Al-Jazeera's graphic Gaza images inspire anger, hostility

Israeli officials and Palestinian Authority have long accused the station of being pro-Hamas.

al jazeera 88 (photo credit: )
al jazeera 88
(photo credit: )
The images broadcast on the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera since the start of Israel's operation are graphic and at times, seemingly uncensored. Earlier this week, Al-Jazeera repeatedly streamed the image of two dead children at a morgue, wrapped in white sheets with all but their faces exposed. The pictures were repeated often and for significant periods of time, even as broadcasters gave the news of the hour or interviewed various guests. The network's Arabic-language coverage of Israel's military operation, which has killed nearly 400 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, has been almost constant, with frequent updates of the number of "martyrs" killed. Analysts say that these and similar images broadcast around the world have played an important role in mobilizing the Arab street to protest by the tens of thousands, burn effigies and Israeli flags and demand action from their governments. Egyptian officials have privately accused the Qatari-based network of downplaying Egypt's mediation efforts and attempts to alleviate the crisis. Israeli officials, along with the Palestinian Authority, have long accused the station of being pro-Hamas. They say its treatment of Israel's current military operation is no different. "It gives a lot of air time for their officials to speak … and they don't differentiate between citizens and militants," said Ofir Gendelman, director of the Arab press and public affairs division of at the Foreign Ministry. "They disregard the fact that Hamas has been bombarding Israel with thousands of rockets in the last few years." He acknowledged that the station does give some time for Israeli officials to offer their side of the story, "but I wouldn't say it's sufficient or equal," he said. But the most popular station in the Arab world has long defended its objectivity, and a large number of viewers over the years have turned to the station to get information they wouldn't otherwise get - including dissenting opinions - from their state-controlled stations. The network in August apologized to Israel after its Lebanese bureau threw an on-air birthday party for Samir Kuntar, who Israel released in July as part of an Israel-Hizbullah prisoner swap. As could be expected, the rhetoric in the Arab media has gotten increasingly more critical and hostile towards Israel since the Jewish state launched its operation in the Gaza Strip. Some note that it has also gotten more anti-Semitic. For example, an Egyptian cleric recently told Al Nas TV on December 29 that he takes his son and makes him "look at the torn body parts of his Muslim brothers, in order to sow in his heart hatred and loathing for the Zionists, so he will know that these are his enemies," according to Palestine Media Watch. Egyptian newspapers have also taken an increasingly harsh and unbalanced tone towards Israel in recent days, observers note. "There is only one line; no exceptions," said Gabriel Rosenbaum, director of the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo and a professor at Hebrew University. "It's 100 percent one-sided. There is not any attempt to understand the motivation of Israel for the operation in Gaza." But while these media reports have some impact on the Egyptian people, Rosenbaum believes that the impact is temporary. "It will not last forever," he said, noting he has had contact with Egyptians for many years. "They are not hostile. Usually most of them want peace and really believe that peace is possible. And most of them are ready to accept Israel."