Newsroom at Al-Jazeera in Doha, Qatar
Yesterday I said that Israel needs a world-class satellite channel. Apparently Egyptians can do this. Why can’t Israel?
A group of prominent clerics has announced the launch of a new satellite channel in Egypt that will promote the face of what it calls moderate Islam, in order to counter the “distortion of Islam into a violent, intolerant force.”
The non-governmental channel, Al-Azhari, is the brainchild of clerics associated with Al-Azhar University, considered the highest authority of religious teachings in Sunni Islam…
The 24-hour entertainment and education channel is expected to be launched during the month of Ramadan, which begins this year in mid-August…
The channel will feature cartoons for children, Islamic soap operas, lectures and call-in shows, which will all carry messages of tolerance and moderation. It will initially broadcast in Arabic and English, with a view to later expanding to programs that will include Hindi and Turkish…
An official at the channel said that, “In the Age of Obama, we realized it was time to look at new ways to deliver our message,” according to a promotional statement.– Jerusalem Post [my emphasis]
Although the opportunity to make jokes about “Islamic soap operas” (“All my Wives”, “The Bold and the Burka-clad”) is great, I will forgo it and instead point out that we too have a message to deliver. And the way to deliver it is in an “entertainment and educational” format, in English and Arabic.
“Press TV” is an Iranian government-backed, 24-hour English language satellite TV news channel headquartered in Teheran. Launched globally nine months ago, it now airs on 10 different satellite systems and is endeavouring to be added to Britain’s Sky satellite package. The channel can also be watched “live” online from anywhere in the world. According to its Web site, regular programs include “Iran,” covering life in the Islamic Republic; “Middle East Today,” focusing on news from the region; “American Dream,” billed as a “warts-and-all picture of life in the USA”; and “Minbar,” a weekly Q&A on Islam “fielding questions about all aspects of the world’s fastest growing religion.”
Press TV claims that over 70% of the Web site’s hits are from the United States, and the station has just hired Andrew Gilligan, an influential British journalist, former BBC correspondent and columnist for London’s Evening Standard newspaper.
The Israel Broadcasting Authority does have a satellite channel aimed at the Middle East, Channel Three. But the programming is not inspired: three days a week it carries live broadcasts of Knesset debates — not exactly what I had in mind. Probably the government is not the best choice to do this job.
In November 2006, in response to the launch of Al-Jazeera English, Isi Liebler called for a Jewish satellite channel:
The creation of a global TV channel promoting a Jewish viewpoint must now assume the highest priority. The need for such a vehicle is not merely to provide a more balanced viewpoint on Israeli and Jewish issues. An equally important requirement is to ensure that Jewish youngsters are provided with an alternative to the anti-Israel offensives that now saturate European and Western media…
We spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on numerous Jewish agencies and bodies whose primary objective is to protect Jewish rights, promote the case for Israel, and combat anti-Semitism. Yet many of these organizations are ineffective, overlap and compete with one another rather than pooling their resources to overcome the common threat.
Of course, this was pre-Madoff, but still…
During the Gaza War Al-Jazeera’s continuous bloody ‘coverage’ inflamed Muslim — and not just Muslim — sentiment against Israel around the world. Part of the reason the operation terminated early was worldwide outrage, based on news outlets reporting Hamas atrocity stories as fact.
Even during ‘peacetime’, if there is such a concept for Israelis, the continuous rain of anti-Israel content has a cumulative corrosive effect.
It’s time to take this seriously.