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Feb 23, 2010
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Lebanese-American Professor As'ad Abukhalil: Incitement on Saudi Media Ignored Due to Israeli Alliance with Saudi Arabia; Khairi Abaza, of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: The Arabs Need an Arab MEMRI

#2403 | 07:21
Source: Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar)

Following are excerpts from a TV debate on the recent US bill against incitement in the Middle East media, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on February 23, 2010.

Moderator: Last month, the US State Department criticized the Al-Jazeera English-language TV channel for its coverage of the US role in Haiti, following the earthquake, saying that the coverage distorted the nature of the American role. Al-Jazeera TV denied the American allegation, emphasizing that its coverage was balanced and fair.

Regardless of who is right and who is wrong – what some US circles view as a call to act responsibly when expressing opinions, other circles view as a violation of freedom of speech, which all the US administrations have claimed to encourage worldwide, especially in the Arab and Islamic regions.

Excerpt from MEMRI TV clip, showing Ahmad Khatami, member of the Iranian Assembly of Experts, delivering a speech

Ahmad Khatami: What emerges from the catastrophe that hit Haiti is its inhumane exploitation by the US. Under the pretext of humanitarian aid to the people of Haiti, the US deployed 18,000 troops there, and occupied the island.

Reporter in clip: Until last night, the US had prevented the arrival of relief planes, which were carrying dozens of tons of food and medicine, as well as medical personnel, who were trying to provide relief. It did not permit the arrival of urgent aid. If the US had allowed the planes to land, so many people under the rubble could have been rescued.

Moderator: This is an excerpt from Iranian TV, which we took from the website of MEMRI, which monitors what is said in the Middle Eastern media.


Lebanese-American political scientist As'ad Abukhalil: First of all, I consider it shameful that Al-Jazeera TV has used a clip from a rude, propaganda-spreading organization like MEMRI, which was established by a former Israeli intelligence official, as he himself admits.


We realize that the US, whether under Bush or Obama – there's no difference – wants to limit freedom of speech here in the US – and we all know the domestic context of this law. Due to his internal difficulties, Obama has given free rein to the Zionist lobby to do whatever it likes, both in terms of foreign policy and domestic policy.


There is a lot of incitement against the Jews in the Saudi media. Why were these media outlets left out [of the bill]? The answer is that the Saudi regime is allied today with Israel. Therefore, the criterion is Israel's propaganda interests, and not really the war on terror.

After 9/11, there was an opportunity for a worldwide effort to fight Al-Qaeda and all the manifestations of terror. But this deliberate politicization, on the part of the Zionists... Whether in the Congressional Research Services, in Congress, in MEMRI, or in any other organization - this politicization is aimed at weakening the efforts to win Arab public opinion against terrorism.

Let me make another comment. The Saudi regime maintains contacts with the Taliban, a terrorist organization. Why do we keep silent about this?


Khairi Abaza, Senior Fellow in the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: Arab organizations, or Arabs working in American organizations, must inform the US, Saudi, or Israeli media about these problems. The law must apply to all – whether the Arab, Israeli, or American media.

It is necessary for the Arabs to invest a greater effort. The Arabs complain, but do not do anything in Congress in order to inform... We were talking about MEMRI. Where is the Arab MEMRI? I'd like to see an Arab MEMRI. that would help to apply the law to all.


Moderator: Even though Prof. Abukhalil rebuked Al-Jazeera TV for using a MEMRI clip, MEMRI constitutes an essential component of this story. So let's see a MEMRI excerpt from Al-Aqsa TV.

Excerpt from MEMRI TV clip of animated film

Father: Son, the five most delicious things in the world are three...

Jewish settler: I know.

Settler and his father: Palestinian blood.

Father: Go, son. Drink their blood, and come back safely.

Settler: I will do it for you, father.

Father: This is a map of Hebron. Take it. You may need it.

Settler: I will not need it, because I am not Gilad [Shalit], and the West Bank is not Gaza. Calm down. Shalom, father.

Father: Shalom, son.

Moderator: Khairi Abaza, how do you define incitement?

Khairi Abaza: Incitement is... Inciting to violence against civilians, distorting the image of a specific religion or race... That is incitement against a specific group.

Moderator: The excerpt we just saw from Al-Aqsa TV, which belongs to Hamas in Gaza – do you consider this to be an example of incitement?

Khairi Abaza: There are other, more obvious examples of incitement to violence against civilians on Al-Aqsa TV. Even in France, the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel issued a warning to Al-Aqsa TV because of its incitement to violence.

With regard to the video-clip in question, it is relatively mild, compared to other incitement.


As'ad Abukhalil: I don't think Al-Jazeera TV, for example – which the Zionist media focuses on – broadcasts any form of hatred, whereas the Saudi media constantly pumps hatred of Jews, and we do not hear any objection to this. Why not? Because Saudi Arabia serves the Israeli plan in the region politically. Thus, the criterion is political, not moral.

Based on this, this Zionist effort must be opposed – by peaceful means, of course – I order to strengthen freedom of speech, both in the Arab world and in the US. The Zionists want to muzzle us, so that we won't oppose the wars, violence, or hatred of Israel.


The talk about establishing an Arab MEMRI is meaningless. If a former Arab intelligence official – like the former Israeli official – established such an institute in Washington, he would be deported with a smack to the back of his neck.

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