Seemingly liberal and chic, AJ+ markets itself as a youth alternative to the mainstream media. A quick glance through its Facebook page will lead the viewer on a tour of indigenous rights activism, Syrian suffering, and police brutality. Causes championed by young human rights activists have also been taken up by AJ+ with the hope of attracting an impassioned, young audience. However, along with these worthy causes, the case against Israel is infallibly brought up.
The average reader is unlikely to know what AJ+ denotes — Al Jazeera. The name is mentioned on none of its social media sites. Al Jazeera, literally “the peninsula” in Arabic, is a news network funded by the government of Qatar and the House of Thani, the ruling family of the country. Analysts claim that the channel functions primarily as a propaganda outlet for the Qatari government, and that it promotes Islamist perspectives, most notably those of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Jazeera, however, denies this and claims instead that it provides a forum for all viewpoints.
Strangely enough, its English-language social media channel, AJ+, is externally very liberal and human-rights-oriented. This is bizarre, since it is funded by the Qatari government, which is neither a bastion of human rights nor a beacon of democracy. (In fact, Qatar is one of the top ten most anti-Semitic countries in the world, has supported Hamas for years, and has brought anti-Israel resolutions to the UN.) The site is, of course, still funded by the Qatari government with its definitively anti-Israel, anti-Semitic stance — so while many claim that AJ+ is unbiased and supportive of human rights, the beloved channel regularly delegitimizes the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, while focusing exclusively on Palestinian suffering. The channel uses its liberal appearance to attract young people and subtly introduce them to the Qatari government’s agenda, without actually mentioning Qatar’s own human rights problems, like the building of the soccer stadium for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In a quick browse through the page, one will find the following video from earlier in June: “Is New York Blacklisting the BDS Movement?”
The video lambastes NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to prevent the NY state legislature from doing any business with companies which participate in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel. The anchor, Dena Takruri, claims that such action constitutes a threat to the movement’s freedom of speech, and is thus unconstitutional.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The state certainly has set a precedent for not doing business with companies that discriminate on the basis of sex, race and religion — so why not boycott businesses that discriminate on the basis of nationality, i.e. Israeli? Furthermore, Cuomo’s decision to not do business with companies which boycott Israel does not silence them in any way — it simply means that New York state will not trade with them. AJ+, however, ignores that crucial fact and paints Cuomo’s decision as an affront to free speech. Further, the decision specifically affects businesses that officially economically boycott Israel — business can still support the BDS movement, however.
In comparison to its Arabic-language counterpart, Dena Takruri’s video is decidedly tame. The video features blatant demonization — both visual and textual — of Israelis, without bothering to contextualize their actions — this is a classic example of inaccurate reporting. The video follows a young boy named Yasser and his family. The father is detained for hours at a checkpoint, and his schoolteacher is depicted as being stuffed into a van against his will by an Israeli soldier. This is a classic example of a completely one-sided narrative that fails to properly reflect the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These manifestations of what AJ+ misleadingly labels as “illegal Israeli activity” are sponsored by Western companies, such as G4S, HP, CAT and Adidas. The video ends with a call to boycott these companies and to support the BDS movement, which fights for the human rights of the Palestinian people.
Remember, however, that the BDS movement has, on more than one occasion, forced factories to move, costing hundreds of Palestinians their jobs, as in the case of the SodaStream plant moving from the West Bank as a bow to BDS. Checkpoints, while sometimes inconvenient, are a necessary security measure, and have saved countless lives — in 2012 alone, there were 475 attempts to smuggle weapons through them. Terrorist activity is a reality — and checkpoints have proven an effective countermeasure. When terror attacks in certain areas have decreased, Israel has historically removed checkpoints, as in Jericho and Ramallah — but, as terror increases in other areas, checkpoints are added. Jail is also a necessity which helps the Israeli government to keep terrorists and suspicious civilians in check. This all begs the question — why is AJ+ ignoring the need for checkpoints if it claims impartiality? To protest these actions by the Israeli government is to protest Israel’s right to self-defense. AJ+ appears to be of the opinion that Israel has no such right.
Most recently, AJ+ published a video regarding attacks on Muslims at the Temple Mount, without mentioning that Jews are now barred from entering in order to preserve peaceful Muslim prayer.
The danger of AJ+ is its popularity among millennials. Its videos are short, provocative, educational — and heavily biased against Israel. The Qatari-funded network has done an excellent job of masking its anti-Israel vitriol and making it mainstream, to the detriment of our students’ knowledge of, and conviction in Israel and Zionism.
Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Princeton University, Leora Eisenberg.