overjoyed at Hamas' announcement of an abduction.[9] On July 20, she shared Hamas' announcement on Facebook and wrote: "Allah akbar, a new Gilad Shalit has been captured." Also praising the announcement was anchor Khadija Benguenna, who tweeted: "Allah Akbar and praise Allah for the capture of a Zionist soldier."[10]


Salma Al-Jamal's post


Khadija Benguenna's tweet

Spreading Hamas Propaganda

Aside from praising and supporting Hamas' military wing, Al-Jazeera journalists disseminated the movement's messages via their social media accounts, sharing and retweeting statements by Hamas officials, Hamas videos, and URLs of websites and accounts belonging to, affiliated with, and supporting Hamas.

For example, on July 18, following the shutdown of the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam's Twitter account,[11] 'Ali Al-Zafiri tweeted about Al-Qassam's the new account and called on his followers to follow it, writing: "[This] is the new account of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the wing of your ummah – since Twitter closed their original account. They need you to support, follow, and share it. This is the least [we can do]."


'Ali Al-Zafiri's tweet

Khadija Benguenna also shared information about another information outlet serving Hamas, Al-Risala Radio, on her Facebook page. On July 28, she posted a link it and noted: "Coverage continues on Al-Risala radio."


Khadija Benguenna's post

Jalal Chahda tweeted a quote from Hamas' late spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, who was killed by Israel in 2004: "I will remain a jihad fighter until my homeland is liberated, for I do not fear death."


Jalal Chahda's tweet

Slamming Egypt And Its President, Media And Military

Against the backdrop of Egypt's animosity towards Hamas and its main backer Qatar, Al-Jazeera reporters, hosts and anchors have also used their social media accounts to attack Egypt and President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi. They also attacked Egyptian media coverage of the current conflict and criticized the Egyptian military and its non-intervention in it.

In July 26 tweets, 'Amer Al-Kubaisi was especially critical of Al-Sisi: "Do you know Sisinyahu?" he tweeted, along with an image of a Jewish-looking Al-Sisi. The next day, he tweeted: "Al-Sisi supports [Khalifa] Haftar, Al-Sisi supports Bashar [Al-Assad], Al-Sisi supports [Nouri] Al-Maliki, Al-Sisi supports [Benjamin] Netanyahu. He supports the church before the mosque, the Shi'ites before the Sunnis, and the Jews before the Muslims."


Al-Kubaisi's tweets

Ahmed Mansour criticized the Egyptian military on Facebook; on July 19 he wrote: "The army that closes the Rafah crossing and prevents humanitarian and medical convoys from reaching the people of Gaza, who are being subjected to a war of extermination, is not the Egyptian army; it is the Al-Sisi army, which is killing the Egyptian people and besieging the Gazan people – for the [real] Egyptian military is the military of aid to Gaza and defense of the Egyptian people. When will the Egyptian army return?" In another post, he termed President Al-Sisi and UAE Emir Sheikh Al-Nahyan "Arab Zionists."

On July 21, Mansour wrote: "Every day, the Al-Qassam Brigades stress that it is they who are running and leading the Gaza battle, militarily and in terms of intelligence, politics and information, while Netanyahu, Israeli leaders, and their Arab Zionist allies, led by Al-Sisi and [UAE President Khalifa] bin Zayed sink into lies, fog, and their mental, military and political defeat."


Ahmed Mansour's posts

Jamal Chahda tweeted: "The Egyptian military has announced that 13 new tunnels to the Gaza Strip were destroyed. This is how [they] express solidarity with Gaza and its besieged people."


Jamal Chahda's tweet

Veteran Al-Jazeera anchor Jamal Rayyan cursed the Egyptian media, calling it "garbage."[12] He also tweeted videos of Egyptian media personalities attacking Al-Jazeera and himself personally for anti-Egypt statements, adding: "A friend suggested that I organize media workshops for Egyptian media personalities. I told him: 'Impossible. They are garbage. They cannot be changed. It would be easier to rebuild Egyptians from scratch."


Jamal Rayyan's tweets

On July 20, anchor Ghada Owais posted an image with a statement noting that Egypt had prevented medical delegations from entering Gaza; it was captioned, "For your interpretation."[13]


Ghada Owais' post

Criticizing The Palestinian Authority And Its Leaders

Journalists were also harshly critical of the Palestinian Authority and its leaders. On July 23, 'Amer Al-Kubaisi posted a "Missing Persons" poster mocking reconciliation government head Rami Hamdallah for refraining from taking action in the Gaza crisis. The poster calls for delivering him to the Palestinian people so that he can submit his resignation.

In another tweet, on July 21, Al-Kubaisi wrote: "The intifada is the mother of the Palestinians, and the resistance is their father. The father works in Gaza and the mother in the West Bank will soon come forth."


Al-Kubaisi's tweets

Khadija Benguenna wrote on July 26: "Why is Abu Mazen dragging his feet on the demand to join the Treaty of Rome so that Palestine can be a member of the International Criminal Court? This is the best way to besiege Netanyahu and to trap him in Israel."


Khadija Benguenna's tweet

Supporting The Extinction Of Israel And Of The Arab Regimes

Along with support for Hamas, some reporters also hinted at their hope for the extinction of Israel. On July 20, Ahmad Mansour tweeted a video of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin predicting that Israel would disappear by 2027.

Also on July 20, Salma Al-Jamal quoted pro-MB Egyptian cleric Mohammad Al-Ghazali (d. 1996) who said that after the Arab regimes fall, Israeli will too. She added: "Soon, Allah willing."

Ahmad Mansour's tweet


Salma Al-Jamal's tweet


Khadija Benguenna post from July 28 showing the burning of an Israeli flag in a recent protest in Algeria

*Y. Yehoshua is Vice President for Research and Director of MEMRI Israel; B. Chernitsky and Y. Graff are research fellows at MEMRI.

Endnotes:

[1] Palinfo.com, July 23, 2014.

[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 14, 2014.

[3] Twitter.com/amer_alkubaisi.

[4] Facebook.com/ahmed.mansour.1276487.

[5] Twitter.com/ChahdaJalal.

[6] Leader of Hamas military wing who was killed by Israel in November 2012.

[7] Twitter.com/AliAldafiri.

[8] Twitter.com/Ahmadmuaffaq.

[9] Facebook.com/SalmaAljamal.NewsPresenter

[10] Twitter.com/khadijabenguen.

[12] Twitter.com/jamalrayyan.

[13] Facebook.com/1ghada.owais.