Al-Jazeera in EnglishBut they are afraid of the truth [Archives:2006/1001/Opinion]

November 23 2006

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
Last week to crown its 10-year anniversary celebration, Al-Jazeera Satellite TV launched the Al-Jazeera Satellite English TV Channel. One did expect to see something really different in Arab broadcasting media, which would certainly arouse the interest of Al-Jazeera's non-Arab fans who are attached to the Al-Jazeera News Service via their English website. However this observer could not help but understand that the sponsors of this pioneering Arab media service have gone beyond all expectations.

For the first time in modern Arab history, the Arabs at last have a highly sophisticated, state of the art means of communicating with the West that will indeed represent a milestone event in Arab Media development. Indeed the sponsors of the Al-Jazeera network of channels have again found truly effective ways of serving the Arab cause, where it is needed the most. For the span of a century now the West has been mainly given a wholly distorted image of the Arab and Muslim world with little if any at all, efforts to try to dispel or correct this long span of deliberate gross fabrications about Arab culture, religion and history. With the control of most Western mainstream media and even educational institutions mostly under the influence of Zionist sentiments and with little real constructive and well organized efforts to counter this ongoing barrage against anything and everything Arab or Islamic in an institutional context, it is easy to see why the Palestine issue never came close to being resolved. The blame for this is not wholly directed against the International Zionist establishment. In fact a healthy portion of the blame is due to the fact that the Arabs have been unable to organize any genuine institutional drive to communicate with the West in a language and style that is not just convincing but palatable. Moreover, little attention was paid to this important aspect of communications to the point that the western media has been wholly sympathetic to the Zionist platform (sometimes not by conviction, but due to arm-twisting tactics or other forms of pressure that the Zionist establishment has been able to embed in its relations with the Western Media, especially in the United States).

From the outset, the Zionist lobby is working diligently to prevent Al-Jazeera from reaching western eyes or ears and it was not surprising that to this date, Al-Jazeera is not allowed to enter the mainstream of broadcast media in the U.S. Cable television network servers, have refused to allow Al-Jazeera to use their infrastructure in order to allow the American people to have access to “the other side of the story.” Surely, this answer is not the assurance that the West enjoys the democracy they have been lecturing the rest of the world about.

What exactly is the problem? The problem is that they are afraid of the truth. Many Westerners have come to learn the hard way about the situation in the Middle East, but mainly due to the latter's own search for this truth and even they find it difficult to relay their knowledge to their fellow citizens. In the context of Palestine, this observer would like to quote from one of the finest aspiring journalists and a true advocate of human rights, Jennifer Lowenstein, who wrote about her efforts earlier this month while trying to maneuver in the Occupied Territories of Palestine:

“This monstrosity is not for your security. This neo-fascist, Stalinist, gulag Guantanamo (the elaborate security set up for those entering or leaving Gaza and this is for non Palestinians-CS) is there to keep you out, to keep you from even trying, from even wanting, to go in. It is there so you will not see the torn up streets, and ruined land; the bombed-out buildings and poisoned soil; the bull-dozed houses and bullet-holed refugee camps; the back-up generators chugging away; the destroyed central power transformer, the wrecked factories and shops; the caved-in mosques and unfinished clinics; the pressure-less water pumps; the lots full of rubble and trash; the wretched horse and donkey-carts and beggar-children; the worn out mothers, the humiliated fathers, the unemployed young men; the young girls holding whole families together; the exhausted teachers, the pay-less civil servants, the street vendors with last week's produce; the heaps of rust and stench of rot, the overcrowded book-and-desk-deprived schools full of troubled youth, bed-wetters, ptsd children; the travesties-of-hospitals; the wards of the sick and wounded; the morgues full of the dead; the merciful, silver-trayed freezers in the morgues where rest finally takes you unaware.”

This situation applies to the airwaves as well, which have become under the same elaborate form of information blockage that will ensure American audiences never really get a feel of the injustices they are forced to bankroll.

Credit again should be given to Qatar, whose rulers have come to realize that investment in proper information flow is far more worthy and effective than all the billions of dollars that has been and continues to be wasted on armaments that are never even utilized to bolster the “Arab cause.” Furthermore, the greatest service to mankind as a whole, not just to the Arabs, is giving people access to the truth about our world. From what one has seen so far of Al-Jazeera English, this is being done in style and with taste. Congratulations again to Al-Jazeera, and Qatar, for launching their pioneering media service, not just for the sake of the Arabs and Muslims of this world, but for all of mankind.

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.