Qatar’s cynical PR strategy: AJ+

Al Jazeera’s progressive themed platform, AJ+, has built an impressive social media presence in the last few years, boasting hundreds of millions of video views with “relevant, engaging content.” It has become a social media news source appealing to left-wing progressive activists in the West, criticizing the status quo on issues like income inequality, police brutality, racial injustice, feminism, and LGBTQ rights.

There’s just one problem: Al Jazeera is a mouthpiece for the state of Qatar, a state which stands diametrically opposed to all the values AJ+ pretends to care about.

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Upon closer examination of its content, the reason behind this facade of liberal values to the Western world becomes clearer: to demonize Israel.

While Al Jazeera Arabic doesn’t mince words when it comes to supporting terrorism (they literally threw a party on-air for Hezbollah terrorist leader Samir Kuntar), AJ+ constantly tries to paint acts of violence and extremist acts of terrorism as legitimate “freedom fighting.” Qatar’s agenda is obvious with Al Jazeera and all their platforms. The efforts to whitewash terrorism and minimize (even promote in Arabic) antisemitism, are not only disingenuous, but dangerous.

AJ+ has repeatedly used its platform to spread content inciting anger against Israel. Their videos related to Israel are often riddled with false information and with loaded, virtue-signaling language.

But even when the issues aren’t related to Israel, they make every effort to somehow tie Israel in to the debate at hand.

This week was no exception. A video released by AJ+ attempted to highlight the problem of “white feminism.” The argument made was that there is a distinction within feminism we must be aware of that the struggles of women of color are often more severe than the struggles of women who are white.

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But instead of trying to unite women and spread awareness about this issue, the host, a Scottish-Pakistani woman, used the first minute of the video to demonize Gal Gadot – a Middle-Eastern woman (not white, even if benefiting from “white privilege” due to her appearance), for no other reason than she is Israeli. The video then featured Women’s March co-founder Tamika Mallory, a defender and supporter of notorious antisemite Louis Farrakhan.

If that’s not enough, two of the three other women depicted in the video as part of the problem of “white feminism” were also Jewish.

INSTEAD OF showing inclusivity – paying attention to the concerns of all women, including Jewish women, within feminism – AJ+ promoted the antisemites and demonstrated a notso- subtle antisemitism of its own.

Interestingly, although AJ+ was happy to include Gal Gadot as an example of “white feminism,” they made no mention of Ahed Tamimi, the blond-haired blue-eyed Palestinian who has called for suicide bombings and praised Hezbollah.

For months, AJ+ has extensively praised Tamimi and presented her as an innocent victim heroically standing up to “Israel’s occupation.” But Tamimi’s inclusion in the video wouldn’t advance the overarching AJ+ narrative, so they focused instead on Jewish women. This video is part of the strategic and orchestrated effort to advance the false claim that Jews are “European colonialists,” when in fact the Jewish people are indigenous to the land.

As a Jewish woman, a Zionist and a feminist, I am fed up with Al Jazeera’s attempts to divide our community and pit women against each other in order to advance the political agenda of Qatar.

However, Al Jazeera’s slick agenda is far broader than just hijacking women’s rights. They also provide detailed analyses of LGBTQ equality issues in the US, England, and of course, Israel while utterly ignoring the horrific truth that LGBTQ individuals in Qatar are eligible for the death penalty.

In a similar brash display of hypocrisy, they criticize race relations in the US – while Qatar only outlawed slavery in 1952 and has continued to benefit from modern-day slavery in practice today. The Arab slave trade brought 800,000 Africans to the Gulf who were only given citizenship in 1961. To this day, there is discrimination against the descendants of African slaves in Qatar.

Regarding women’s rights, Qatar is hardly a beacon of light, imprisoning women who get pregnant outside of marriage and lashing them 100 times if they are Muslim.

The hypocrisy and antisemitism in AJ+ content must be called out. This is not journalism, it is sensationalistic propaganda disguised as news. And it must not be forgotten that AJ+ is a part of Al Jazeera, a state-funded mouthpiece for the Qatari government agenda. AJ+ misrepresents itself as a platform that cares about progressive values even while promoting antisemitic libels and demonization of Western governments, in particular Israel.

The writer is the digital director of the Israel education organization StandWithUs.

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