WASHINGTON – The proposed expansion into American cable markets by Al-Jazeera, the Arab-language broadcaster headquartered in Doha, Qatar, could offer a serious security risk for America, according to speakers at a conference held here.
The conference at the National Press Club, which included speaker Cliff Kincaid of America’s Survival, called on Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., to hold hearings on the issue in his Homeland Security Committee.
A panel that included Kincaid, blogger Pamela Geller, securities analyst Charles Ortel, independent TV producer Jerry Kenney and investigative journalist Lee Kaplan agreed that the network, often used by terrorists to deliver their messages to the world, actually has helped radicals such as al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Hamas in their efforts to radicalize Muslims.
“Al-Jazeera’s anti-American programming already has a dangerous foothold in the United States,” Kincaid said. “And it is seeking to expand to millions of homes through a deal with the cable giant Comcast. Any such deal would pose an unacceptable danger to American citizens by further adding to the potential for home-grown jihadists inspired by al-Jazeera’s inflammatory programming.”
Kincaid’s comments, Part 1:
Documents released by WikiLeaks have shown that Al-Jazeera lacks editorial independence. Owned by Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, it acts an integral tool of the emirate’s foreign policy, according to Kincaid.
London’s Guardian newspaper documented last December that the network had modified its coverage to suit the emirate’s ends.
WikiLeaks cables documented U.S. Ambassador Joseph LeBaron saying: “Al-Jazeera’s ability to influence public opinion throughout the region is a substantial source of leverage for Qatar, one which it is unlikely to relinquish. Moreover, the network can also be used as a chip to improve relations. For example, al-Jazeera’s more favorable coverage of Saudi Arabia’s royal family has facilitated Qatari-Saudi reconciliation over the past year.”
The Qatari-based Al-Jazeera shot back, denying the allegation in a statement by its director-general, Wadah Khanfar. He compared its editorial independence with that of the BBC, which is owned by the British government.
But the panel pointed out that Al-Jazeera’s primary Arabic-language network has frequently served as a mouthpiece for Muslim Brotherhood figures such as Egyptian-born cleric Yusuf al-Qardawi and for terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki.
The network interviewed Awlaki, who has been marked for death by the Obama administration, in the immediate aftermath of the attempted Christmas Day bombing and the Fort Hood shootings. Al-Jazeera quoted Awlaki as praising the attacks and encouraging Muslims to engage in violence against the United States and “take revenge for all Muslims across the globe.”
The Muslim Brotherhood’s website, Ikhwanweb, describes Khanfar as having a Muslim Brotherhood background, but the Al-Jazeera chief denied his politics have an impact on his channel’s coverage.
However, media critic Mamoun Fandy testified before the 9/11 commission that Al-Jazeera’s reporters were a “Who’s Who” “in the rank and file of the Brotherhood.”
Kincaid also cited a federal lawsuit seeking damages from the network due to its alleged involvement in Hezbollah’s 2006 rocket attacks against Israel. The case claims that Israel-based Al-Jazeera employees helped the terror group determine the accuracy of its attacks against the Jewish state.
“Al-Jazeera should be designated a terrorist organization just like [Hezbollah’s channel] Al-Manar,” Geller said. “Al-Manar’s designated a terrorist organization.
Geller’s comments, Part 1:
“Don’t tell me this is a free speech issue; this is war, and it’s an invitation to radicalize the American Muslim population. It’s devilish, and we are not even raising a hand,” she said.
Kincaid hopes information about Al-Jazeera’s alleged role in aiding radical Islamic terrorism will convince the U.S. State Department to follow suit and label the network as a foreign terror organization.
Al-Jazeera already has made inroads into American markets, particularly in Washington, D.C., and in several other cities where the network’s English-language channel operates on public television stations via the MHz network.
Kenney alleges that MHz illegally has ceded programming control to Al-Jazeera and the Kremlin’s English-language network Russia Today.
“In effect, foreign propagandists have hijacked public television stations made possible by the American taxpayers,” Kenney said. “I always thought that public TV stations adhered to production standards that put a substantial emphasis on accuracy in content. But obviously something has changed.
“It seems that some bureaucrat-broadcasters are willing to air almost anything knowing that no matter how misleading, irresponsible or reprehensible it may be, they can always justify it in the name of improved global understanding, academic freedom or free speech. Take your pick. That is, if they are even aware that they are airing it at all.”
The panel similarly called on Comcast to back out of negotiations to carry Al-Jazeera English on its cable systems across the country.
Comcast and MHz could not be reached for comment.