One of the past weeks’ major stories in the Arabic-speaking media was the scandal involving a Holocaust video aired by Al Jazeera’s online AJ+ Arabic service, and the subsequent suspension of two “journalists” by the Qatari-based network shortly after it was uploaded.
Sky News Arabia – a joint venture between the UK-based Sky News and the UAE-based Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation – seized the opportunity to highlight the failure of its powerful competitor from the neighboring peninsula. However, its May 20th online report, “On Israel’s Behalf – Qatari Aljazeera expels two officials”, reveals much about Sky News Arabia’s true motivation in criticising Aljazeera’s conduct.
The most telling detail in the report is its title. Framing Aljazeera’s disciplinary action as a step that was taken “on behalf of Israel” suggests that taking a stand against Holocaust denial is not a moral imperative in and of itself, but merely a position taken under Zionist pressure. This impression is reinforced in the body of the report, where the Israeli foreign ministry is the only source quoted to have criticized the video, leaving the impression that the ministry triggered Aljazeera’s actions (emphasis by CAMERA Arabic):
“The Qatari network ‘Al-Jazeera’ has suspended two of its journalists on Sunday, over a video production about the Jewish Holocaust which, according to the network, had ‘violated its editorial criteria and guidelines.’ It caused the network to come under bitter criticism from the Israeli foreign ministry.
It should be noted that the official [twitter] account of the Israeli foreign ministry released 21 tweets following the video’s broadcast, in which it criticized ‘the lies of al-Jazeera’.”
Another suspicious element of the report is revealed once it is compared to the AFP report it credits for providing the descriptions of the video itself. Sky News Arabia used the AFP phrasing word-for-word, apart from one sentence it omitted (the second sentence below, emphasis added):
“The video, published by the AJ+ channel belonging to ‘Al-Jazeera’, indicated that the ‘narrative’ that the Nazis murdered six million Jews ‘was endorsed by the Zionist movement.’
The Nazis systematically murdered six million Jews during WWII. [this sentence was omitted by Sky News Arabia – CAMERA Arabic]
The AJ+ video, which was broadcast for the first time on May 18th, presented footage of persecuted and murdered European Jews during the Nazi regime, along with a voice-over wondering why their suffering is highlighted at the expense of their fellow victims. The video indicated that this systematic persecution was not limited to Jews, but that due to Jews’ possession of “financial resources” and their ability to reach “media institutions” they could “highlight” their suffering.”
Sky News Arabia’s motive behind attributing the dismissal of two journalists in Qatar to Israeli protests becomes clearer in the context of the ongoing cold war in the Persian Gulf. Since diplomatic ties between Qatar and the UAE were cut in 2017, speculating about the putative influence Israel has on Qatar, and the benefit Israelis derive from actions taken in Doha, has become a Sky News Arabia favorite (all links are in Arabic – CAMERA Arabic).
However, regardless of their motives, it’s extremely troubling that a network which purports to uphold Western journalistic standards would evoke classic antisemitic tropes by suggesting that the editorial decisions of a rival Arab media outlet were made at the behest of ‘the Zionists’.
Appendix – AJ+ video: “Denouncing the Holocaust is a moral obligation, but… Israel is the greatest beneficiary from it!” (part 2, 1:40)
AJ+’s “informative” video (part 1/part 2), which aimed to educate its viewers about the Holocaust and Europe under Nazism, was uploaded Saturday, May 18th to the digital channel of Aljazeera’s subsidiary AJ+ (only to be removed after less than 24 hours online).
Here are the most problematic elements of the video:
1. It refers to the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis as “a narrative endorsed by the Zionist movement.” The same idea reappears in a different phrasing later on, when the video indicates that in the aftermath of Holocaust, the Zionist movement “argued” that two out of three European Jews were killed.
2. It presents Holocaust deniers as a legitimate side in a professional historical debate: “The number of Holocaust victims is still one of the most prominent ongoing historical debates to this day. People are divided into several groups, from those who deny the extermination, through to those who believe that it was heavily exaggerated, and even those who accuse the Zionist movement of inflating it in favor of [their own] project to establish what soon after became known as the State of Israel.”
3. It names Israel as “the greatest beneficiary from the Holocaust”. It is understood from the video this is so because:
a. Israel received reparations from Germany. The video also blames Israel that by doing so, it “devoured the reparations of most of the Jewish victims of Nazism” (more on the misrepresentations of German reparations to Israel is found in article 4 below – CAMERA Arabic).
b. The Holocaust lead Jewish survivors to immigrate into the Mandatory Palestine. As the video describes it, “suffering and persecution [are at the base of] the much-regurgitated narrative of Holocaust sorrows, [all] paved the way for Jewish immigration into Palestine” (more on the misrepresentation of Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine is found in article 7 below – CAMERA Arabic)
4. It suggests that the reason “the focus lies only on them” (i.e. the Jews, in the way the Holocaust is perceived in the post-war era when compared to what other victims of Nazism had suffered – CAMERA Arabic) is because at the time, “Jewish groups possessed financial resources, media institutions, research centers and academic figures that were able to highlight the Jewish victims more so [than others].“ It is also implied that this so-called lack of symmetry is manifested through disparity in reparations paid by modern Germany; “until today, it [Germany] keeps paying enormous reparations over the outcomes of WWII to a country that wasn’t even in existence at the time of the extermination” (sic. In fact, Israel agreed not to seek further compensation from Germany as early as 1972 – CAMERA Arabic). The video stresses out that reparations paid to other victims of the Nazis such as the peoples of “Greece, Serbia, [the rest of] Yugoslavia and the Romani people” are of a much smaller scale.
5. It claims that a similarly disproportionate focus on Jewish suffering and the persecution of Jews in the Holocaust is apparent once compared with other historical tragedies. Thus, Holocaust remembrance is practiced through museums, memorials, events and anti-denial legislation throughout the world, while other tragedies are not treated similarly. The video did not address the reason why this phenomenon occurs, yet one can only assume they see it as related to the remarkable power of post-war “Jewish groups”, which resulted in a disproportionate focus on Jewish suffering at the expense of fellow victims of Nazism.
6. While indicating that the Nazi persecution of the Jews culminated in “the Final Solution – extermination”, once the video elaborates on the escalating Nazi practices that gradually drew closer to the Final Solution, the only Nazi practice that the report acknowledges to have caused Jewish deaths is forced labor in “detention camps” (Arabic for concentration camps – CAMERA Arabic). The video stops short of explicitly mentioning the extermination camps and the countless massacres of around 1.5 million Jews in total on the Eastern Front.
7. It misrepresents the Ha’avara Agreement of August 1933 between the Jewish Agency and financial authorities in Nazi Germany as an agreement that merely surrendered the property of German Jews to the Nazis in exchange of enabling their emigration to Mandatory Palestine. In fact, German Jews were originally banned by the Nazis from taking any property with them when emigrating; the Agreement facilitated the rescue of at least a portion of their possessions when immigrating specifically to Palestine, so that they wouldn’t come empty handed and would subsequently be granted certificates by the British. According to the video, it was this Agreement, “along with other documents”, which led some people to believe that “Hitler supported Zionism.”
8. It accuses Israel of “using the same Nazi justifications as a premise for [its own campaign of] ethnic cleansing and extermination against the Palestinians” and claims that “the main Ideology [behind] the establishment of the State of Israel stands on national, religious and geographic premises that were fed by the spirit of Nazism and its first principles“.
9. It concludes with an attempt to whitewash Palestinian shortsightedness in denouncing the Holocaust: “How can a Palestinian denounce a crime that became the other side of his own tragedy?”
Research and writing by CAMERA Arabic. Edited by UK Media Watch.