Al Jazeera goes after Gulf association of Jewish communities

By | Rachel Brooks

February 17, 2021 

Above, inside the Al Jazeera newsroom English. The influential Qatari state outlet has received repeat criticism over the years for the publishing of Islamist narratives. 

On Wednesday, the human rights organization Gulf Israel Human Rights Forum condemned the Al Jazeera media entity for its spread of a hate campaign against the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities. Al Jazeera and AJ+ are media entities owned by the Qatari emirate state. 

The forum condemned the Arabic language editions of Al Jazeera for politicized attacks against the association. 

A political attack denouncing this motion was launched by the Kuwaiti politician Dr. Abdullah Al-Nafisi, who likewise has an affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the Gulf Israel Human Rights Forum. 

In addition to Dr. Al-Nafisi, the forum condemned the Hamas organization for the dissemination of hate rhetoric against the association’s declaration. The forum called on the Human Rights Council to denounce the behavior of Dr. Al-Nafisi and the Hamas. The rhetoric from the Al Jazeera and Islamist networks of the region continues to put a strain on the process of normalizing ties between GCC countries. This is due to the mass distribution and media influence that the Al Jazeera network has in the region, and the western media. 

The Association of Gulf Jewish Communities has been born out of the recent warming of ties between the Gulf Arab states and the Jewish State of Israel. Jewish communities around the Gulf are now emerging as organized communities under the relaxation of tensions. The Times of Israel reported on February 15 that the regional bodies were spurred by the recent Abraham Accords to create an organized body of Jewish communities in the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. This communal recognition has reportedly formed under Beirut-born Rabbi Elie Abadie and will oversee Jewish life in the Gulf Arab States. 

Al Arabiya reported that the Association of Gulf Jewish communities have plans to establish a communal Jewish court. The court will be known as the Beth Din of Arabia. Al Arabiya news likewise interviewed Rabbi Dr. Abadie regarding this motion. Rabbi Dr. Abadie is the spiritual leader of the association. 

 

It is worthy of note that while the Jewish communities of the Gulf are seeking communal representation, the majority of Jews in the region are small communities. They likewise have not previously had official representation in the region. While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have communities of ethnic Jewish descent, the rest of the region is primarily comprised of Jewish travelers or business ex-pats, see this Times of Israel piece for reference. The Bahraini Jews likewise immigrated to the region from Iraq.

The attacks by media outlets such as Al Jazeera are bizarre in the fact that the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities was formed as a symbolic gesture of goodwill toward minorities in fostering healthier relationships between Jews and Arabs in the region. 

AlJazeera’s coverage of the softening of ties has been decidedly negative across English editions of the media outlet as well. In September, the outlet’s op-ed column accused the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “pitting Jews against Jews.” The opinion stated that Netanyahu was seeking to normalize tensions abroad, but was sowing ethnic tensions at home. Also in September, Al Jazeera quizzed Saudi Arabia via the media, questioning whether the Kingdom was “softening its stance” and stating that “there are signs Saudi Arabia” is preparing to warm its people to Israel. This statement is factual, but the process of Saudi Arabia’s internal societal reforms has been ongoing, and are the result of a surge in the youth demographic. 

The Al Jazeera narrative regarding this potential warming of ties between Arabs and Jews is decidedly negative. Al Jazeera used its outlet to call out Abdulrahman alSudais, imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, who had urged Muslims to avoid “passionate emotions and fiery enthusiasm” toward Jews. Al Jazeera highlighted al Sudais past rhetoric toward the Jewish State in its report and denounced al Sudais’ stance in his September broadcast. 

The announcement of a Jewish communal association in the GCC region came as the United Arab Emirates declared its first ambassador to Israel. Mohamed Al Khaja. Al Khaja announced this via his Twitter on February 17. 

“I am happy to launch my Twitter account as the first ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Israel. I look forward to strengthening the ties between the citizens of the two countries by cultivating peace, understanding, and prosperity among our people and for the entire region. Merhaba, welcome,” wrote Al Khaja, in Arabic, Hebrew, and English.