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Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Michael Curtis: Qatar's Big Plans For Al Jazeera America

From The Gatestone institute:

Qatar's New Pearl: Al Jazeera America

Al Jazeera every week airs its superstar, Muslim Brotherhood leader Yousuf al-Qaradawi, who is barred from entering the US and other Western countries. He has repeatedly called for the Muslim world to damage the U.S. economy by boycotting American products, as well as often rendering opinions such as, "Oh Allah, kill them [Jews] down to the very last one." One can see why Qatar's leadership would like to propagate "a Qatari sponsored narrative of events, and shape that narrative and how it is seen." Most moving is to hear that Al Gore finds these opinions as "aligned with our point of view."

Most disturbing about the sale of Al Gore and Joel Hyatt's Current TV to Al Jazeera are the reported sanctimonious remarks about the character of the Current Network and the comparable frame of mind of Al Jazeera. Qatar's leadership, according to Gulf analyst Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, would like to propagate "a Qatari sponsored narrative of events in the Middle East and elsewhere," and be "able to shape that narrative and and how it is seen." Al Jazeera regularly promotes its superstar, Muslim Brotherhood leader Yousuf al Qaradawi, who is barred from entering the US and other Western countries. He has for years said such things as : "The last punishment [against the Jews] was carried out by Hitler. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers," and "Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them [Jews]. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one". Given Al Jazeera's record of backing the Islamist revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, one can see why Qatar's leadership would "like to be able to shape that narrative and how it is seen." Al-Qaradawi has also said, according to the peerless MEMRI.org, that Islam's "conquest of Rome" will save Europe from its subjugation to materialism and promiscuity, and that Islam will return to Europe as a conquerer.

Al Jazeera has also, according to MEMRI, "continued to call for the Muslim world to to damage the U.S. economy by boycotting American products." In justifying the sale, Gore apparently explained to the The Blaze: "the legacy of who the network goes to is important to us and we are sensitive to networks not aligned with out point of view." His partner, Joel Hyatt, added: "Al-Jazeera was founded with the same goals we had for Current," and that the Qatari network intends to "invest heavily" in new programming. Got it. Most moving is to hear that Al Gore finds these statements as "aligned with our point of view."

In a withering article, Amin Farouk disposed of the benign view of the activity of the Doha network and chronicled its Islamist agenda. Others, apparently already aware of it, responded accordingly: Time Warner, the second-largest cable company in the U.S., immediately refused to carry either Current or Al Jazeera.

Qatar, the country and the political system which founded and controls Al Jazeera, has been dominated by the al-Thani family for almost 150 years, and is now ruled by Sheikh Hamad bin Khaalifa al-Thani, an absolute monarch who deposed his father in 1995 to become Emir. In 1995, Emir al-Thani established The Qatar Foundation, currently headed by his second wife, Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, "to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world," according to a report by MEMRI's Steven Stalinsky. The Qatar Foundation's "Education City", which the Qatar Foundation calls its "flagship project," brings students to Qatar from Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Northwestern, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth and Cornell to meet leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Partners of the Qatar Foundation include, among others, institutions from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Mexico, and institutions such as Microsoft, Cisco, Conoco-Phillis, Exxon Mobil, Rolls-Royce, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, Gartner Lee (Canada), as well as several additional universities in the U.S., Canada, Spain, France, and the U.K. Students who are U.S. citizens from American universities are eligible for federal student aid through the U.S. Department of Education, as well as scholarships "for prospective students" from the Qatar Foundation. In article in Texas A&M's newspaper, April 24, 2009, the university's assistant dean for Finance and Administration states, "Essentially all costs of A&M [at Education City] are covered by the Qatar Foundation" and suggests that "professors are given significant financial and U.S. Taxation incentives for working at A&M Qatar."

Meanwhile, Al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research and the International Council of Muslim Scholars, and who was voted number three on the list of the 100 Top Intellectuals worldwide by Foreign Policy magazine (July/August 2008), inaugurated the Islamic Studies program and also maintains a significant presence partly through the Al-Qaradawi Center for Research and Modern Thought, and the Sheikh Al-Qaradawi Scholarship program . Meanwhile, as he receives awards, he calls on television for boycotts of products from the U.S., for the "conquest of Rome," and for another genocide against the Jews, this time at the hands of the Muslims.

Qatar was once a center of pearl fishing, as well as a British protectorate until 1971, when it became independent and refused to join the United Arab Emirates. Now it is one of the world's richest countries, and its leader evidently wishes to to be influential. With a population of about 1.7 million, of whom only 300,000 are citizens, Qatar, which produces about 850,000 barrels of crude oil a day and has more than 15% of the world's proven gas resources, and is one of the world's fastest growing economies. Thanks to the increase in oil prices, its GDP is currently about $175 billion, and per capita income is $100,000 -- the highest in the Arab world, and almost double that of the U.S.

Emir al-Thani has not been slow in exerting the role of his country in world economic and political affairs. The small land of pearl divers has now become a global energy power, and al-Thani appears an ambitious political leader, playing a major role in enflaming, steering and then resolving regional conflicts, as well as being an important investor in European economies. In October 2012, the Emir visited Gaza, where he and made a pledge of $400 million to the terrorist group Hamas. Qatar's international role can only be enhanced by its selection to be the host of the 2022 FIFA world soccer competition, the first of any Middle East country.

In regional affairs, Qatar helped broker peace arrangements between rival factions in Lebanon in 2008, and attempted similar efforts in the Sudan, Yemen, and Eritrea. It sent planes to Libya to join NATO operations that ended the regimeof Gaddafi. It has supplied weapons to some of the Islamist forces fighting the Assad regime in Syria. It has close ties with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and it also hosts the U.S. military in the Al Udeid Air base, which must seem to the al-Thanis a convenient form of protection.

Qatar exerts economic clout in the world, particularly in European countries. In Germany, Qatar owns 17% of Volkswagen, 10% of Porsche, and a significant part of the Hochtief construction company, the largest in Germany. In France, Qatar has bought the Paris Saint-Germain (P.S.G.) soccer club, valued at $130 million, and the accompanying handball team. It owns luxury properties in Paris valued at $4 billion; part of the French group running Louis Vuitton, and it has invested in French television, where it controls three channels under the name of beIN Sport, operated by Al-Jazeera. BeIN Sport also operates two channels in the U.S. In Italy, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is reported to be interested in selling to Qatar, for a considerable amount of money, 30% of the football club AC Milan, which he has owned for 26 years.

Qatar has invested even more heavily in Britain. It owns the famous Harrods store in London. It has bought part of Canary Wharf in London, the site of the 2012 Olympic village, and is expanding its holdings of London commercial property. In the heart of London, it owns Shard, Europe's tallest building. It also owns No. 1 Hyde Park, said to be the world's most expensive block of apartments, as well as 20% of the London Stock Exchange, and 20% of the enormous market in Camden in north London. It has shares in Barclay's Bank, in the large Sainsbury grocery store chain, and in the Shell Center headquarters on the South Bank of the River Thames. It intends to revitalize the area around Shell, and has invested about £1 billion in the UK gas sector.

Among other properties around the world, Qatar has bought into luxury houses, including Valentino's fashion house in Italy, and about 5% of Tiffany & Co.. It has also established relations with a number of Western universities, which now have branches in Qatar. These include Carnegie Mellon University, Texas A&M University, Northwestern University, and University College, London.

The Al-Jazeera TV network was founded by Emir al-Thani presumably to enhance the regional and international influence of his country. With the expanding political, economic, and academic of the role of Qatar in the world, the larger place of Al-Jazeera in TV news and programming as a result of its acquisition of Current TV should probably be subjected to more scrutiny to ensure that Current's "speaking truth to power" -- as its objective was reported -- does not devolve into skillful and genocidal propaganda.

Michael Curtis is author of Should Israel Exist? A Sovereign Nation under Attack by the International Community.

Posted on 01/09/2013 4:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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