September 15, 2019

NY Israel Consul General Calls Al Jazeera Host ‘Bigot’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Consul General to Israel in New York, Dani Dayan, called Al Jazeera host Mehdi Hasan a “bigot” in an Aug. 22 Twitter exchange between the two on anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

It all started with Hasan saying on CNN earlier in the day that “lots of anti-Semites support Israel and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.

CNN contributor Peter Beinart defended Hasan’s remarks in a tweet that stating that Hasan “has a long and courageous record of calling [anti-Semitism] out even within his own community.”

Dayan then responded to Beinart’s tweet, stating, “I know @mehdirhasan personally. I have no doubt he doesn’t hate Jews per se. He – a self-described Anti-Zionist – ‘only’ denies Jews the right of self-determination in any part of their homeland. A ‘small’ thing. Call it what you like but that’s blatant bigotry.”

Hasan said his claims on anti-Zionism were “false” and tweeted that it was “rich” for Dayan to accuse him of bigotry when he was “the former chair of the West Bank settlers council – settlers being among the biggest bunch of racists around.”

Dayan shared a photo of one of Hasan’s prior tweets that read, “I consider myself an anti-Zionist and critic of the Israeli settler state and its ongoing ethnic cleansing project” but urges people to be careful with criticizing Zionism given the rise of anti-Semitism.

Hasan then clarified he meant that anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism; Dayan doubled down on calling Hasan a “bigot” and argued that Hasan never denied “my claim that you deny the Jewish People the right of self-determination in ANY part of its homeland” and to “enjoy the ‘likes’ from the anti-Semitic crowd.”

David Reaboi, vice president of the Security Studies Group think tank, wrote in a May Jewish Journal cover story that Al Jazeera, Hasan’s employer, “pushes a stream of vile, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and attempts to rile up religious and extremist Muslims against attempts at positive, human rights reforms in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states” in their Arabic channel. But in their English AJ+ network, they masquerade as “progressive and left-wing” in order “to obscure the Islamist-run network and to appeal to younger people in the West.”

GOP Members of Congress Call on DOJ to Designate Al Jazeera As Foreign Agent

Workers at the Al Jazeera offices in Jerusalem on June 13. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Eight Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) on June 18 urging for Al Jazeera to be designated as a foreign agent, the Washington Examiner reports.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) as well as Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and Mike Johnson (R-La.) argued to Attorney General William Barr that “Al Jazeera is not only a foreign principal but it is also owned by a foreign principal – the government of Qatar. Several members of the ruling family of Qatar have held senior positions at Al Jazeera: Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani, a member of the ruling family of Qatar, is the Chairman of Al Jazeera; Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani is the CEO of Qatar Media Corporation and a Board Member of Al Jazeera; Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani served as the Director General of Al Jazeera from 2011 until June 2013.”

The congressmen noted that Al Jazeera frequently promulgates viewpoints held by the Qatari government, such as the network putting the Muslim Brotherhood “in a moderate light” and hosting Hamas leaders; the Qatari government funds both organizations. Additionally, AJ+, Al Jazeera’s English channel, frequently appears “to support anti-Israeli and anti-American positions.”

Therefore, the congressmen argued, “It appears that Al Jazeera’s broadcasts, including AJ+, mirror the policies and preferences of the Qatari government, which, together with the state funding and other indicia of agency, demonstrate that Al Jazeera and its media subsidiaries act as alter egos of the Qatari government in ensuring dissemination of the government’s viewpoints.” Consequently, Al Jazeera should be required to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the congressmen wrote.

Al Jazeera disputed the congressmens’ assertions, telling The Washington Examiner that the Qatari government doesn’t influence its editorial content. Al Jazeera Media Network similarly said in a statement to the Journal that the fact it receives public funding makes it no different than outlets like the BBC and that “AJ+ English content, at times, runs counter to societal norms and policies of Qatar, or is critical of Qatar, precisely because the platform is independent and audience-driven.”

Security Studies Group Senior Vice President David Reaboi wrote in the May 24 cover story for the Journal that “Al-Jazeera is the world’s most successful and influential state-directed information operation,” pointing out how AJ+ brands itself as a progressive channel in English while Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel “pushes a stream of vile, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” Al Jazeera AT Arabic’s Twitter account tweeted out a Holocaust-denying video, which Reaboi wrote was an example of Al Jazeera’s mask slipping.

“The scandal did damage Qatar’s influence operation — but just how much damage is yet to be seen,” Reaboi wrote. “At the very least, more Americans know that the AJ+ social media content that’s targeted toward their children and young adults is actually Al-Jazeera, a foreign network owned and operated to advance the interests of the Qatari state. This kind of exposure is vital.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has also argued that Al Jazeera “routinely glorifies violence against Israeli Jews, regularly calling Palestinians killed in the act of trying to murder Israelis as ‘martyrs.’ The network also uses this term for any Palestinian operative of the armed wing of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad who is killed by Israeli forces, despite the fact that both of these groups avowedly seek to slaughter Israeli civilians.”

In August, President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which compelled all foreign media outlets, including Al Jazeera, to register as a foreign agent.

Video Highlights Anti-Semitic Tweets from Al Jazeera Staff

Workers at the Al Jazeera offices in Jerusalem on June 13. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

A new video from anti-Semitic watchdog site Canary Mission highlights various anti-Semitic tweets from Al Jazeera’s AJ+ channel staff members.

The May 22 video includes a December 2010 tweet from AJ+ Managing Director Dima Khatib that states, “There is no JEWISH PEOPLE. Have you ever heard of a Christian people or Muslim people or Buddhist people?” Canary Mission also highlighted another tweet from Khatib on their site from December 2010 that states, “Behind U.S. support for Israel there is a huge Zionist lobby with economic and media power.”

AJ+ Host and Senior Producer Sana Saeed is also featured in the video with a January 2015 tweet that reads, “Israel & Al Qaeda are likely coordinating with one another. Yeah. Imma pull a white girl and just can’t even.” Saeed also “has expressed support for Hamas, promoted terrorists, spread anti-Israel conspiracy theories and defended violent anti-Israel agitators” as well as “demonized Zionism and undermined Muslim interfaith dialogue with Jews.”

Additionally, the Canary video points out that AJ+ Executive Producer Sakhr Al-Makhadi tweeted in December 2011, “One day, when the Palestinians are in charge of the land we call Israel, I hope they don’t humiliate the Jews in the way Jews humil the Palis.”

The Canary video comes after Al Jazeera AT+ Arabic tweeted out a video of Host Muna Hawwa saying there are people “who accuse the Zionist movement of blowing [the Holocaust] out of proportion in the service of the plan to establish Israel” and that “Israel is the biggest winner from the Holocaust.” Al Jazeera Digital Division Executive Director Dr. Yaser Bishr said in a May 19 statement that “Al Jazeera completely disowns the offensive content in question” and the network suspended two of their journalists.

Canary Mission states on their website that their video compilation raises the following question: “Was [Al Jazeera’s] Holocaust-denying video an isolated incident or is anti-Semitism a systemic issue?”

Al Jazeera did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

Security Studies Group Senior Vice President David Reaboi wrote in the cover story of the May 24 edition of the Journal that the Qatari government, which funds terror groups like Hamas, finances Al Jazeera. Reaboi explains that Al Jazeera’s Arabic channels promulgate “a stream of vile, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and attempts to rile up religious and extremist Muslims against attempts at positive, human rights reforms in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. In English, however, Al-Jazeera presents itself as progressive and left wing, attacking these same nations efforts at reform as fake and inadequate.”

Reaboi also adds that Al Jazeera is part of “Qatar’s media empire” that consists of “38 sports television channels in 36 countries, exclusive broadcasting rights to Turner-owned channels in the Middle East and North Africa, a Qatar Airways-sponsored monthly travel series on CNN and more” in an attempt to curry favor with the West while hiding the fact that they support and finance Islamic terrorism.

“The extent of Qatar’s influence and information operations remains one of the least-covered and least-scrutinized stories of the past few years — including its campaign to curry favor within the Jewish community,” Reaboi wrote. “That slowly is changing. Because of Qatar’s promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood and its alliance with Iran, more Americans are coming to understand Qatar is a malign force, not just in the Middle East but in this country.”

Qatar Shows Two Faces to the World

Four Israelis were buried earlier this month in the wake of nearly 1,000 rockets Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired into Israeli population centers, striking schools, synagogues and homes. 

The attacks were a massive escalation, showing both the capabilities and determination of the terror groups to strike deeply and indiscriminately within Israeli territory. With new rockets, Israel’s main population centers surrounding Tel Aviv were under fire, as was the country’s rumored nuclear reactor at Dimona. Israel’s anti-missile system, Iron Dome, as well as luck and providence prevented the deaths of Jews on a massive scale.

Amid the back and forth, it appeared an Israeli ground invasion was imminent. There’s no country in the world that would allow such a threat on its borders to persist, yet a cease-fire between Israel and the terror groups, negotiated in part by Qatar, seems to be holding — at least temporarily.

Qatar’s role in negotiating an end to hostilities with Israel is more than a bit ironic, as that nation has been Hamas’ principal system of financial and diplomatic support.

The Islamist terror group’s long-standing relationship with Qatar runs through the Muslim Brotherhood. In its founding charter, Hamas declares itself as a branch of the Brotherhood in Palestine. For its part, the Brotherhood long has understood Hamas to be the tip of the spear when it comes to armed jihad against Israel. America’s largest terror finance trial, U.S. vs. Holy Land Foundation, described the primary function of the Brotherhood in America as being a fundraising and communications tool for the terror group.

Since the U.S. government closed Texas’ Holy Land Foundation more than a decade ago for funneling millions to Hamas, foreign nations such as Qatar largely have picked up the slack. Money for a terror group like Hamas is fungible. This means investing in social services and territory itself. Part of Qatar’s largesse solidifies Hamas’ grip on the population: bribing Gazans with services, feeding its citizens with jihadist propaganda, and maintaining a security force that stamps down dissent and engages in murders of suspected collaborators.

But Qatar doesn’t just support Hamas directly in Gaza. The Gulf emirate bankrolls the group’s massive communications support network, including the institutions, media outlets and influencers that comprise most of anti-Israel activism globally.

Joey Allaham
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“Qatar has quickly and quietly built an unrivaled global influence operation.” — Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project

Qatar’s Support for Islamists
For a half-century, Qatar has been a tiny oasis for Hamas’ ideological mothership, the Muslim Brotherhood and many of the world’s most virulent Islamists. In the 1960s, Gamal Abdel Nasser again banned and cracked down on the Brotherhood in Egypt, forcing thousands of the group’s agitators, clerics and community organizers to retreat elsewhere into the Middle East, Europe and North America.

Since then, the Arabian Gulf emirate of Qatar has been the Brotherhood’s most hospitable base of operations. In time, Brotherhood Islamism soon would emerge as Qatar’s de facto state ideology, as the ruling al-Thani family welcomed the Islamists with lavish funding, the highest state honors and the establishment of new Islamist institutions that would indoctrinate thousands of extremist clerics.

With the turn of Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia against Islamism, today Qatar is the last major state patron for Brotherhood activists and groups, especially in the West. Since Qatar’s most prominent export, state-owned television network Al-Jazeera, was founded in 1996, the Brotherhood has played a crucial role in programming and setting the editorial line, providing the network’s strong ideological Islamist backing.

By backing the Brotherhood in the region, Qatar’s adventurism greatly imperils the security of Israel as well as the United States. The emirate undermines the stability of its Arab neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; it promotes Islamists in vulnerable, Western-open societies; and it diplomatically and financially supports violent terrorist groups such as Hamas, al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Of course, nobody who credibly can be called pro-Israel would want to be in the position to defend these policy priorities, even for satchels of cash on offer from Doha, Qatar’s capital.

Nevertheless, after Donald Trump’s shocking victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, two well-connected Jews became lobbyists and signed a substantial contract to represent the Islamist-supporting emirate of Qatar in the Arabian Gulf. That decision got them working against Israel’s interests and eventually did considerable damage to their careers and reputations.

Qatar’s Media Empire of Influence
Information warfare products consist of weaponized information translated into a variety of media — from books and articles to television interviews, blog posts and tweets. Qatar’s media empire comprises 38 sports television channels in 36 countries, exclusive broadcasting rights to Turner-owned channels in the Middle East and North Africa, a Qatar Airways-sponsored monthly travel series on CNN and more.

“Qatar has quickly and quietly built an unrivaled global influence operation,” said Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project, which provides legal services for the Jewish community. “It presents a squeaky-clean face to the West that hides the regime’s support for the most extreme Islamist groups … groups that murder Israelis and gravely threaten U.S. interests.”

Al-Jazeera is the most important news network broadcasting in Arabic in the world, with tens of millions of viewers spread across Arabic-speaking communities in nearly every country. Drawing a massive estimated audience of 35 million weekly, Al-Jazeera’s most popular Arabic program was “Sharia and Life,” starring Qatar-based virulently anti-Semitic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s most prominent jurist.

Al-Qaradawi’s most infamous statement was an ode to Adolf Hitler: “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption,” he proclaimed on Al-Jazeera. “The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them — even though they exaggerated this issue — he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.”

In explaining why Qatar can never turn its back on the Brotherhood or anti-Western Islamism, scholar David Warren stressed the importance of al-Qaradawi and his legacy in that country. “The Qatari royal family became a key supporter of Qaradawi,” he wrote. Today, al-Qaradawi meets regularly with the emir and his family, and the state media regularly distribute photos of family members embracing the sheik with great affection and reverence.

“Since the U.S. government closed Texas’ Holy Land Foundation more than a decade ago for funneling millions to Hamas, foreign nations such as Qatar largely have picked up the slack.”

“The fact that there is anti-Semitic material in Al-Jazeera is significant; that it has a daily diet of anti-American material is significant,” Middle East Broadcasting Networks president Alberto Fernandez said during a recent Washington conference on Qatar’s influence operations. “But the greatest problem with Al-Jazeera is how, for a generation, it has mainstreamed and normalized an Islamist grievance narrative, which has served as sort of the mother’s milk for all sorts of Islamist movements.”

As London-based Muslim liberal Nervana Mahmoud noted, the Qatari outlet “labels Arab states with good relations with Israel [like the United Arab Emirates and, most recently, Saudi Arabia] as ‘Arab Zionists.’ ” Of course, this kind of rhetoric makes Middle East normalization and eventual peace and with Israel more difficult.

Al-Jazeera is the world’s most successful and influential state-directed information operation. Its sophistication is evident in its ability to promote two very different messages to two audiences simultaneously. In Arabic, Al-Jazeera pushes a stream of vile, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and attempts to rile up religious and extremist Muslims against attempts at positive, human rights reforms in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. In English, however, Al-Jazeera presents itself as progressive and left wing, attacking these same nations efforts at reform as fake and inadequate. A rebranding in English as “AJ+” was further meant to obscure the Islamist-run network and to appeal to younger people in the West, with social media material in English, Arabic, French and Spanish. 

Al-Jazeera’s mask is held tightly in place but occasionally it slips. Only last week, AJ+ Arabic and Al-Jazeera were rocked by a severe anti-Semitism scandal, beginning with a Holocaust-denial video. The video — professionally produced by the Doha-based network — denied that extermination took place at the Nazi concentration camps and accused the Zionist movement of benefiting from the atrocities. Soon, the network’s critics were finding recent tweet after tweet from a variety of Al-Jazeera contributors.

In an attempt to quell the anger that threatened to destroy all the effort Al-Jazeera had put into cultivating AJ+’s reputation and target audience, the network suspended two staffers. Calling the disciplined employees “scapegoats,” Muslim liberal commentator Asra Nomani tweeted, “The government of Qatar needs to take responsibility & everyone making excuses for Al-Jazeera is complicit in a cover-up.”

The scandal did damage Qatar’s influence operation — but just how much damage is yet to be seen. At the very least, more Americans know that the AJ+ social media content that’s targeted toward their children and young adults is actually Al-Jazeera, a foreign network owned and operated to advance the interests of the Qatari state. This kind of exposure is vital.

Unfortunately, American elites and policymakers long have been soft targets for Qatari information warfare, especially if it’s coated with the sheen of the network’s respectability. Even then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Like it or hate it, [Al-Jazeera] is really effective.”

Yusuf al-Qaradawi
Photo by Reuters

After the 2016 election, the specter of Russian news and commentary outlets like Russia Today and Sputnik as serious threats to American democracy allowed the massive Qatari elephant in the room, Al-Jazeera, to largely escape similar scrutiny. Last year, though, Congress finally appeared to get serious about foreign states’ roles in information operations directed at American citizens and media consumers. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act requires all U.S.-based foreign media outlets — including Russia Today and Al-Jazeera — to identify themselves clearly as foreign outlets and report to the FCC every six months on their relations with their foreign principals. Trump signed it into law in August 2018; to date, neither foreign outlet has filed with the FCC or made their reports available to Congress.

When Qatar pays off people with pro-Israel bona fides, it has a downstream effect; others who might know less about the issues or the region itself will follow the thought leader.

Qatar’s Other Instruments of Influence
Qatar doesn’t control just networks. The larger picture of how its information assets play off one another is impressive. For example, a typical news story or TV news segment might feature a journalist to report the news; reference a recent think-tank study; and provide several experts to contextualize the importance of the news and provide historical perspective. What would happen to the coverage if all these elements shared a common benefactor — especially one that is adamant about message discipline and advancing its interests?

More than any other nation, Qatar shrewdly has invested in the infrastructure of this kind of influence, and it shows. Last month, The New York Times published an expansive story in a Sunday edition arguing that Democratic support for Israel quickly was evaporating in the wake of an ascendant boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Nathan Thrall, who wrote the story, tried to make the case that prominent Democratic donors deviously worked behind the scenes to maintain public support for Israel, even as the party’s base soured on the Jewish state. Thrall painted a bleak picture of Israeli atrocities and echoed age-old themes of untoward Jewish influence in America’s “paper of record.”

Yet, nowhere in the piece did the Times disclose that some of those paying Thrall’s salary have agendas hostile to Israel. The International Crisis Group (ICG) has received significant foreign funding from the emirate of Qatar, with other funding coming from U.S.-based backers of BDS.

The pro-Hamas ICG isn’t the only think tank that benefits from Qatar’s largesse. The Qatar Foundation owns the Brookings Doha Center, the Qatar-based branch of one of the oldest think tanks in the world, the Brookings Institution. The foundation’s listed “100%” ownership stake means Qatari heads of state control the Brookings Doha Center.

Even as it has been routinely criticized for promoting Islamic extremism, including anti-Semitism, the Qatar Foundation has been, like Al-Jazeera, a way for the emirate to project soft power — usually influence in one way or another — in the service of its national interests. The foundation’s three shareholders are in the highest echelon of Doha’s royal family.

Qatar lavishly spends on universities, not only in the United States, to create a network of American-affiliated schools in the emirate that will be predisposed to support it and its policies. The Qatar Foundation paid six U.S. universities hundreds of millions of dollars to operate campuses at the Education City complex in Doha. These universities are CornellTexas A&M, Carnegie MellonVirginia Commonwealth UniversityGeorgetown and Northwestern.

Exposés in The New York Times and on Tablet in 2014 show that rather than producing objective, data-driven analysis about the region, Qatar’s millions colored the work the think tank produced. “[T]here was a no-go zone when it came to criticizing the Qatari government,” Saleem Ali, a former visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, told the Times.

Yet, members of the media and policymakers still use these outlets as authoritative sources of analysis on the Middle East. Qatar-backed media outlets — including those such as CNN, which count on substantial advertising revenue from the oil-rich emirate — often feature talking heads from Brookings, ICG and other institutions with undisclosed financial ties to Doha. This cynically impressive scheme continues to work, thanks to the biases of the media and others who don’t want to look too closely at the sources of funding and influence.

For Qatar, endowments to Brookings and the International Crisis Group are tiny pieces of a much larger strategic influence campaign it successfully has waged in recent years, spanning from these multimillion-dollar investments in Washington, D.C., think tanks, universities and dozens of media outlets it owns to, most recently, a controversial and hard-knuckled, eight-figure lobbying effort in Washington.

Recruiting Muzin and Allaham
When the diplomatic war with Saudi Arabia intensified in the summer of 2017, Qatar likely recognized the need for more air cover in Washington. What better way than getting Jewish lobbyists to persuade influential Jewish community leaders to soften their stances on Qatar?

This effort culminated in a successful influence operation American lobbyists and agents — specifically Stonington Strategies, run by former kosher steakhouse owner Joey Allaham and former deputy chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Nick Muzin — carried out with Qatari money. 

Muzin grew up in the Toronto Jewish community. He was a good student and a high achiever, completing medical school in the Bronx before switching gears and turning to law school at Yale. After a marriage to Andrea Michelle Zucker, the daughter of Charleston billionaires Anita and Jerry Zucker, he soon became involved in South Carolina politics. He helped then-Charleston City Councilman Tim Scott get elected in Washington, first to the House of Representatives, then to the Senate. Muzin worked as deputy chief of staff for Cruz during Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, appearing often with the candidate at Jewish community events.

Allaham was born into a family of Syrian Jews in Damascus and arrived in the United States in the early 1990s. He opened several of New York’s premier kosher restaurants, including Prime Grill. One by one, though, Allaham’s seemingly successful restaurants began shutting their doors. Toward the end of 2017 — when Stonington’s contract with the Qataris was in full swing — the Forward reported on the closing of the last of Allaham’s restaurants, Prime at the Bentley, as Allaham was embroiled in lawsuits over a series of kosher Passover excursions he canceled, allegedly never returning his customers’ deposits.

In addition to his contacts in the Republican Party and the conservative movement in Washington, Muzin had married into a wealthy and well-connected family. In Manhattan, Allaham’s restaurants were upscale; his customers included not just the most important and powerful members of New York Jewish society but, significantly, anyone who’d want access to them. Muzin and Allaham were not Qatar’s only lobbyists in the United States. But by using their credibility to target and compromise some very influential voices, they unquestionably did the most damage to the Jewish community and Israel’s supporters in America. Together, the pair received approximately $7 million from Doha, according to an exposé on Tablet. Not only was that an awfully big paycheck for two newly minted lobbyists, but it enabled them to generously spread around a lot of dollars.

Of course, $7 million is a small fraction of the sums Qatar admits to spending on annual lobbying activities. Most of the money goes to buy the usual PR firms and advertising campaigns, media operators and former congressmen, generals and ex-staffers who are paid largely to open key office doors to influential people inside the Beltway. It’s this last group that’s most interesting and in the case of Stonington Strategies, deeply cynical.

Over the course of a year or longer, armed with funds from Doha, Muzin and Allaham launched an influence operation targeting prominent leaders in the Jewish and non-Jewish conservative communities. They used that money to wine and dine Israel supporters, bring them to Doha, donate to their nonprofits and, finally, convince them that Qatar — the patron of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran’s ally — is friendly toward Israel. And for a time, it seemed they were succeeding.

Lifting the Veil
An influence operation is the strategic use of interpersonal relationships and institutions. A long-term relationship or affiliation with an institution or person builds and solidifies the kind of goodwill that can be immensely valuable for a lobbyist to exploit. It takes surprisingly little contact and effort for a target of an influence operation to become an ally. For example, a longtime friendship with a Qatari lobbyist may make one predisposed to trust and feel sympathy for the Qatari point of view.

The relationships Muzin and Allaham could leverage for Qatar’s benefit were tremendously valuable. These connections enabled them to enlist others with unimpeachable pro-Israel credentials who could, in turn, serve as surrogates for Qatar’s interests. When Qatar pays off people with pro-Israel bona fides, it has a downstream effect; others who might know less about the issues or the region itself will follow the thought leader.

Modern information warfare is slick and unnoticeable; influence operations, though, are as insidious as they look. We understand that when politicians or influencers go on all-expense-paid junkets, it’s a clear example of bribery. The quid pro quo (for example, a trip to the Doha Forum) doesn’t have to be immediate, and it doesn’t have to be readily apparent. However, there is a promise of some kind of profit: money, fame, career advancement or even virtuousness. Wealthy nations such as Qatar can extend these kinds of benefits to a great many people — and they do.

“For a half-century, Qatar has been a tiny oasis for Hamas’ ideological mothership, the Muslim Brotherhood and many of the world’s most virulent Islamists.”

Thankfully, Muzin and Allaham’s aggressive, well-paid jaunt as lobbyists for Qatar soon darkened their reputations in both the tightknit pro-Israel and conservative communities in Washington, New York and Los Angeles. Their willingness to target longtime opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, including former Republican National Committee finance chairman and pro-Israel philanthropist Elliott Broidy, also grated on many in the pro-Israel world.

Qatar is alleged to have been behind the hacking of more than 1,500 prominent individuals, from former Department of Defense and CIA officials to European intelligence officials, Washington think-tank experts, journalists and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. With most people conducting business online or via text or email, targeted cyber-espionage campaigns can do tremendous damage to private citizens or countries.

According to a recent filing in District of Columbia Courts, Stonington’s Muzin and Allaham allegedly were behind the distribution of hacked and doctored emails belonging to Broidy. The lawsuit alleges that Stonington “was among the vehicles used by the State of Qatar to funnel funds to others involved in the attack.”

After it was revealed he had been targeted, Boteach described it as “a dangerous and direct attack by a foreign government against American citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Broidy was a prime target of the Qatari’s efforts in the United States; silencing him was very important, both to the lobbyists and their funders in Doha. They attempted to do so through a media campaign of intimidation, as the lawsuit alleges Greg Howard of Mercury Public Affairs worked with journalists eager to expose a Republican ally of Trump. Mercury Public Affairs is a lobbying and public affairs firm registered as a foreign agent of Qatar in the United States and is a subsidiary of Fortune 500 company Omnicom Group. The media offensive against Broidy took advantage of media outlets willing to run with incorrect information as long as it fit into their narratives.

Aside from the legal liability and stacks of lawsuits the lobbyists’ actions caused, the Qatar episode left their reputations largely in tatters. Amid the accusations in the Broidy cyber-espionage case, Muzin and Allaham publicly distanced themselves from Doha in June 2018. “Stonington Strategies is no longer representing the State of Qatar,” Muzin tweeted.

Ultimately, their plan to have the American Jewish community embrace Qatar didn’t really work — at least not as well as their Qatari patrons had hoped. However much one spends, one can have a hard time convincing most people that one of their most potent enemies is their ally.

The extent of Qatar’s influence and information operations remains one of the least-covered and least-scrutinized stories of the past few years — including its campaign to curry favor within the Jewish community. That slowly is changing. Because of Qatar’s promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood and its alliance with Iran, more Americans are coming to understand Qatar is a malign force, not just in the Middle East but in this country.

Israel’s political and security establishments understand this, as evidenced by multiple Israeli officials who assailed Qatar in their recent conversations with me on the sidelines of the AIPAC conference in March. 

What was most shocking for these Israeli officials is not Qatar’s influence campaign itself, but the Jewish leaders who lent their de facto kosher certification to the emirate. “The Jewish leaders who became pawns of the Islamist-supporting regime in Qatar and accepted these state-funded trips to Doha did nothing short of betray Israel and the Jewish people,” an Israeli diplomat told me. “There has been concern about this campaign at the highest levels in Jerusalem. Those who participated in this disgrace should be held accountable.”


David Reaboi is senior vice president of the Security Studies Group.

Al Jazeera Suspends Journalists Over Holocaust Video

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Al Jazeera announced on May 19 that they are suspending two journalists due to a since-deleted video posted to the network’s Arabic Twitter account stating that “Israel is the biggest winner from the Holocaust.”

The Al Jazeera AT + Arabic account reportedly tweeted out the video with the caption, “Gas ovens killed millions of Jews, that’s how the novel says. What is the truth of the #holocaust and how did the Zionist movement benefit from it?” The video, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, features host Muna Hawwa stating, “The narrative that six million Jews were killed by the Nazi movement was adopted by the Zionist movement, and it is being reiterated every year on the so-called ‘Holocaust Memorial Day.’”

She goes on to state that Jews weren’t the only victims of the Holocaust, but the focus is on the Jewish victims because “Jewish groups had financial resources, media institutions, research centers, and academic voices that managed to put a special spotlight on the Jewish victims of the Nazis. Nevertheless, the number of victims of the Holocaust remains one of the most prominent historical debates to this day.”

Hawwa then says that there are some “who accuse the Zionist movement of blowing [the Holocaust] out of proportion in the service of the plan to establish what would later be known as the ‘State of Israel.’” She concludes the video by saying that “Israel is the biggest winner from the Holocaust, and it uses the same Nazi justifications as a launching pad for the racial cleansing and annihilation of the Palestinians.”

According to The Wrap, Al Jazeera issued a press release May 19 stating two of their journalists had been suspended over the video and that the video was published due to a lack of “oversight”; the journalists were not identified and the duration of the suspensions was not specified.

“Al Jazeera completely disowns the offensive content in question,” Dr. Yaser Bishr, executive director of Al Jazeera’s digital division, said in a statement.

Mehdi Hasan, a presenter for Al Jazeera’s English network, tweeted, “As someone who has spent my life slamming antisemitic Holocaust denialism, esp in Muslim communities, glad to see Al Jazeera bosses taking disciplinary action against 2 of their journos for a ridiculously offensive and dumb video – and disowning it, too.”

However, others, such as writer Ariel Sobel, tweeted that “Al Jazeera has always been anti-Semitic.”

Seth Frantzman, the Jerusalem Post’s Op-ed editor, wrote in a May 20 piece that Twitter has disabled the video from all accounts that shared it, “claiming it infringes Al Jazeera’s copyright.”

Columbia Prof Says Zionists Are ‘Beneficiaries of Anti-Semitism’

Screenshot from Facebook.

Columbia Iranian Studies Professor Hamid Dabashi wrote in a March 17 op-ed for Al Jazeera that Zionists are “the beneficiaries of anti-Semitism.”

Dabashi began the op-ed by calling for Muslims and Jews to unite against anti-Semitism; however, he proceeded to accuse Zionists of using the anti-Semitism label “to silence, paralyze and neutralize their political opponents.”

“Today, anti-Semitism is real and Zionists are categorically unqualified even to detect, let alone to fight it. Jews are the victims, Zionists the beneficiaries of anti-Semitism,” Dabashi wrote. “The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, freely and openly elected as the top political figure of the Zionists, is a rank racist with a widespread coalition with all other racists, including anti-Semites, chief among them the US President, Donald Trump.”

Dabashi added that Zionists don’t have the “moral authority” to combat anti-Semitism because they are “hardcore or liberal advocates of that ideology of land theft, occupation and incremental genocide of Palestinians.” He went onto write that anti-Semitism is a “deadly European disease” and cited a March 7 op-ed from Peter Beinart at The Forward arguing that anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism.

“Jews and Muslims are natural allies in this battle against racism in the intertwined forms of entrenched anti-Semitism and widespread Islamophobia,” Dabashi concludes his op-ed. “Zionists and racist Europeans know this. The conflation of Zionism and Judaism, as recently staged by [French President Emmanuel] Macron, is a false flag to confuse the issue and prevent the active solidarity of these two main victims of their racism.”

Simon Wiesenthal Associate Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in an April 1 email, “The article is brilliantly constructed. At first blush, a call for solidarity between Muslims and Jews in the fight against hate. But the real goal emerges- denigrating, demonizing, and delegitimizing Zionism and decoupling it from anti-Semitism. Along the way, this academic cleverly ascribes anti-Semitism as an exclusively European phenomenon, but nothing about anti-Jewish animus and dhimmitude in the Arab and Muslim world.”

“Yes there are some Jews who are anti-Zionist, but they choose to be willfully blind to the fact that Democratic Israel in 2019 is home to the world’s largest Jewish community whose roots to their land is 3,000+ years old,” Cooper wrote. “And they willfully turn their back on every prayer uttered by millions of Jews for 2000 years. We reject anyone who talks of solidarity in the fight against anti-Semitism while simultaneously fueling it by delegitimizing the love and lovers of Zion .”

In May, Dabashi called Zionists “hyenas” on Facebook and blamed Israel for “every dirty treacherous ugly and pernicious happening in the world.”

CA Dems Party Arab American Caucus Chair Accuses Schumer of Allegiance to ‘Fascist Israel Lobby’

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to the media ahead of a possible partial government shut down in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Iyad Afalqa, the chairman of the Arab American Caucus of the California Democratic Party, accused Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) of having allegiance to the “fascist Israel lobby.”

On March 27, Afalqa posted a link on his Facebook page to an article titled “Senate Democratic Leader Schumer Compares Ilhan Omar to Trump in AIPAC Speech.” Schumer said during his March 26 speech, “When someone says that being Jewish and supporting Israel means you’re not loyal to America, we must call it out. When someone looks at a neo-Nazi rally and sees some ‘very fine people’ among its company, we must call it out.”

Afalqa wrote in his post, “Shmuck Schumer the traitor whose allegiance is for Fascist Israel lobby who called himself the Guardian of Israel in Congress is attacking Rep Omar who hinted at the big elephant in the room: treason of the Fascist Israel lobby that Schumer belongs to.”

Afalqa went onto state that the “highest amount” of money from the “pro-Israel lobby” in the 2015-16 election cycle went to Schumer.

The Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party (PZCDP) said in a statement sent to the Journal via email, “Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party is concerned about the most recent statements made by Iyad Afalqa on his personal Facebook page and in the CADEMs unofficial delegate group. This is unfortunately not the first time he has used such inflammatory rhetoric, and is especially disappointing considering he co-sponsored a resolution condemning anti-Semitism.”

“Utilizing the tropes of dual loyalties, Jewish conspiracy, and power to criticize AIPAC is disturbing in a moment where highly charged rhetoric like this increasingly endangers the Southern California Jewish community — which has experienced many recent anti-Semitic incidents, with perpetrators espousing frighteningly similar rhetoric to Alfalqa’s,” the PZDCP said.

In February, Afalqa shared a link to an Al Jazeera op-ed stating that “Zionism has always been a white supremacist, settler colonialist, anti-democratic, right-wing ideology, which has demanded a loyalty based on nationalist racism” that has “collaborated with anti-Semitic forces towards a mutual goal of global apartheid.”

The PZDCP responded to Afalqa’s sharing of the aforementioned op-ed by writing in a Facebook post at the time, “This is clear and unbridled anti-Semitism found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a famously false and hateful pamphlet alleging international conspiracy by racist, global Zionists. By itself, this trope has been responsible for the deaths of literally millions of Jews. This is the language we see being normalized in the article you shared.”

Additionally, in October 2017, Afalqa asked in Facebook when the Democratic National Committee (DNC) would be moving its headquarters “to Tel Aviv”:

Afalqa and the California Democratic Party did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

This article has been updated.

WATCH: Marc Lamont Hill Defends Omar’s AIPAC Tweets

Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired from CNN in November for calling for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea,” defended Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) recent tweets in an Al Jazeera video.

Omar recently apologized to Jewish groups in a confidential phone call for tweeting that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) buys off politicians’ support for Israel. Hill said in the Feb. 20 AJ+ video that he didn’t think Omar’s comments were anti-Semitic since she was discussing “the relationship between lobbying groups and America’s support for Israel.”

“Everyone who’s offered a principled, balanced and, I think, honest position on Israeli-Palestinian relations and of the occupation of Palestine, is being labeled anti-Semitic,” Hill said. “They’re being painted with a very broad brush and it’s not only unfair and dishonest, but it’s also dangerous.”

Hill said that while he thinks anti-Semitism is a serious threat, he also believes that “Jewish lives and Palestinian lives are worth the same.”

Hill then defended his “free Palestine from the river to the sea” comment at the United Nations in November.

“When people were saying I was calling for the destruction of Israel in a speech where I was very explicitly and directly calling for Israel to be reformed, for me it was frustrating,” Hill said.

Hill concluded the video by criticizing the Democrats of caving to Omar’s criticism by issuing their own criticism of her AIPAC comments, saying the whole controversy was due to Omar being seen as part of “outsiderness that gets assigned to Muslims, that gets assigned to women, that gets assigned to black folk.”

Sharon Nazarian, the Anti-Defamation League’s senior vice-president for international affairs, told the Journal in an email at the time that Hill’s remarks were “divisive and destructive.” The Temple University Board of Trustees also condemned Hill’s remarks in December.

WATCH: Syrian Opposition Activist Says Arabs Should Support Israel, Not Iran

Screenshot from Twitter.

Syrian opposition activist Issam Zeitoun said that Arabs should support Israel instead of Iran in a Janaury 16 debate on Al Jazeera.

The segment featured Ra’ed Al-Masri, Lebanese professor of political science and international relations, calling Israel “an illegitimate, nonexistent country.”

“As far as we are concerned, it does not exist,” Al-Masri said.

Zeitoun argued that “the Arabs have been using their weapons and their numbers in an attempt to impose a [solution] that is unacceptable to the international community, which supported the partition of Palestine.”

“Israel accepted the partition,” Zeitoun said. “Your argument that Israel is racist is nothing but a lie.”

The host then asked if Israel or Iran is more dangerous to the Middle East; Zeitoun argued that Iran is unquestionably the more dangerous of the two countries.

“Israel is surrounding itself with walls,” Zeitoun said. “It just wants to be left alone.”

Zeitoun proceeded to call “Pan-Arab ideology” a “cancer that is eating away at our nation,” pointing to the belief that Israel wants to widen its borders “from the Euphrates to the Nile” as an example.

“Every Arab and Muslim in history has believed this. There is no mention of this in any religious or political book. Nobody has ever said this,” Zeitoun said. “I have been to Israel more than once. I asked them: ‘Where in the Knesset is the banner that says: ‘Israel from the Euphrates to the Nile’?’ Nobody has ever heard of it. The Assad regime and our media have told us that [former Egyptian leader Anwar] Sadat spoke in the Knesset under a banner saying: ‘Israel’s borders from the Euphrates to the Nile.’ There is no such banner.”

The host proceeded to ask Zeitoun if it’s better to ally with Israel over Iran, to which Zeitoun emphatically agreed that Israel is the better country to ally with.

“Ask any Arab citizen where he wants to live, and then come back to me,” Zeitoun said.

Zeitoun added that Iran is a “rogue state,” while Israel is not.

“In any of our wars against Israel, Israel was waging a defensive war,” Zeitoun said. “Had we not attacked, it would not have attacked us, despite its capabilities.”

Zeitoun then asked if Iran would detonate a nuclear bomb in Tel Aviv.

“It would drop it on Riyadh or any other Arab capital,” Zeitoun said.

He added that Iran “exploits” the Jerusalem issue “in order to win the Arabs over.”

Zeitoun grew up in a family that staunchly supported then-Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, but he became pro-Israel after he heard “whispers” in his hometown that Israel had been warm toward the Syrian civilians during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Most Syrians didn’t go public with such sentiments out of fear of being charged of treason of the Assad government.

Al Jazeera Required to Register As a Foreign Agent Under New Law

Screenshot from Facebook.

Under the recently signed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Al Jazeera and other foreign media outlets are required to register as foreign agents.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, the NDAA will force all foreign media outlets – including Al Jazeera – to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a law that requires individuals and organizations to disclose that they’re aiming to shape public opinion in favor of a foreign entity. Russia’s RT America was required by the Justice Department to register as a foreign agent under the law in 2017; YouTube already forces each Al Jazeera video to disclose that they are funded by the Qatari government.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt argued in an op-ed for The Hill that Al Jazeera is “a major exporter hate against the Jewish people, Israel, and the United States.”

“Al Jazeera also routinely glorifies violence against Israeli Jews, regularly calling Palestinians killed in the act of trying to murder Israelis as ‘martyrs,’” Greenblatt wrote. “The network also uses this term for any Palestinian operative of the armed wing of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad who is killed by Israeli forces, despite the fact that both of these groups avowedly seek to slaughter Israeli civilians.”

Al Jazeera has previously come under fire for spying on Jewish groups in the United States. as part of a documentary that claims that Jews control the U.S. government. The network has also previously promoted the conspiracy theory that Israel warned Jews that the 9/11 terror attacks were going to occur.

The Qatari government, which funds Al Jazeera, has reportedly warm relations with the Iranian regime and has funded and sheltered Islamic terror groups like Hamas, al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Lawmakers Call On Trump Admin to Investigate Al Jazeera for Spying On Jews

Photo from Flickr/Joi Ito.

A couple of congressional lawmakers are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch an investigation into Al Jazeera for their spy operation against American Jews.

In a letter to Sessions, Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) argued that Al Jazeera should register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) given that the news outlet spreads propaganda from the Qatari government throughout the United States.

“We find it troubling that the content produced by this network often directly undermines American interests with favorable coverage of U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Jabhat alNusra, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria,” Zeldin and Gottheimer wrote. “Furthermore, Al Jazeera’s record of radical anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel broadcasts warrants scrutiny from regulators to determine whether this network is in violation of U.S. law.”

The lawmakers added, “Such an investigation should cover the full range of activities undertaken by Al Jazeera in the United States, including reports that it infiltrated American 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) nonprofit organizations.”

Al Jazeera’s spy operation reportedly involved the news organization sending a mole to various Jewish and pro-Israel organizations to cover their efforts in combatting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on behalf the Israeli government. Al Jazeera conducted the operation as part of a documentary that purportedly exposes Jewish control of the U.S. government, a longtime anti-Semitic slur.

If Al Jazeera is required to register under FARA, they would have to “periodically disclose the nature of its financial arrangements with the foreign principal and provide detailed, regular reports about the distribution of “informational materials” on its behalf,” according to the Brookings Institute.

“American citizens deserve to know whether the information and news media they consume is impartial, or if it is deceptive propaganda pushed by foreign nations,” Zeldin and Gottheimer wrote.

According to Discover the Networks, Al Jazeera was first established in 1996 from a $150 million grant by the emir of Qatar, whose government funnels money to Islamists worldwide. Members of Al Jazeera’s staff have ties to Islamic terror groups like Hamas and al-Qaeda; they were also the platform Osama bin Laden used to disseminate his various propaganda videos.

Unsurprisingly, Al Jazeera’s coverage is slanted against the United States and Israel, even going as espousing the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Israel warned Jews about the 9/11 terror attacks before the attacks occurred. One of their sources for this was David Duke, and they failed to disclose Duke’s prior connections to the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party.

Al Jazeera threatens legal action over Israel’s plans to close its Jerusalem bureau

Employees work inside the office of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem. August 7. Photo by Ammar Awad/REUTERS.

Al Jazeera threatened to take legal action to remain in its Jerusalem bureau following Israel’s decision to close it down.

The Qatar-based news network, which is based in the same building as Israel’s Government Press Office, criticized the shutdown as “undemocratic” in a statement Monday.

“Al Jazeera stresses that it will closely watch the developments that may result from the Israeli decision and will take the necessary legal measures towards it,” the statement said.  “Al Jazeera will continue to cover the events of the occupied Palestinian territories professionally and accurately, according to the standards set by international agencies.”

Israel’s communications minister, Ayoub Kara, a Druze lawmaker for the ruling Likud Party, on Sunday announced plans to revoke the media credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists, close the Jerusalem office, and remove the station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers.

The actions would require legislation and legal action, according to reports.

The channel, which has about 30 employees in Israel in both its Arabic and English channels, according to Reuters, already is blocked in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain.

Israeli officials have accused Al Jazeera of bias against the Jewish state.

“We have identified media outlets that do not serve freedom of speech but endanger the security of Israel’s citizens, and the main instrument has been Al Jazeera,” Kara said Sunday. He also said the network “caused us to lose the lives of the best of our sons.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month accused Al Jazeera of inciting violence in Jerusalem, including over the Temple Mount.

Al Jazeera was the first Arab news outlet to interview Israeli military and government officials.

Netanyahu eyeing way to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel

Workers at the Al Jazeera offices in Jerusalem on June 13. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would seek to pass a law to shut down the Jerusalem bureau of Al Jazeera if law enforcement will not do so after his multiple requests.

“The Al Jazeera network does not stop inciting to violence on the Temple Mount issue,” Netanyahu posted Wednesday in Hebrew on his Facebook page, referring to the Qatar-based network’s coverage of recent unrest surrounding the Jerusalem site, the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.

“I have on multiple occasions demanded that law enforcement shut down the Al Jazeera bureau in Jerusalem,” he said. “If this can’t be done because of legalisms, I will work to pass the required laws to expel Al Jazeera from Israel.”

It’s not clear what incitement specifically Netanyahu is referring to. Al Jazeera’s coverage of Israel has been irksome to Israel, but the nation’s officials have also appreciated it as a vehicle open to relaying the Israeli point of view to the Arab world.

Saudi Arabia in recent weeks has led a bid to isolate Qatar, a small Gulf state that often strikes out a foreign policy independent of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. One of the Saudi demands has been the shutdown of Al Jazeera, which has given voice to Arab restiveness since the Arab Spring roiled the region in 2011. Netanyahu in recent years has been seeking closer and more open cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

Qatar’s iconoclastic approach has meant it is more open to Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, but it also has meant that it is the Gulf Arab state with the most open ties with Israel.

Bernie Sanders just defended Israel on Al Jazeera. Here’s why that’s a big deal.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) on April 21. Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

In an appearance on Al Jazeera, Bernie Sanders defended Israel’s right to exist, rejected BDS as a tactic and assailed the United Nations for singling out the country for condemnation.

The Vermont senator’s interview Wednesday on the Qatar-based network, known for its often hypercritical coverage of Israel, was consistent with a style that Americans came to know last year during his run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination: Sanders does not modify his messaging for his audience.

Sanders, despite his defeat in the primaries to Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose to Donald Trump, remains the standard-bearer of the American left. His robust rejection of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is evidence that a firewall remains on the American left against more radical expressions of Israel criticism that have gained traction overseas.

The interviewer, Dena Takruri, challenged Sanders for joining every other U.S. senator last month in signing a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging him to remedy the body’s “anti-Israel agenda.”

Takruri asked why Sanders was “effectively trying to shield [Israel] from criticism.” Sanders interrupted, “No, no, no, no, no, I don’t accept that,” saying “there are many problems with Israel” and he would continue to “be critical of a lot of what Israel does.”

“On the other hand, to see Israel attacked over and over again for human rights violations which may be true, when you have countries like Saudi Arabia or Syria, Saudi Arabia – I’m not quite sure if a woman can even drive a car today,” Sanders said.

“So I think the thrust of that letter is not to say that Israel does not have human rights issues — it does — but to say how come it’s only Israel when you have other countries where women are treated as third-class citizens, where in Egypt, I don’t know how many thousands of people now lingering in jail, so that’s the point of that, not to defend Israel but to say why only Israel, you want to talk about human rights, let’s talk about human rights,” he said.

Asked by Takruri whether he “respected” BDS as a legitimate nonviolent protest movement, Sanders said, “No, I don’t.” The senator suggested in his reply that the tactic was counterproductive as a means of bringing the sides to peace talks.

“People will do what they want to do, but I think our job as a nation is to do everything humanly possible to bring Israel and the Palestinians and the entire Middle East to the degree that we can together, but no, I’m not a supporter of that,” he said.

“What must be done is that the United States of America is to have a Middle East policy which is even-handed, which does not simply supply endless amounts of money, of military support to Israel, but which treats both sides with respect and dignity and does our best to bring them to the table.”

Sanders also rejected Takruri’s assertion that the two-state solution is almost dead and said he would not embrace a one-state solution.

“I think if that happens, then that would be the end of the State of Israel and I support Israel’s right to exist,” he said. “I think if there is the political will to make it happen and if there is good faith on both sides I do think it’s possible, and I think there has not been good faith, certainly on this Israeli government and I have my doubts about parts of the Palestinian leadership as well.”

Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests, was critical of conventional pro-Israel postures during the campaign, but also defended the state.

He told MSNBC last year that anti-Semitism was a factor driving the BDS movement, yet in a debate in the New York primary – with its critical mass of Jewish voters – Sanders chided Clinton for barely mentioning Palestinians in her speech earlier the same year to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

During the campaign, he hired as his Jewish outreach staffer Simone Zimmerman, who founded IfNotNow, which protests mainstream U.S. Jewish silence on Israel’s occupation. Although Sanders fired Zimmerman after her vulgar postings on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to light, the very hiring was a signal that there was now a political home for young Jews who embraced the idea of Israel but were willing to robustly protest its government’s actions.

Sanders also named prominent Israel critics to the Democrats platform-drafting committee, yet when their Israel-critical language was rejected, he nonetheless robustly endorsed the platform because it met his other demands on economic inequality. He described himself at a meeting in New York’s Harlem neighborhood as a “strong defender of Israel” and for the first time spoke warmly about the time he spent in Israel in the 1960s on a kibbutz.

Democrats in recent years have grown increasingly critical of Israel, a result in part of the parlous relationship between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, and the fraught tone of the debate in 2015 over the Iran nuclear agreement.

But the tense tone of the Al Jazeera interview and Sanders’ refusal to accept anti-Israel pieties commonplace among progressives here and overseas suggests the resistance among Democrats to more radical expressions of Israel criticism. Democratic lawmakers, for instance, continue to join Republicans in overwhelmingly approving anti-BDS legislation on the state and federal levels.

Palestinian terrorism and Muslim hypocrisy: An open letter from a Muslim woman

While millions of children got out of bed on the morning of June 30 excited to be on summer vacation, one child did not. A young Israeli girl, 13-year-old Hallel Yaffe Ariel, was brutally murdered in her own bed by a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist. He broke into her house and stabbed her to death.

Another life lost to senseless violence. Another poor soul taken too early from this world. But few Muslims in this world will be mourning her death because Hallel was an Israeli Jew.

Read more at Times of Israel.


Nadiya Al-Noor is a Muslim interfaith activist with a focus on Jewish and Muslim communities, and she actively supports peace between Israel and the Palestinians. She is a graduate student at Binghamton University in upstate New York, studying public administration. This essay originally appeared in TimesofIsrael.com. Reprinted with permission.

Why Europe is so woefully unprepared for the new refugee crisis

No time is a good time for an epic humanitarian crisis. But Europe today seems woefully unprepared for the human wave from the Maghreb, the Horn of Africa and lands reaching all the way to Afghanistan.

I was overseas for much of the last few weeks and had a chance to watch Al Jazeera and BBC coverage. In the early phase of this mass movement of people, great pains were made to depict them as migrants, not refugees, who had the legal right to relocate to Europe.

All that changed with the horrific revelations of dozens of these “migrants” found suffocated in a truck in Austria, hundreds more perishing at sea, and the photo of a dead boy from Syria, who drowned along with his mother.

It is not only the huge numbers that cause the crisis, although the mention by Chancellor Angela Merkel of 800,000 potential refugees being absorbed into Germany sent shockwaves across the political and social landscape of the continent.

It is not only security concerns, though European Intelligence agencies must be alarmed at the thought of taking in thousands of unvetted refugees from the ground zero of terrorism and sectarian violence when they are already staggering under the burden of some 8,000 European citizens trained by al-Qaida and ISIS in the Middle East who returned home poised to unleash more terrorist attacks like those in Paris and Brussels.

It is not only about the lack of political will and social cohesion. For even as French, British and German leaders talk about evenly distributing the burden, others such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban have made it brutally clear that they want no part of the migrant/refugee wave; they simply want them gone. If it means constructing barbed-wire fences, posting a phalanx of police at the central train station in Budapest and duping refugees to board trains to camps, so be it.

Of course, when we see people so desperate to escape their homes that they knowingly put themselves and their children in harm’s way, when we see the lifeless body of a drowned child, we Jews are reminded of another era in Europe.

Why then is Europe so unprepared for this challenge?

It is precisely because the European Union (EU) has failed to evolve into a true “union.”

It has failed to articulate what 21st-century European social values are.

It never has addressed the failure to integrate the millions of Muslims already living in Europe.

Its foreign policy has failed to stem the killings and dislocation of Bashar Assad’s Syria. It has failed to stop ISIS.

It attempted to stop Libyans from leaving their country by removing Muammar Gadhafi. The results? The disintegration of a country and even more boat people perishing in the Mediterranean.

But are Europeans exclusively to blame for all of this? What about the United States? Tragically, the policies of “leading from behind” and “no boots on the ground” may mean fewer Americans in harm’s way in the Middle East, but the leadership vacuum has left millions of innocent people to fend for themselves with corrupt and dangerous governments who can’t even pick up the garbage.

There is one other gaping hole in the leadership of the EU: 70 years after the Shoah, rabid anti-Semitism and hate for the Jewish state infect an estimated 150 million Europeans. Seven decades after the defeat of Nazism, European governments and nongovernmental organizations have been silent over the ethnic cleansing, murder and serial rape of tens of thousands of Christians and other minorities across the Middle East.

It seems that Europe’s elite may have learned to mark their calendar to remember dead Jews one day a year, but too many have failed to internalize or apply any lessons from the Nazi era as to how to treat living Jews and other minorities.

There are no easy solutions to this crisis, but as Jews who come to pray for the wellbeing and safety of the entire world on Rosh Hashanah, we must find ways to do our share to help all legitimate refugees, be they Christian, Muslims or Yazidis.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Al Jazeera America denies being anti-Semitic, sexist and anti-U.S.

Al Jazeera America denied allegations by a former employee who said that the news channel overlooked anti-Semitic, sexist and anti-American misconduct.

“Al Jazeera America does not tolerate any discriminatory conduct and we take great pride in the diversity of our organization and its leadership,” CEO Ehab Al Shihabi said in a statement Monday, USA Today reported. “The recent attacks on us as being anti-Semitic, sexist and anti-American are absurd. Al Jazeera America’s values are based on the highest ethical standards and professionalism. Integrity and respect guide our conduct internally and externally.”

The former employee, Matthew Luke, filed a $15 million lawsuit last week against the company for being fired after complaining about the conduct of his boss, Osman Mahmud. Luke alleges that Mahmud made derogatory comments about Israel, women and the United States.

Three female executives have quit since Luke filed his charges. The latest was the senior vice president of outreach, Marcy McGinnis, who resigned on Monday. The executive vice president of human resources, Diana Lee, and executive vice president of communications, Dawn Bridges, stepped down last week.

Al Jazeera America, which is funded by the government of Qatar, reportedly will fight Luke’s charges.

Luke, who was the supervisor of media and archive management, claims that among other things, Mahmud once said that supporters of Israel “should die a fiery death in hell.”

Mahmud, who oversees broadcast operations and technology at the network, denied the charges in an interview with the Washington Post.bodyp

Fired Al Jazeera America employee sues network alleging anti-Semitism

A fired Al Jazeera America employee is suing the network alleging a hostile work environment that included “discriminatory, anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks.”

According to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court, Matthew Luke was fired in February 10 days after he complained about the behavior of his supervisor, Osman Mahmud, to human resources. Luke worked as Al Jazeera America’s supervisor of media and archive management beginning in May 2013, before the news channel had formally launched. It has been on the air for 20 months.

Luke’s attorneys are seeking $5 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages for the company’s alleged retaliation against Luke for complaining about Mahmud.

The lawsuit accuses Mahmud, who oversaw Broadcast Operations and Technology at the network, of making remarks deemed anti-Semitic such as “whoever supports Israel should die a fiery death in hell,” and expressing a desire to replace an Israeli cameraman with a Palestinian one, as well as excluding women from emails and meetings, the TVNewser website reported. Mahmud, the suit says, also replaced female employees with male ones and filled positions with men of Middle Eastern descent.

Mahmud, who began as a news editor at the network, rose to his supervisory position because he was well connected with Al Jazeera America’s backers, the suit claims.

Al Jazeera in response to the suit said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Israeli envoy: Jordan king blasting Israel to appease his Arab allies

Israel’s ambassador to Jordan suggested that King Abdullah’s recent allegation that Israel kills Arab children en masse stems from pressure by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt.

Ambassador Daniel Nevo offered the commentary in an interview that aired Friday on Army Radio. Abdullah leveled the accusation at Israel earlier this week during his meeting with Jordanian lawmakers.

“If, as we are fighting radical Islamist groups as a coalition, they are slaughtering children in Gaza and Jerusalem every five minutes, then it’s impossible,” said Abdullah II of Jordan, who usually employs less inflammatory language when speaking about Israel.

Nevo would not comment directly on the king’s statement but spoke generally about the monarch’s predicament as one of Israel’s closest allies in the region.

“The king is being attacked by countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and even Egypt on how the Israelis allegedly are disrespecting him,” Nevo told Army Radio when asked to comment on Abdullah’s use of harsh language. “They don’t see the whole picture.” He added: “The violence at the Temple Mount puts Abdullah II in an embarrassing situation each time anew.”

The 20-year anniversary of peace with Israel, which will occur next week, will not be noted or celebrated in Jordan, according to Army Radio. “People on the Jordanian street, they don’t watch Israeli television. They watch Al Jazeera. So how do you expect him to celebrate the anniversary?” Nevo asked.

Nevo noted that on the economic front the two countries are strengthening relations. He pointed to the signing last month of a deal to make Israel Jordan’s primary supplier of gas, as well as a deal signed several months before that for the joint operation of a desalinization plant in Aqaba.

Palestinian leader Arafat was murdered with polonium, widow says

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium, his widow Suha said on Wednesday after receiving the results of Swiss forensic tests on her husband's corpse.

“We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination,” she told Reuters in Paris.

A team of experts, including from Lausanne University Hospital's Institute of Radiation Physics, opened Arafat's grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November, and took samples from his body to seek evidence of alleged poisoning.

“This has confirmed all our doubts,” said Suha Arafat after the Swiss forensic team handed over its report to her lawyers and Palestinian officials in Geneva on Tuesday. “It is scientifically proved that he didn't die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed.”

She did not accuse any country or person, and acknowledged that the historic leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization had many enemies, although she noted that Israel had branded him an obstacle to peace.

Arafat signed the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords with Israel and led a subsequent uprising after the failure of talks in 2000 on a comprehensive agreement.

Allegations of foul play surfaced immediately. Arafat had foes among his own people, but many Palestinians pointed the finger at Israel, which had besieged him in his Ramallah headquarters for the final two and a half years of his life.

“President Arafat passed away as a victim of an organized terrorist assassination perpetrated by a state, that is Israel, which was looking to get rid of him,” Wasel Abu Yousef, member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The publishing of the results by the Swiss institute confirms his poisoning by polonium and this means that Israel carried it out.”

The Israeli government has denied any role in his death, noting that he was 75 years old and had an unhealthy lifestyle. It made no comment on the new findings.

An investigation by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television news channel first reported last year that traces of polonium-210 were found on personal effects of Arafat given to his widow by the French military hospital where he died.

That led French prosecutors to open an investigation for suspected murder in August 2012 at the request of Suha Arafat. Forensic experts from Switzerland, Russia and France all took samples from his corpse for testing after the Palestinian Authority agreed to open his mausoleum.

“SMOKING GUN”

The head of the Russian forensics institute, Vladimir Uiba, was quoted by the Interfax news agency last month as saying no trace of polonium had been found on the body specimens examined in Moscow, but his Federal Medico-Biological Agency later denied he had made any official comment on its findings.

The French pathologists have not reported their conclusions publicly or shared any findings with Suha Arafat's legal team. A spokeswoman for the French prosecutor's office said the investigating magistrates had received no expert reports so far.

One of her lawyers said the Swiss institute's report would be translated from English into French and handed over to the three magistrates who are investigating the case.

Professor David Barclay, a British forensic scientist retained by Al Jazeera to interpret the results of the Swiss tests, said the findings from Arafat's body confirmed last year's results from traces of bodily fluids on his underwear, toothbrush and clothing.

“In my opinion, it is absolutely certain that the cause of his illness was polonium poisoning,” Barclay told Reuters. “The levels present in him are sufficient to have caused death.

“What we have got is the smoking gun – the thing that caused his illness and was given to him with malice.”

The Swiss scientists' report, posted in full on Al Jazeera's website, was more cautious. It concluded: “Taking into account the analytical limitations aforementioned, mostly time lapse since death and the nature and quality of the specimens, the results moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210.”

Al Jazeera said the levels of polonium found in Arafat's ribs, pelvis and in soil that absorbed his remains were at least 18 times higher than normal.

The same radioactive substance was slipped into a cup of tea in a London hotel to kill defecting Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. From his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder.

The British government refused to hold a public inquiry into his death after ministers withheld some material which could have shed light on Russia's suspected involvement.

Barclay said the type of polonium discovered in Arafat's body must have been manufactured in a nuclear reactor.

While many countries could have been the source, someone in Arafat's immediate entourage must have slipped a miniscule dose of the deadly isotope probably as a powder into his drink, food, eye drops or toothpaste, he said.

BRIEF RECOVERY

Arafat fell ill in October 2004, displaying symptoms of acute gastroenteritis with diarrhea and vomiting. At first Palestinian officials said he was suffering from influenza.

He was flown to Paris in a French government plane but fell into a coma shortly after his arrival at the Percy military hospital in the suburb of Clamart, where he died on November 11.

The official cause of death was a massive stroke but French doctors said at the time they were unable to determine the origin of his illness. No autopsy was carried out.

Barclay said no one would have thought to look for polonium as a possible poison until the Litvinenko case, which occurred two years after Arafat's death.

Some experts have questioned whether Arafat could have died of polonium poisoning, pointing to a brief recovery during his illness that they said was not consistent with radioactive exposure. They also noted he did not lose all his hair. But Barclay said neither fact was inconsistent with the findings.

Since polonium loses 50 percent of its radioactivity every four months, the traces in Arafat's corpse would have faded so far as to have become untraceable if the tests had been conducted a couple of years later, the scientist said.

“A tiny amount of polonium the size of a flake of dandruff would be enough to kill 50 people if it was dissolved in water and they drank it,” he added.

The Al Jazeera investigation was spearheaded by investigative journalist Clayton Swisher, a former U.S. Secret Service bodyguard who became friendly with Arafat and was suspicious of the manner of his death.

Suha Arafat called for an investigation inside the Muqata Palestinian government headquarters and said she and her student daughter, Zahwa Arafat, would pursue the case through the courts in France and elsewhere until the perpetrators were brought to justice.

Hani al-Hassan, a former aide, said in 2003 that he had witnessed 13 assassination attempts on Arafat's life, dating back to his years on the run as PLO leader. Arafat claimed to have survived 40 attempts on his life.

Arafat narrowly escaped an Israeli air strike on his headquarters in Tunisia in 1985. He had just gone out jogging when the bombers attacked, killing 73 people.

He escaped another attempt on his life when Israeli warplanes came close to killing him during the 182 invasion of Beirut when they hit one of the buildings they suspected he was using as his headquarters but he was not there. In December 2001, Arafat was rushed to safety just before Israeli helicopters bombarded his compound in Ramallah with rockets.

Additional reporting by Gerard Bon in Paris and Crispian Balmer in Jerusalem; Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Crispian Balmer and Ralph Boulton

Al Jazeera buys Gore’s Current TV, terms undisclosed

Al Jazeera said on Wednesday it will buy Current TV, the struggling cable channel founded by Al Gore and partners, in a move that will boost the Qatar-based broadcaster's footprint in the United States.

Terms were undisclosed, but analysts estimated the deal could be worth as much as $500 million.

Al Jazeera said it would start a new U.S.-based news channel with the acquisition, which will make it available in more than 40 million U.S. households, up from 4.7 million prior to the deal.

The deal brings Al Jazeera, which operates under the patronage of the emir of Qatar and his family, into closer competition with American news channels like CNN, MSNBC and Fox.

But the award-winning channel that is seen in more than 260 million homes in 130 countries faces hurdles with U.S. distributors and viewers, television industry analysts said.

Current, a liberal channel which has battled low viewership, had been distributed in about 60 million of the 100 million homes in the United States with cable or satellite service.

One of its distributors, Time Warner Cable, which accounted for about 12 million of those homes, announced late Wednesday it was terminating its carriage deal.

“Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service as quickly as possible,” Time Warner Cable said in a statement.

Reuters reported in April Time Warner Cable was considering dropping Current if it did not reach certain ratings thresholds .

A spokesperson would not elaborate. Current is also distributed by Comcast Corp and DirecTV, with 22.4 million and 19.8 million subscribers, respectively.

Comcast or DirecTV were either unavailable or declined comment. Dish Network Corp also declined comment.

Both Comcast and DirecTV also hold equity stakes of more than 5 percent in Current, according to public filings.

Current said Gore, its chairman, and co-founder Joel Hyatt, the chief executive officer, will remain on the advisory board.

PARANOIA ABOUT AL JAZEERA

Analysts said Al Jazeera would have to overcome a significant image problem in the United States, where many viewers remember its stridently anti-war reporting of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Al Jazeera has deeper pockets. The downside is the politics. People in America associate Al Jazeera with the Muslim world or the Arab world or the Islam world and they have problems with that,” said Jimmy Schaeffler, pay TV consultant at The Carmel Group.

“They have psychological, political and emotional concerns and that will work against them.”

“There's a fair amount of paranoia when it comes to Al Jazeera,” said Robert Thompson, professor of TV and popular culture at Syracuse University.

Al Jazeera has only been shown in a handful of cities. It said its new U.S.-based news channel would be separate from Al Jazeera English, and would provide both domestic and international news for American audiences.

The new channel would air in 2013 and would be headquartered in New York City. In addition to existing bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago, Al Jazeera would open more bureaus and would double its U.S.-based staff to more than 300 employees.

Current was co-founded in 2005 but never caught on. It shifted to a more liberal format from 2011, but ratings continued to disappoint, said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media, who pegged its average daily audience under 50,000 viewers and the value of a deal at $400 million to $500 million.

In late October, Current confirmed it was considering selling itself and had hired JP Morgan and the Raine Group to assess options.

Thompson said the deal came at a challenging time for the cable industry.

“Launching a cable network in the U.S. in the second decade of the 21st century is not an easy thing to do. Even Oprah Winfrey has struggled in significant ways,” he said.

Disputes between pay TV distributors and cable networks have risen lately. Time Warner Cable also dropped arts-focused cable channel Ovation over its low ratings and the high costs of carrying the network.

Iran’s Ahmadinejad says election, not war, solution for Syria

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a national dialogue leading to elections was the way towards a solution to Syria's crisis, in remarks broadcast on Tuesday.

He told Al Jazeera television that war was not the way forward, adding: “There is another way to find a solution, it is national, mutual understanding in order for there to be elections in the future.”

The interview was translated from Persian into Arabic by Al Jazeera.

Iran is a main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been battling an uprising against his rule. Opposition activists say 30,000 people have been killed in the 18-month-old revolt, which has grown into a full-scale civil war.

“Syria's case is very complex and at the same time is a very important one,” Ahmadinejad said. “Should I follow those demanding war? I don't think the language of war is a good language.

“There must be a different way to solve problems … I have opposed war, but those who want things to be settled through dialogue are a minority and perhaps the majority are in favour of going ahead in the context of war.”

Ahmadinejad, who made similar comments in a separate news conference in Tehran, said Iran had long had good relations with Syria. He said Tehran had built dams, roads and power stations in Syria and Iranian pilgrims were frequent visitors to the Arab country.

New tests find Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned

Traces of the poisonous element polonium have been found in the belongings of late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, a Swiss institute said on Wednesday, and a television report said his widow had demanded his body be exhumed for further tests.

Arafat died at a hospital in France in 2004, after a sudden illness which baffled doctors. Many Palestinians have long suspected he was poisoned.

Darcy Christen, spokesman for the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, told Reuters on Tuesday it had found “surprisingly” high levels of polonium-210 in Arafat’s belongings.

But he stressed that clinical symptoms described in Arafat’s medical reports were not consistent with polonium-210 and that conclusions could not be drawn as to whether the Palestinian leader was poisoned or not.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite channel said the institute had tested Arafat’s personal effects, given them by his widow.

Its documentary said they showed that his clothes, toothbrush and kaffiyeh headscarf contained abnormal levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element.

“I can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr. Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids,” Francois Bochud, director of the institute, said in the documentary.

Bochud said the only way to confirm the findings would be to exhume Arafat’s body to test it for polonium-210.

“But we have to do it quite fast because polonium is decaying, so if we wait too long, for sure, any possible proof will disappear,” he told Al Jazeera.

Polonium was found to have caused the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, and he was assumed to have been deliberately poisoned.

Arafat’s widow Suha said she would ask for Arafat’s body – buried in the West Bank town of Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian self-rule authority – to be exhumed.

Speaking at the end of the documentary, aired on Al Jazeera’s English and Arabic channels, she said: “We have to go further and exhume Yasser Arafat’s body to reveal the truth to all the Muslim and Arab world.”

Arafat led the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s fight against Israel from the 1960s but signed a peace agreement with the Jewish state in 1993 establishing Palestinian self-rule areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

His mysterious death came four years into a Palestinian uprising, after years of talks with Israel failed to lead to a Palestinian state. French doctors who treated Arafat in his final days could not establish the cause of death.

French officials refused to give details of his condition, citing privacy laws, fueling a host of rumors and theories over the nature of his illness.

Additional reporting by Sami Aboudi and Andrew Hammond; editing by Andrew Roche

Sarkozy to networks: Don’t broadcast Merah footage

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on television networks not to broadcast video footage shot by Mohammed Merah during his attacks on soldiers and on a Jewish school in Toulouse.

The edited footage was sent on a USB flash drive to Al Jazeera in Paris. Al Jazeera sent the drive to police on Monday, Reuters reported.

The package reportedly was mailed to Al Jazeera on March 21, the day that police began their siege of Merah’s Toulouse apartment. Merah was killed following a 30-hour standoff when police stormed his apartment. He was shot in the head while jumping out a window.

A letter accompanying the footage said that Merah had acted on behalf of al-Qaida, The Associated Press reported.

Al Jazeera reportedly is deciding whether to air the footage.

Al Jazeera says won’t air French gunman video

Al Jazeera television said on Tuesday it would not broadcast video footage of three deadly shootings in southern France filmed by an al Qaeda-inspired gunman using a camera strapped to his body.

The Qatar-based news network also said it was declining all requests from other media outlets for copies of the footage.

The French government, and the CSA broadcast regulator, had urged television channels to refrain from running video clips that gunman Mohamed Merah told police he had filmed as he shot dead three Jewish children, a rabbi and three soldiers.

France is still reeling from the gruesome nature of the attacks, which saw Merah grab one little girl by the hair as he shot her at point-blank range in one of three shooting sprees before he was killed by police last week.

“In accordance with Al Jazeera’s Code of Ethics, given the video does not add any information that is not already in the public domain, its news channels will not be broadcasting any of its contents,” a spokesman for the network said in a statement.

The spokesman said Al Jazeera had passed the video footage on to the French police to help with their investigation.

Al Jazeera received a memory stick at its Paris bureau late on Monday that had been mailed anonymously from Toulouse last week, as police laid siege to Merah’s apartment.

It contained footage of the three shootings in chronological order, edited together with Islamic chants and readings from the Koran, Al Jazeera’s Paris bureau chief Zied Tarrouche told BFM TV. Staff sent a copy of the film to the network’s headquarters in Doha for management to decide how to proceed.

Merah, 23, told police negotiators last week during a more than 30-hour siege at his home that he had filmed his killings in the city of Toulouse and nearby Montauban. A fourth soldier he shot is alive but in critical condition.

Coming a month before an election where Sarkozy is battling a Socialist challenger to win a second term, the killings shone a spotlight on tensions in multi-ethnic city suburbs and raised questions over possible intelligence lapses.

Sarkozy, whose handling of the crisis has been praised by the public, wants a crackdown on people frequenting radical websites. He has also said he will block some Muslim preachers from coming to France for an Islamic conference next month.

On Tuesday, Sarkozy said he had asked the DCRI domestic intelligence service to work with the DGSE foreign intelligence service to make “extensive” checks on people posing a security risk and vowed to speed up deportations in public order cases.

“Extremists play with our administrative formalities, our duty is to be more efficient,” Sarkozy said.

KILLINGS LOW IN VOTER SURVEYS

Merah, who had attended an Islamist training camp in Pakistan, used a stolen scooter and a Colt .45 pistol to carry out his attacks over eight days before being cornered by police and eventually shot dead after a dramatic siege.

Tarrouche said the video was difficult to watch. “You hear the voice of the person who carried out the killings. You also hear the victims’ cries,” he said. “My feelings are those of any human being who sees horrible things.”

Sarkozy said it should not be aired. “I call on executives of all TV stations that may have the images in their possession not to broadcast them under any pretext out of respect for the victims and for France,” he said, after meeting police chiefs.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the film could have a dangerous effect on people inclined to radicalism, telling Radio Classique: “This incitement to violence, to murder, on minds that are often fragile or deranged, is absolutely detestable.”

Four anti-terrorist judges are heading the investigation into France’s worst attack by a radical Islamist in years and are probing Merah’s elder brother, Abdelkader, as an accomplice.

Abdelkader, 29 and already known to security services for having helped smuggle Jihadist militants into Iraq in 2007, will remain in jail for the duration of an inquiry that could last months before a decision on whether to send him to trial.

Police believe Mohamed operated largely as a lone wolf although he may have had logistical and ideological support from his brother and possibly others.

Investigators have begun looking for a possible additional accomplice involved in the theft of the scooter Merah used, a police source said. They also believe someone else rather than the gunman himself posted the memory stick to Al Jazeera.

The gunman’s family has decided to have him buried in Algeria, his parents’ native country, to avoid a grave in France being attacked or becoming a place of pilgrimage for extremists, an official of the Paris mosque said.

French media said the brothers’ Algerian father planned to take legal action against the French government over his son’s death. Sarkozy said he was “outraged”.

“Does this man have to be reminded that his son filmed his crimes and took diabolical care to send these ghastly images to a television station?” the president asked.

Three opinion polls on Tuesday showed Sarkozy is narrowing the gap behind Socialist Francois Hollande as the April 22 first-round vote approaches, although pollsters expect the focus to return to economic issues soon.

A survey by pollster BVA found only 8 percent of respondents said security fears would affect their vote, far behind economic issues including purchasing power for 42 percent of respondents and unemployment for 30 percent.

The same survey found that 51 percent of voters thought the Toulouse killings would have a major impact on the overall vote, but only 17 percent thought it would impact their own vote.

Additional reporting by Patrick Vignal, Leigh Thomas and Gwenaelle Barzic in Paris and Regan Doherty in Doha; Editing by Paul Taylor

Footage filmed by French gunman sent to Al Jazeera says police source

Video footage filmed by the French gunman Mohamed Merah during his bloody shooting spree has been sent to the Al Jazeera television network in Paris, a police source said on Monday.

Al Jazeera received a computer memory drive containing a montage of footage accompanied by Islamist war songs, and sent the package on to police on Monday, the source close to the investigation told Reuters.

An Al Jazeera employee contacted by Reuters confirmed the report.

The package was dated Wednesday, March 21, the day that police surrounded Merah in his apartment in the southern city of Toulouse after a massive manhunt, according to a report in the Parisian daily newspaper.

French special forces shot the young Islamist the following day after a 30-hour siege.

“Investigators are trying to find out whether the letter was posted Tuesday night by Mohamed Merah himself or by an accomplice Wednesday morning,” the newspaper wrote.

Merah, who said he was inspired by al Qaeda, admitted to killing three soldiers, three Jewish children and a rabbi in a spate of shootings that sent shockwaves through France.

The Paris prosecutor in charge of the case said last week that the Merah had filmed each of the shootings.

Reporting By Gerard Bon; Writing by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Andrew Heavens

Israel convicts Al Jazeera reporter over Hamas contacts

The Kabul bureau chief of the Arabic-language Al Jazeera network was convicted of conspiring with Hamas to commit a crime against Israel.

Samir Allawi was arrested by Israel Aug. 9 while crossing from the West Bank to Jordan on his way back to Afghanistan. He had spent three weeks visiting his family in a West Bank town near Nablus.

Under a plea bargain, Allawi was convicted of conspiracy to commit a crime against the State of Israel over his contact with and service to Hamas. As part of the deal, he was released from prison and will pay a $1,400 fine.

Allawi told Israel’s Shin Bet security service that he was recruited by Hamas in Pakistan in 1993, and served as part of a group that supervises Hamas institutions and directs their activities.

He served in various capacities in Hamas and offered to use his position as an Al Jazeera reporter to further Hamas’ goals.

Israel arrests Al Jazeera bureau chief

Israel is holding in custody the Kabul bureau chief for the Arabic language Al Jazeera network on accusations that he is affiliated with the terrorist Hamas group.

Samir Allawi reportedly was arrested last week while crossing from the West Bank to Jordan on his way back to Afghanistan. He had spent three weeks visiting his family in a West Bank town near Nablus

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists in a statement issued Monday called on Israel to clarify why it is holding Allawi.

Israel authorities say they are holding Allawi on a “security-related arrest.” On Tuesday, Israel extended Allawi’s remand for seven days. The journalist reportedly testified Monday in front of a West Bank military court.

Report: Rebels reject Gadhafi’s offer for deal to step down

Al Jazeera television said Libyan rebels rejected an offer by Muammar Gadhafi on Monday to hold a parliament meeting to work out a deal under which he would step down.

Al Jazeera said sources from the rebel interim council told its correspondent in Benghazi that the offer was rejected because it would have amounted to an “honorable” exit for Gadhafi and would offend his victims.

According to the report, Gadhafi wanted guarantees of personal safety for him and his family as well as a pledge that they not be put on trial.

The Al Jazeera document dump and you

Map making seems to be an increasingly popular pastime in the Middle East these days.

The Palestinians claim they prepared their mapped vision of the two-state solution but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to look at it. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is reportedly preparing maps that will give Palestinians an interim state on land they already control but no more. Now a leading Washington think tank has unveiled a series of maps detailing proposals for drawing Israeli-Palestinian borders.

The central question in all this cartography is what to do about nearly 300,000 Israelis living in some 120 West Bank settlements.

Documents released Jan. 23 by Al Jazeera show Israelis and Palestinians may have made more progress toward an agreement — at least with the prior Israeli government — than previously known, but the reality is the peace process is comatose, and each side is conditioning resumption of talks on terms it knows are unacceptable to the other.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to meet with Netanyahu until Israel freezes all settlement construction, which the prime minister has rejected by sanctioning a new building spree.

The Al Jazeera documents revealed Abbas appears much more flexible on that issue in private than in public, and that may land him in big trouble with the Palestinian public to which he has made unrealistically maximalist promises not only on settlements but also on refugees, borders, Jerusalem and security.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) has published a report (see it at jewishjournal.com) by senior fellow David Makovsky detailing three scenarios for redrawing borders to allow Israel to retain the maximum number of settlers in a minimum number of settlements along with 1:1 land swaps that would give Palestinians the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank.

“Territory is not the only issue on the peace agenda,” said Makovsky, “but a breakthrough on this issue may open the door to progress on the others.”

He estimated it could cost nearly $1 million per family to relocate settlers to inside Israel’s new borders based on the 2005 Gaza withdrawal and on a family size of 5.3 (more for smaller families).

Any West Bank withdrawal will be more complex and more traumatic than the one in Gaza that saw radical rabbis ordering their followers to resist and IDF soldiers to disobey the orders of their commanders.

In September 2005, Israel evacuated 8,500 settlers from Gaza, plus another 500 from the northern West Bank, at a cost of $2 billion. Five and a half years later, an estimated 70 percent still do not have permanent housing.

West Bank evacuation for civilians will cost between $11 billion and $24 billion, depending on the extent of the land swap and the number of people affected. The cost of the army and the overall redeployment will be billions more.

Guess who’s expected to foot the bill. You. The American taxpayer. That could create a problem. Current U.S. law prohibits spending American aid beyond the 1967 border; it was written specifically to prevent using foreign aid for settlements.

Netanyahu recently forced the United States to withdraw an offer of $3.5 billion in advanced stealth planes and other equipment in return for a 90-day settlement freeze when he insisted on deal-killing conditions. Meanwhile, senior U.S. diplomats are in Israel discussing security needs in the event of a peace agreement.

Makovsky briefed top Israeli, Palestinian and American officials on the report but declined to characterize their responses.

The WINEP scenarios envision removing most West Bank settlements (77 to 88 out of 120) but only a minority of settlers (60,000 to 94,000 out of 300,000). That’s because most settlers live in the major settlement blocs near the 1967 border, which are expected to be annexed to Israel in a peace agreement.

In a land-for-land deal, each side gets something tangible, Makovsky said. It is “not realistic” for Palestinians to demand all settlers be removed.

The Washington Institute report does not deal with the nearly 200,000 Jews who live in East Jerusalem.

Some in Congress may question why Americans taxpayers should help foot the bill to remove settlements every president has said never should have been built in the first place.

On top of that, American taxpayers will be expected to increase the hundreds of millions already going to help the Palestinian build their state. Arab leaders will be expected to chip in, but so far they’ve been more generous with pledges than checks.

I’m not arguing against withdrawal. To the contrary, I think it is long overdue and in the vital interest of Israel’s survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

But it may not be realistic to think Congress and the administration, facing unprecedented budget shortfalls and intense pressure to curb spending, will serve as the new ATM for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

The longer both the Palestinians and Israelis delay, the higher the price tag of peace.

Douglas M. Bloomfield is a nationally syndicated columnist.