The Doha-based Al Jazeera Media Network is being accused of bias for choosing not to contextualize Qatar’s own track record of ties with Israel in its coverage following the announcement of UAE and Israel’s deal to normalize diplomatic ties.
In its Arabic breaking news coverage on Thursday, Al Jazeera Arabic tweeted statements from the spokesperson of the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen and the deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament.
“Emirati normalization with Israel does not maintain peace, but rather serves Israel's crimes. The UAE is making a mistake by normalizing it with Israel, and it will receive bad repercussions,” Al Jazeera Arabic quoted Iran’s deputy speaker of parliament.
Al Jazeera Arabic also carried a breaking news ticker quoting the spokesperson of the extremist Houthi militia in Yemen, who said that “Saudi Arabia and the UAE are a link in the chain of the Zionist project in the region.”
Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a historic peace deal on Thursday that will lead to a full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations in an agreement that US President Donald Trump helped broker.
Despite the channel’s slogan being “The Opinion and The Other’s Opinion,” Al Jazeera has recently covered peace talks and efforts with Israel in a negative light, despite its own history of hosting Israeli officials both on its air and in Qatar.
When it first launched in 1996, Al Jazeera became one of the Arab channels to open and maintain a bureau in Jerusalem and an office in Tel Aviv and appoint its own correspondent in Israel.
Al Jazeera’s own correspondent subsequently defended the channel’s role in normalizing the appearance of Israelis on Arab television, writing in an Israeli newspaper when Israeli authorities threatened to ban it.
“When Al Jazeera first hit the airwaves in 1996, most Arabs had never seen the face of an Israeli on Arab TV,” head of Al Jazeera in Israel Walid al-Omary wrote in an opinion piece for Haaretz in 2017.
In more recent times, Al Jazeera caused widespread controversy in February 2018 when its popular program The Opposite Direction hosted by firebrand anchor Faisal al-Qassim hosted Israel Defense Forces spokesperson for Arabic Media Avichay Adraee.
Al Jazeera’s hosting of Israeli officials is in line with similar moves by Qatari government officials in Doha over the years.
Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres arrived in Qatar in 2007 where he spoke to students at Georgetown University’s branch campus in Doha.
Peres’ visit to the campus in 2007 was not his first, having received an official state visit in 1996 by then Emir Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa al-Thani while he was serving as prime minister of Israel.
University campuses in Doha have also welcomed Israelis.
Georgetown, part of the Qatar foundation which hosts several US universities on its Doha campus, would be “open to students of all races, nationalities and sexes; we accept people based on their individual capabilities and are looking for students from all over the world – including Israel,” said its founding dean at the time of opening, Dr. James Reardon-Anderson.