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Posted On: 26 August 2011 01:33 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:11 pm

AlJazeera, where are you?

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It is disconcerting for many of us that the satellite TV channel that prides itself on being the voice of the Arab people and being seen by most around the world as such has covered one of the most live, indeed geopolitically the most important, issues of the region – taking the Palestinian bid for statehood to the UN -- rather scantily. On September 21, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to address the UN Assembly to present Palestine’s case for recognition as a state. This week, the meeting of the follow-up committee on the Arab Peace Initiative was held in Doha. The meeting reiterated the commitment of the Arab people to the Palestinian bid for statehood, based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, before the UN General Assembly in September. During the meeting on August 23, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani stressed upon this week’s “unjustified aggression on Gaza which clearly is no indication of any peace intentions by the Israeli side,” underlining that the Arab side has always been the one that sought peace, whereas neither the Israelis nor the international mediators have ever taken any practical steps. He said that an extraordinary meeting would be held in Cairo next Saturday to discuss what should be done to sustain the Palestinian cause. A quick search on Al Jazeera English’s website came up with fewer than a dozen entries on the Palestinian statehood issue. I was surprised that Al Jazeera English has so little on this developing story happening right in their backyard. Why is there no documentary or special programme discussing Palestine’s statehood bid at the UN when just about a month is left before the General Assembly convenes? In a TED talk about the Arab revolutions, Al Jazeera’s head, Wadah Khanfar, mentioned that during the Tunisian revolution, they (Al Jazeera) decided “to be the voice for these voiceless people” and “to spread the message”. “Al Jazeera took the voice from these people and we amplified [it].” “We put it in every sitting room in the Arab world—and internationally, globally, through our English channel,” Khanfar said in his speech. If Aljazeera prides itself in being the voice of the Arab people, why is it that they are not taking up the Palestinian statehood bid since this is a major issue for the Arab people? If they believed in this issue, they could have provided extensive coverage like they did with the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Recently, Aljazeera English has become available for the first time to cable television viewers across New York and is estimated to reach around 2 million subscribers. Why not use this opportunity to become the voice of the Palestinian people so that it can be heard on an international arena? According to their website, Aljazeera is broadcasting “to more than 220 million households in more than 100 countries” and “it is the most watched news channel on YouTube, receiving 2.5 million views per month.” With this kind of scope, Aljazeera can easily help the Palestinian statehood bid by informing decision makers and changing the perception of the Western media. Aljazeera is often criticised that it is good in stirring up trouble in the country it reports in. However, by giving a platform for the Palestinian statehood bid, it can show to the world and its detractors that they can also help in building and supporting a nation. But changing the West’s perception on the Palestinian issue will prove to be quite a challenge. In a recent report by the Maariv newspaper, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying that Israel is very angry with Qatar because “it is becoming a state which supports Hamas more and more.” According to the paper, Israel is also angry with Qatar because of the legal and political aid it is giving to Palestine ahead of its bid to seek membership in the UN. The paper further added that Israel’s foreign ministry officials have written a classified report outlining steps that Israel intends to implement “in the near future” against Qatar. Relations between the two countries have been technically severed in 2008 during Israel’s assault on Gaza. This has added more complications and obstacles to the already controversial Palestinian statehood bid. The big question now comes is if both Aljazeera English and Aljazeera Arabic has enough clout to influence members of the UN to side with the Palestinian cause and stop the US veto on the Palestinian statehood bid in the UN General Assembly?