In a moment that hearkens back to the Bush administration’s spat with the Arab media network’s coverage of the start of the Iraq War, the Biden White House is bring pressure to bear against Al Jazeera, as it’s not happy with its coverage of Gaza
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has sought the mediation of the Qatari government to get the Doha-based channel to “tone down” its perceived anti-Israel coverage and rhetoric.
According to an exclusive in Axios, Blinken on Monday said before a closed-door group of Jewish leaders that he “asked the Qatari prime minister less than two weeks ago to tone down Al Jazeera’s rhetoric about the war in Gaza, according to three people who attended the meeting.”
Axios underscores that Blinken’s remarks “suggest the administration, which has asserted its support for the independent press globally, is concerned Al Jazeera’s framing of the conflict could escalate tensions in the region.” According to more:
Blinken said he gave toning down Al Jazeera coverage of the war in Gaza as an example of steps the Qatari government can take to do this. Blinken said he asked the Qataris to “turn down the volume on Al Jazeera’s coverage because it is full of anti-Israel incitement,” according to one source.
Blinken didn’t given any specific examples of what constitutes problematic coverage, according to the people who attended the meeting, but Israel has long accused the channel of being “a propaganda mouthpiece” for Hamas. The US administration has not gone so far as to verbalize this, but likely quietly agrees.
Some of the White House’s own spokespersons have recently dismissed or downplayed the soaring civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip as it’s being daily pummeled by Israeli airstrikes.
On Tuesday national security official John Kirby in a briefing said that more innocent people will inevitably die but he did not criticize Israel’s seeming indiscriminate bombing campaign which has also killed thousands of women and children. Kirby was aske about the disproportionate response to Oct. 7, and he answered:
“This is war. It is combat. It is bloody. It is ugly, and it’s going to be messy. And innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward,” Kirby told reporters. “I wish I could tell you something different. I wish that that wasn’t going to happen, but it is going to happen.”
And then on Wednesday, President Biden himself asserted, “I have no notion that Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed.” He added: “I’m sure innocents have been killed. And that’s the price of waging a war. I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”
On Wednesday, Gaza-based Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh was informed his own family was killed in an Israeli airstrike…
While covering the aggression on Gaza, Israel bombed and killed the wife, son & daughter of al-Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh in a targeted strike on a shelter house they had fled to. No words left! pic.twitter.com/fYlsDxxbGU
— Kevork Almassian🇸🇾🇦🇲 (@KevorkAlmassian) October 25, 2023
Al Jazeera is also a main global source which reports directly from Palestinian and Gaza sources and ministries. At this point, the Gaza death toll has reached 6,500 – which has included an Al Jazeera correspondent’s own family.
Washington has a bit of a love-hate view and relationship with Al Jazeera. The Bush White House was actually accused of targeting Al Jazeera offices in Baghdad during the 2003 “shock and awe” bombing that kicked off the invasion. But in the decade after 2010, Al Jazeera was a big promoter of the “Arab Spring” narrative which the West used to topple Libya’s Gaddafi, and which was key to regime change attempts in Syria. During those years, the D.C. establishment heaped praise on the channel as it advanced the narrative of “moderate rebels” in places like Syria.