Storm Track Disinformation: Terrorist TV- Al-Jazeera Speaks
It’s 1942. The TV networks, ABC, CBS and NBC are running propaganda speeches and pro-opinion pieces on Nazism. Absurd, right? No broadcasting network would be allowed to serve such blatant propaganda and misinformation from the enemy in time of war.
Fast forward 50 odd years and we see it happening right before our eyes. And the enemy mouthpiece freely admits what they are doing and are jeered on by the liberal left as an example of free speech in this country. How far we have devolved in our ideas of fighting a war brought on by the political failures of
Read an interview with Al-Jazeera Editor-in-Chief and see the face of the enemy. Pierre Heumann of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche spoke with Al-Jazeera Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Sheikh in
Mr. Sheikh, as the Editor in Chief of Al-Jazeera, you are one of the most important opinion-makers in the Arab world. What do you call suicide bombers?
For what is happening in
What do you call it then?
In English, I would describe it as "bombings."
And in Arabic?
Literally translated, we would speak of "commando attacks." In our culture, it is precisely not suicide.
But instead a praiseworthy act?
When the country is occupied and the people are being killed by the enemy, everyone must take action, even if he sacrifices himself in so doing.
Even if in so doing he kills innocent civilians?
That is not a Palestinian problem, but a problem of the Israelis.
You're avoiding the question.
Not at all. When the Israeli Army attacks, it kills civilians. An army should be able to distinguish between military and civilian targets. But how many innocent people did it kill in Beit Hanoun? And then they justify this in saying that the grenade went astray, that there was a technical problem or something. But who believes that?
There's a difference between Palestinian "commando actions" and Israeli military operations. In the one case, the aim is to kill as many civilians as possible; in the other, it is exclusively a matter of military targets.
Oh really? If the Israelis made such mistakes only once or twice a year, I would agree with you and say that it didn't happen intentionally. But such mistakes happen every week. There are three possible explanations for this: either the military equipment is not up to date or the soldiers are badly trained and do not know how to use their weapons or they do it intentionally. Now, we know that the Israelis get the best weaponry from the American arsenal and that the soldiers are well trained. That leaves, then, only one conclusion: they do it intentionally.
You come originally from
So your personal background has no influence on your work?
When I'm in the newsroom, I forget my personal background. I set aside my political convictions. The news story is sacred for me. One cannot change it. One has to broadcast the story, as it is. Unchanged.
Still, I have trouble believing that you leave out your personal history in assessing a story.
You're right. It's not always possible at work completely to separate oneself from one's personal background. For example, in the newsroom one evening I received the images of the poor little girl whose parents were killed on the beach in
How did you report on Beit Hanoun, where 19 Palestinians were killed?
We interviewed people on location. We even spoke with the Israelis. We wanted to know from them if they had done it intentionally, which, of course, they denied. We had to ask them that. As professional journalists, we can't afford only to speak to Palestinians. Even if you hate the Israelis that doesn't mean that you shouldn't speak with them. They are, after all, a party to the conflict.
Did you show all the images from Beit-Hanoun or did you censor particularly gruesome bloody scenes?
We didn't show close-ups of what was too brutal. We don't want to turn the spectator's life into a nightmare.
Evidently, for your coverage of
Is that why you again and again broadcast tapes of Osama bin Laden that your station receives?
You are a journalist and you must know actually that if somebody offers you a tape or an interview with bin Laden, you don't hesitate to accept the offer -- even if it will get you sent to
It's striking, of course, that Al-Jazeera has a quasi-monopoly on information coming from the milieu of bin Laden. Obviously, you are close to them. On conservative blogs, your network is even called "Osama TV."
Because the Americans are in a difficult situation in
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