Al Jazeera reposts ‘anti-Jewish’ article after censorship backlash

Al Jazeera said it “should have done better” in handling a story by Columbia University professor Joseph Massad. (File photo: Reuters)

Al Jazeera has republished a controversial article on its website after inexplicably removing it amid claims the story was “anti-Jewish”.

Accusations of censorship were leveled against the Qatar-based broadcaster after it decided to remove a story entitled ‘The last of the Semites’ by Columbia University professor Joseph Massad.

The story, published last week, made historical links between Zionism and anti-Semitism, pointing out the shared goals of the German Nazis and Zionists in facilitating the departure of the Jews from Europe.

It prompted Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for The Atlantic and former guard at an Israeli prison, to tweet: “Congratulations, al Jazeera: You've just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory”.

Following a barrage of criticism, Massad’s article was on Saturday inexplicably removed from Al Jazeera’s website, leading to further criticism of Al Jazeera for alleged censorship, and for allegedly pandering to pro-Israel advocates.

Yet in an apparent U-turn by the Qatari broadcaster, the article was republished yesterday with a note from Al Jazeera English’s head of online, Imad Musa.

Musa acknowledged that the broadcaster “should have done better” in its handling of the case.

“There has been much give and take about a column published on our website, and the decision to remove that column. During the past few days, people have speculated that Al Jazeera succumbed to various pressures, and censored its own pages,” Musa wrote in a blog.

“We should have handled this better, and we have learned lessons that will enable us to maintain the highest standards of journalistic integrity… Al Jazeera does not submit to pressure regardless of circumstance.”

Musa did not give details on who gave the order for the article to be removed, or “silently retracted” in the words of The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald. Neither did Musa detail the exact grounds for the decision, saying that “many questions arose about the article's content”.

A spokesman for Al Jazeera declined to comment further on the matter when contacted by Al Arabiya, saying that the broadcaster’s response is limited to Imad Musa’s blog.

Amid Al Jazeera’s lack of clarification on why the article was deleted, some have linked the move to the broadcaster’s ambition to expand in the United States.

The broadcaster hit the headlines earlier this year when it said it had purchased Al Gore’s Current TV network for a reported $500 million. That move was a prelude to the broadcaster’s plans to launch a service called Al Jazeera America later this year, in a bid to win viewers across the U.S..

Employees reportedly told Greenwald that Al Jazeera officials have become more cautious since the purchase of Current TV. Sources told Greenwald that the impetus for the removal of Massad’s article came from Ehab al-Shihabi, the new head of Al Jazeera’s U.S. operations.

Massad reportedly shares the view that Al Jazeera’s decision to remove his article was primarily led by the network’s ambitions in the United States. He told Greenwald that Al Jazeera, in its effort to expand in the U.S., is willing to surrender “its right to air out such ideas and submit to the highly restrictive political line of the mainstream American media, especially on Israel.”

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Last Update: 12:12 KSA 15:12 - GMT 12:12
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