Al Jazeera’s Suppressed Israel Lobby Expose Entangled in Major Qatar-Saudi Arabia Battle
Al Jazeera’s special investigations team has produced two astonishing documentary series on the Israel Lobby in the UK and U.S. The former was aired to great fanfare and notoriety last year. It revealed the deep penetration of Israeli diplomats into internal UK politics and cost at least one of those officials his job. The Lobby filed a complaint against the series with UK media regulators, who dismissed it.
By then, the documentary on the U.S. Israel Lobby was in the can and ready for airing. But it never did (or hasn’t yet). In the past few months there has been a furious tug of war between those targeted in the documentary and their Lobby supporters in Congress and the Trump administration, and human rights and media activists lobbying for the Qatari government to air it. So far, the Lobby appears to be winning the battle. For months, the program has been ready to air but not received permission from the authorities. By the way, the notion expressed by Qatari government ministers that the decision is out of their hands and rests solely with Al Jazeera is laughable. No subject this controversial is decided solely on its journalistic merits.
The reason the documentary is even more controversial is that it has dropped into a major crisis facing Qatar. Saudi Arabia’s new boy prince, Mohammed ibn Salman, has determined to make his mark on the region by shaking up conventional thinking and acting aggressively in pursuit of Saudi interests. So we have the disastrous siege in Yemen which has killed 50,000 Yemenis. Next, Saudi Arabia lined up all its lackey states in a row and they all obediently declared Qatar a mortal enemy because it had the temerity to pursue a semi-independent path. That included maintaining relations with both Iran and Turkey, who are persona non grata in Saudi eyes.
The Sunni Gulf alliance laid siege to Qatar and did everything short of declaring war. The Saudis little brother in the Gulf is UAE, which has been pursuing a wide-ranging campaign to blacken Qatar. That has included media hacks which aired offensive programming on Qatari TV which insulted the Saudis. But it’s gone much farther, sending Arab and pro-Israel American Jewish emissaries to Trump’s inner circle to pressure it to advance Sunni-Gulf interests, including advocating the firing of Secretary of State Tillerson.
The question is: did wealthy figures like Elliot Broidy approach Kushner and Trump et al not just at the behest of UAE; were they also coached or directed by Israel itself–or by cut-out intermediaries? Remember, that the NSA has captured communications intercepts in which senior authorities from four countries (including Israel) essentially conspire to buy Jared Kushner. So it is not at all far-fetched that Israel would approach its allies inside the U.S. Israel Lobby and organize such efforts.
Not that UAE or the Saudis especially need the Israel Lobby to do their work for them. They already have a well-financed lobbying campaign of their own in this country. But every friend counts and all hands help.
The Qataris too feel they have to play this game. To that end, their former foreign minister took a meeting with Jared Kushner and discussed a major investment in a family property that is under water financially. Naturally the investment, had it gone forward, would have cemented a golden relationship with Donald Trump just as he became president. But prudently, the Qataris backed out to the chagrin of Kushner. News articles have noted that only weeks later Saudi Arabia launched its siege against Qatar. It’s no accident that Trump’s first statement was one of absolute support for the Saudi position; and denunciation of the Qataris in terms that could have been written by Saudi PR flacks.
The Qatari government has also bought the services of the leading DC Republican campaign consultancy. That firm has in turn bought American Jewish leaders and sent them on junkets to Qatar just like the ones they organize for Congress members and Senators to Israel to cement the loyalty of the American political class. Among the bought-leaders have been Malcolm Hoenlein, Mort Klein, Jack Rosen, and Alan Dershowitz. After their meetings with the emir they’ve dutifully spouted pro- Qatari talking points. This serves Qatar’s purpose by driving a wedge into the usually unified Lobby leadership. Where most side with the blossoming bromance between Israel and Saudi Arabia and denounce Qatar as a terrorist supporter of ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, now new voices are offering an alternative point of view.
This suits the Qataris who know the Israel Lobby could wield massive force inside Congress and the administration in support of the Saudi position. They need to chip away at that unanimity in order to blunt the attack. Thus Dershowitz et al are useful tools of disruption for them.
Returning to the documentary: it features extensive surreptitiously recorded conversations with officials of the neocon/pro-Israel Foundation for the Defense of Democracies boasting about how closely their lobbying is coördinated with and by Israel. A senior official, Jonathan Schanzer, explicitly says on camera that not only are positions coordinated. In separate incidents Israeli official, Danny Ayalon, acknowledged the Israeli foreign ministry financed StandWithUs’s Olympia Coop anti-BDS lawsuit. I’ve also documented Israeli government funds directed to a StandWithUs war room project. Though the Electronic Intifada story doesn’t explore this issue, my guess is that there is Israeli official money behind many of these Lobby organizations and campaigns.
That would be a huge no-no in terms of U.S. law. Any U.S. person or group financed by a foreign government must register as an agent of a foreign government (FARA). For decades, critics of the Lobby have demanded that groups like Aipac, FDD and others should register under FARA. Naturally, the Lobby objects strenuously. Admitting that it is a creature of the Israeli government would not only tarnish its reputation as being a wholly homegrown American enterprise; it would also raise the dreaded specter of dual loyalty–a canard often spouted by anti-Semites claiming that American Jews owe their loyalty not to their homeland, but to a foreign power.
In actuality, most American Jews are loyal to their country. It is only the Lobby and its most fervent adherents who are guilty of dual loyalty. And they should be formally registered as such.
Into this titanic struggle between Qatar and the Sunni Gulf states steps the Al Jazeera documentary. A poor lost soul seeking to find its way to viewers. The Qataris have two conflicting considerations: they can honor press freedom and the important issues the program raises; or they can play realpolitik and do what is best for their national interests. My cynical self knows which one is most likely to win out. Given that Electronic Intifada published a detailed overview of what the series contains, my guess is that the producers lost their battle and this was a way to get at least some of the material into public view. But my optimistic self hopes that Qatar’s leaders honor their commitment to the right values of justice and fairness and a free press and permit it to air.
The Lobby wants to leave nothing to chance. That’s why both the Saudiphiles and the Qatariphiles have both exerted maximum force to stop it. Dershowitz and the other Lobby guests of the emir lobbied him to shelve the documentary. They came away believing that he had promised to do so. Though Qatari officials have disagreed with this assessment and made mealy-mouthed professions of support for whatever decision Al Jazeera management makes.
The Lobby Saudiphiles have also concocted a scheme in Congress demanding that the Justice Department open an investigation into whether Al Jazeera itself is an agent of a foreign power. Thirteen water-carrying Congress members have written to AG Sessions demanding that he force Al Jazeera to do what Putin’s RT has been compelled to do: to register under FARA. The apoplexy of the Lobby is based mostly on outrage that they were hoodwinked into talking to a reporter covertly recording their conversations. The fact that the content of those conversations proved that the Lobby is an agent of Israel is what they’d like to suppress. Instead, they’d like to focus on their outrage that Al Jazeera engaged in what one Lobby genius called “espionage:”
“Let’s not mince words about what this was – a well-funded, professional espionage operation carried out by Qatar on American soil,” Noah Pollak, executive director of the neoconservative Committee for Israel, has stated.
A telling term to use because it implies that the Lobby is a stand-in for America itself; and that betraying the interests of the Lobby is the same as betraying the interests of the nation. A ludicrous, almost insane notion. Not to mention that Israeli officials, the Lobby itself and UAE are engaged here in even more extensive monitoring, spying and hacking of the sort they complain about regarding Al Jazeera.
14 thoughts on “Al Jazeera’s Suppressed Israel Lobby Expose Entangled in Major Qatar-Saudi Arabia Battle – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Before claiming that the all powerful Israel Lobby suppressed the Al Jazeera story, there is something that needs to be considered, namely, did Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter violate any laws when he secretly recorded his co-workers? Could the Al Jazeera reporter have violated some laws, and has the Lobby threatened Al Jazeera with lawsuits? Also, when the Al Jazeera reporter was hired by the lobby, did the reporter sign, and than violate, a confidentiality agreement?
Different States have different laws regarding consent to electronic recording. The District of Columbia, where the Al Jazeera reporter was domiciled, has a One Party Consent Statute, while the nearby State of Maryland has an All-Parties Consent Statute. A reporter located in the District of Columbia who records a telephone conversation without the consent of a party located in Maryland would not violate District of Columbia law, but could be liable under Maryland law. A court located in the District of Columbia may apply Maryland law, depending on its “conflict of laws” rules. Therefore, an aggrieved party may choose to file suit in either jurisdiction, depending on which law is more favorable to the party’s claim.
Al Jazeera may have decided that airing the expose wasn’t worth it from a legal standpoint.
Of course, this is pure conjecture on my part.
@ Dr John: Yours is the “cooked spaghetti” method of hasbara. Throw the whole batch against the wall and hope something sticks.
You think a professional journalist managing an investigative staff and producing an explosive documentary series wouldn’t have considered every potential mine he might step on? And dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘t?’ If so, you’re a fool and underestimate Swisher’s professionalism. Not to mention that if a lawsuit had been threatened then the Lobby would’ve rushed to report this; or the filing of charges against Al Jazeera for violating U.S. laws.
Secretly recording someone, especially when it involves the media and its special protections is not necessarily illegal. It depends on where and how it is done. In this case, the recordings definitely serve a public good and the public’s right to know, which is much more strongly protected in the U.S. than in Israel.
Do me a favor and don’t bother conjecturing. It’s a waste of my time and yours. Conjecture that is based on reasonable assumptions is fine. Yours aren’t.
For someone who often questions the shitty job journalists of the NEW YORK TIMES or WASHINGTON POST are doing, you got a lot of trust for a journalist of much more politically influenced AL JAZZIRA.
@ Ariel Koren: You’re ignoring (of course you are) the tens of thousands of links here to articles in the NY Times, Washington Post, Haaretz to which I link because I believe they are good journalism. Naturally, I single out especially bad journalism wherever I find it, on the subject of this blog. I’d do the same with Al Jazeera.
I know Clayton Swisher’s work and have done so for years. I respect it greatly. You wouldn’t know Clayton Swisher’s work from a candy bar wrapper.
Do learn how to spell and show the media outlet the respect of spelling its name correctly.
mr silverstein. haaretz put up an article about an idf secret sensitive doc that apparently saw the light in the internet. can you find out the subject and if we the taxpayers cows deserve to know what bibi and his cronies are up behind our back,
@ n. Dayan: I’ve been trying for days. None of my sources or anyone I’ve approached can help I’m afraid.
Reading about all the shenanigans, it’s comic to reflect on the professed concern about RUSSIAN influence in America. Yeah, right…
As I’ve said elsewhere, the ‘Russia’ thing really is like a prostitute crawling out of her motel room — and then complaining about how some man looked at her ankles.
@ Colin Wright:
I think it’s rather like the prostitute’s pimp rolling her John and then blaming the John for being robbed.
Please don’t mix these two important subjects. YOu know you & I completely disagree about Russian intervention in U.S. domestic affairs. Keep them separate. I didn’t bring up Russia, you did. Which makes the subject off-topic.
‘Before claiming that the all powerful Israel Lobby suppressed the Al Jazeera story, there is something that needs to be considered, namely, did Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter violate any laws when he secretly recorded his co-workers? Could the Al Jazeera reporter have violated some laws, and has the Lobby threatened Al Jazeera with lawsuits? Also, when the Al Jazeera reporter was hired by the lobby, did the reporter sign, and than violate, a confidentiality agreement?’
Yep. That’s what’s important. Who cares whether Israel et al control our political process? The important question is whether al Jazeera broke the law somehow.
Let’s let al Jazeera take care of itself. Run the documentary, and then press charges against al Jazeera if you can find evidence.
Or does that not meet your needs somehow? Isn’t the point not to expose just what your Israel does?
I hope the documentary is aired. I’m not afraid.
“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants”–Hon. Louis D. Brandeis
Be afraid. Be very afraid!
Would you please elaborate on this statement,”…dual loyalty–a canard often spouted by anti-Semites claiming that American Jews owe their loyalty not to their homeland, but to a foreign power.” I have been thinking a lot about this recently, having protested at the AIPAC conference and conversed with several AIPACers there. The majority put Israel’s interests before the U.S.’s (though they say they are the same). Senator Schumer is a perfect example – and
I think that’s a treasonous offense. I don’t have an ounce of anti-semitism in me. I need some clarification and I value your opinion.
@ Paula Muth: I prefer not to use words like “treason” as they’re quite inflammatory and offer images of capital punishment, which is technically possible in such cases. I prefer to point out that these people are betraying American values and that they are making a fundamental error in assuming the interests of both countries are the same. The interests of two separate countries can never be the same. I think we make that argument and let Americans as a whole make a judgement on interpreting their actions beyond that.
I think Israel — and her demand that Jews support her — naturally raises the prospect of dual loyalty, and raises it in a way no other state ever has.
German-, Japanese-, and Italian-Americans all overwhelmingly opted for an American identity when the issue came up. So, for that matter, did Jewish Americans. There wasn’t much nostalgia for the shtetl there. It was become an American, and how about that Hank Greenberg?
Israel really threw a wrench into that, and I don’t think it’s been sorted out yet. For one thing — unlike just about every other national home Americans can trace their roots to — Israel insistently and continuously demands our financial, diplomatic, military, and even psychological support. It’s really intolerable — and I say that as a gentile. It’d be worse if I was a Jew.