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Al Jazeera's attacks on Syria: some background

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Al Jazeera's attacks on Syria: some background

What you will NOT hear on Al Jazeera (English): the Salafi slogan of the NATO-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA): "Christians to Beirut, Alawis to the grave'

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Changes at Al Jazeera after the Iraq invasion, 2003

After the Iraq invasion in 2003, Baghdad bureau chief Faisal Yasiri was replaced by Wadah Khanfar, a Palestinian born man who had been reporting from Afghanistan. Yasiri says Al Jazeera's Islamist influences were "creating tension to fit their beliefs and increase the differences between people'. Khanfar replaced the secular head of Al Jazeera Mohammed Jassem Ali and, according to former Al Jazeera correspondent Shaker Hamid, the channel "became a platform for (Sunni) extremists " There is clear sectarianism in Iraq, and Al Jazeera takes the Sunni side' (Gillespie 2007).

Wadah Khanfar as Director General of the Al Jazeera network (2007-2011) has agreed that Islam rose in the news but denied that Al Jazeera had become Islamist. "Maybe you have more Islamic voices [on the network] because of the political reality on the ground'; but he claimed their channel maintained diversity of views. However researcher Kristen Gillespie points out that, on the network, "Sunni religious figures are almost always treated deferentially as voices of authority on almost any issue" (Gillespie 2007).

Hafez Al-Mirazi, Al-Jazeera's Washington bureau chief denounced the channel's Islamist drift in an interview with the daily Al Hayat in June 2007, saying:

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"Al-Jazeera has crossed the line " [in] the Wadah Khanfar era there was a dramatic change, especially because of him selecting assistants who are hardline Islamists' (Ferjani 2010).

"Arab Spring': Qatar and Al Jazeera push "regime change'

After the events in Egypt and Tunisia, the Government of Qatar, with the US, pushed hard for "regime change' in Libya and Syria, promoting stories of "regime atrocities' to press the demand for foreign military intervention and "regime change'.

In Libya Al Jazeera was an important part in the fabrication of stories over a massacre of demonstrators in Benghazi. Indeed Libya officials accused Qatar (which had directly armed and funded opposition groups) and Al Jazeera (which had spread lies) of fomenting the Libyan rebellion (see Youtube: "Libyan officials say Qatar, Al Jazeera arranged revolt'). An online video (Youtube: "Libya protest: Aljazeera lies about killing in Benghazi') makes it plain that those shot in Benghazi on 17 February 2011 were pro-government demonstrators waving green flags. Yet Al Jazeera became central to the demand for foreign intervention to stop "Madman Gadaafi' killing his own people. The sources used were those who would come to government after the NATO intervention. Amnesty International (France) would later retract its accusation that President Gadaafi had used "black mercenaries' to kill civilians (Youtube: "'Humanitarian Intervention' in Libya - the duplicitous game'), but only after Gadaafi himself had been publicly murdered.

Al Jazeera backed a similar process in Syria: blaming the Assad government for massacres which were often committed by the armed opposition itself, precisely to incite foreign intervention. Only select opposition sources were used.

Writing in the elite US magazine Foreign Policy, Sultan Al Qassemi said:

"When Al Arabiya [from Saudi Arabia] and Al Jazeera [from Qatar] do comment directly on Syrian affairs, they tend to paper over the rebels' flaws and emphasize the conflict's religious fault lines ... [both] gave a platform to extremist Sunni cleric Adnan al-Arour, who once said of Syria's Alawite minority that Sunnis "shall mince them in meat grinders and feed their flesh to the dogs', for their support of President Bashar Al Assad " [yet] Al Jazeera introduced him as someone "who is described as the biggest nonviolent instigator against the Syrian regime' (Al Qassemi 2012).

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The Syrian opposition was carefully screened. Al Jazeera assigned Ahmed Ibrahim (brother of Anas al-Abdah, a member of the Syrian National Council and the Muslim Brotherhood) to its Syria desk. Fadi Salem, Dubai based researcher, says "Many opposition figures [who are inside Syria] but do not see eye to eye with Saudi or Qatari foreign policy on Syria are "banned' on both channels' (Al Qassemi 2012).

Examples of Al Jazeera's propaganda war against Syria can now be seen in a number of online videos. One of these exposes lies about a family supposedly murdered by the Syrian Army (Youtube: "Al Jazeera Lies about Dead Family in Syria'), while another shows insurgents tutoring a child for a video to be sent to Al Jazeera (Youtube: "SYRIA Leaked Video Of Al Jazeera Using A Child To Fake Injuries'). The most insidious pattern, though, has been the "false flag' terrorism: most often through the use of video taken by the FSA of their own atrocities, which is then used to blame the Syrian Government for those same crimes. In one case Al Jazeera took video directly from Syrian state television, of captured fighters confessing to multiple murders, then turned this around to claim the murders had been committed by the Syrian Army and that the confessions were forced (Youtube: "Al-Jazeera involved in killing Syrians'). In another case, a mother had been shown grieving over her dead child, whom Al Jazeera said had been shot by the Syrian Army. When the mother was later interviewed she said both she and her dying child had been abducted by the same "terrorist, armed criminals' who had shot her son (Youtube: "Interview with Mother of Sari Saoud').

One of the most notorious of these "false flag operations was the dreadful Houla Massacre of 100 civilians, just days before a UN Security Council meeting on Syria. At first the western media and UN figures blamed Syrian Army shelling of the village for the deaths. When that was disproved, as most had been killed at close range, the accusation turned to "shabeeha', un-named pro-government thugs. Al Jazeera gave exclusive coverage to anti-government "activists' and exile leaders promoting this line (Youtube: "Louay Safi on Houla Massacre', "Syrian activists decry "massacre' in Houla'). Pro-FSA "activists' led UN observers to areas where these claims were repeated. However German investigative journalists established that opposition fighters had murdered the pro-Government villagers (including some Sunnis who had participated in the recent elections), then blamed the government, in an attempt to secure UN and NATO intervention. This sorry story and the UN's role in it has now been documented (Youtube: "US-Sponsored Terrorists Committed Houla Massacre' and "The Houla massacre, the game changing false flag operation of Western powers'; also Anderson 2012).

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Tim Anderson is an academic and social activist based in Sydney, Australia

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