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Al Jazeera fights for its life as Israel admits to aspirations to regional influence

Nigel Morris-Co...

The proof of Al Jazeera's mission to produce and broadcast material containing truths that many would prefer to keep secret is in the fact that it has become the poster-boy for the motto "you know you are doing something right when everyone hates you." As more and more pressure is brought to bear on a news network that is, today, a beacon of balanced reporting, even more than the now frequently partisan BBC, Al Jazeera finds itself the bit of news that produced an unguarded admission: Israel is working towards becoming a regional power by political collusion with several Arab states. It's a back-door assault on the GCC and, through that, the Arab League. That's not something Israel would have wanted the world to know until its scheme was more advanced.

Yesterday, the start of the week across much of the Middle East, Israel decided to act against media outlet Al Jazeera. Couched in terms under which departments would "ask" other departments to act against the company and its staff / representatives, the diktat has come from the top i.e. Israel's increasingly fascist right-wing prime minister, Netanhayu, Broadcasters have "agreed" to cease carrying the channel, press passes are to be cancelled, new legislation will be needed, say commentators to achieve the formal closing of AJ's offices in Israel.

Ayub Kara, Israel's Minster of Communications, said that he had asked several departments, including Internal Security, to take action to achieve these objectives - and to find ways to prevent the broadcast of the Channels "on the open satellite" which, of course, has reach outside Israel and, therefore, has extra-territorial effect in places where AJ is, often, the only reliable source of news.

The continued survival of AJ, which is funded by the government of Qatar but has near-total autonomy in its news coverage, is already under threat as four GCC nations: UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, have set the closing of the network as part of the price for removing sanctions imposed several weeks ago.

Those countries are due to hold a meeting about Qatar shortly. Israel's strategy was revealed in a ministerial press conference attended and broadcast by many middle east companies, including, one might think ironically, Al Jazeera.

"Lately, most of the countries in our region determined that Al Jazeera supports terror," Kara said. "It supports religious extremism and this comes from the Gulf countries including Saudi Arable, Jordan, Egypt, all the countries that we, as Israel, want to hold a regional conference to make an economic, political and even security agreement."

Al Jazeera upset Israel by its coverage of the violence outside the Al Aqsa mosque. The site is a remarkably calm location with Arabs and Jews worshipping, literally, on opposite sides of the same wall. It is in "Old Jerusalem," within the borders of Israel and for both Jews and Muslims it is one of the ultimate holy sites. Recently, gunmen ran out of the mosque and shot Israeli policemen in the street. Israel reacted by snatching the leader of the mosque, Sheikh Mohammad Ahmed Hussein. He was later released on bail of a token amount.

In addition, Israel sectioned off the mosque and banned Friday prayers. But it was the videos of police brutality against Muslims outside the mosque that most angered Israel: in one video, a man kneeling on a prayer mat is subject to a violent attack by an officer wielding a baton. The officer runs at the man who is clearly unaware of the impending assault. The fact that, unlike many news outlets around the world, AJ demonstrated this unprovoked attack on a praying man, is one of the reasons that the Israeli government wants AJ out.

AJ has a history of broadcasting material that others will not. It has, on its Arabic services, shown material originated by terrorist groups. What it has not done, in any shape, form or sense, made any approval or positive recognition of the content or of those who have released the videos. AJ was for several years, the target of sustained attacks by the USA for showing videos of terrorists beheading or otherwise mistreating captives. It was AJ's English service that broke much of the news of victims of Da'esh / ISIS and of the problems faced by victims of other groups, even after release.

Last December, Egypt detained, without formal charge, several AJ representatives, claiming they were acting against state interests. AJ denies this daily.

What is most surprising is that AJ has only one primary agenda: to reveal hypocrisy and abuse wherever it finds it. It doesn't say that's what it does but it's actions speak louder than words. It is Arab owned but it does not promote a specifically Muslim agenda. It does not focus, primarily, on Muslim issues because they are Muslim, but because they are important regardless of what religion is involved. AJ spends a significant proportion of its content budget on drawing attention to injustices and, especially, the plight of the poor and powerless wherever they are found.

It is desperately dangerous that a broadcaster which puts itself on the line for the most needy and most unrepresented in society is put under pressure by forces for which truth is a threat.

We, at PleaseBeInformed.com are but a tiny voice, a single squeak in a cacophony. Tiny and squeaky as we are, we stand in support of Al Jazeera against the forces that, ultimately, damn us all to constant censorship and, if we resist, destruction. And if you want to know that in a world of fake news that is originated or rebroadcast by millions of bloggers and social media posters at one end of the scale and an increasingly partisan, and willingly self-censoring, mainstream media, there are some people who will tell you the truth, even if it costs them, you should, too.

Support Al Jazeera with the hashtag #DemandPressFreedom.

And drop them a line telling them you care.

Remember: the words attributed to German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

“ First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Speak now.