Foreign Ministry boycotts Al-Jazeera

Cites extremely biased coverage of Israel. Livni: "Network abuses situation by telling lies."

al-jazeera 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
al-jazeera 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Foreign Ministry spokespeople are refusing requests to appear on Al-Jazeera because of what the ministry deems heavily biased coverage of the situation in the Gaza Strip, a ministry official said Tuesday. The official's statement came a day after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni ripped into the Qatar-based network at a meeting with ambassadors posted here, saying that "when depicting Israeli attacks, Al-Jazeera abuses the situation on the ground by telling lies. Unfortunately, during these attacks, civilians were killed. I am not trying to change facts. But, of course, when it comes to Al-Jazeera, everything is exaggerated." To support the argument of an Al-Jazeera bias, one Foreign Ministry official quoted from comments senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar made Monday on Hamas's television station, Al-Aksa, saying that "after I thank God, the Praised and the Almighty, I thank the people of the media... specifically the Al-Aksa and Al-Jazeera stations, and all the stations that showed pictures of the pulse of the Palestinian majority." "Thank you to all those who gave support in presenting the pulse of the Palestinian majority, which says we will resist until the Day of Judgment," he said. The Foreign Ministry official said these comments only strengthened the ministry's charges that Al-Jazeera was biased in its coverage, and that the ministry believed the station was cooperating with Hamas, against Fatah. Ministry officials held meetings last week with Al-Jazeera's representatives in Israel, including its bureau chief Walid al-Omary, to discuss the coverage. The Foreign Ministry has charged that Al-Jazeera was in cahoots with Hamas in broadcasting what Israel believed was a staged candlelight protest that followed a government decision last month to reduce electric and gas supplies to the Gaza Strip. Omary denied Tuesday that his network was providing anything but a factual picture from Gaza, adding that the network took pains to cover both sides. Indeed, he said, his camera crews were attacked by angry Sderot residents when they went to cover the story in that city last week. "We are not inciting, not provoking," he said. "We don't have planes, missiles and artillery, and are not part of the confrontation. We are covering this like all others." Omary said his network frequently had Israeli officials and spokespeople on the air, and that if the Foreign Ministry did indeed carry on with its boycott, other Israelis and government officials would still be willing to be interviewed. "We feel sympathy for the suffering of all," he said. "But if you compare the situation in Israel and inside Gaza, you know what happened - more than 120 people were killed in Gaza, and three Israelis were killed. That's the situation in the Middle East, we are just delivering the news."