Following on the heels of its recent controversies for anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, Qatar’s Al Jazeera Arabic network this week featured a former Hamas leader praising the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s assistance in conducting missile attacks on Israeli civilians.
Broadcasting from Al Jazeera’s studios in Doha, former Hamas Leader Khaled Mashal eulogized the former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who died of a heart attack on Monday in a Cairo courthouse. He offered condolences to the people of Egypt for the loss of “a great man,” reminding the network’s Arabic audience that Morsi had repeatedly challenged Israel while in office.
In the midst of an hours-long memorial broadcast brimming with incitement against Qatar’s enemies, including Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Mashal praised the deceased Morsi for assisting Hamas’ bombardment of civilians in Israel.
“With Morsi’s support in Cairo,” the Hamas leader said, “our great resistance factions — including Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades — had bombed the heart of Israel.”
Mashal praised a fiery speech given by Morsi in November 2012, in which he expressed his opposition to Israel and the United States. “That’s when the great Egyptian state, inspired by its great leader [Mohammed Morsi] said no to Israel, no to America. Their aggression must come to an end.”
Throughout the day’s broadcast, Al Jazeera compared Morsi’s death to the 2004 demise of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, misleadingly dubbing both to be “murder.” The network described Morsi as a “martyr” and repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that the Brotherhood leader was “slowly assassinated” by the current government headed by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in 2013.
This narrative has been advanced in the west by Human Rights Watch’s director for Middle East and North Africa Sarah Leah Whitson, who accused the Egyptian government of “criminal negligence” in providing for Morsi’s health care while in prison. The allegation drew a strong rebuke from Egyptian authorities.
“It is surprising that Whitson posted her first tweets less than 30 minutes after the death and concluded that he died as a result of medical negligence, though no evidence or information was provided to prove her allegations,” Egypt’s State Information Service said in a statement.
The Brotherhood leader was facing life in prison for sharing classified information with Qatar through Al Jazeera while in office. After the popular uprisings that led to his government’s fall in 2013, Morsi and 10 others were convicted of life sentences for leaking classified information to Qatari authorities through journalists at Al Jazeera’s Cairo bureau. Morsi and Brotherhood compatriots were also charged with providing secret assistance to foreign militant groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps — as well as for his role in a 2011 break from Wadi el-Natrun prison.
The blatantly pro-Muslim Brotherhood network stated that the only two heads of states who had condemned Morsi’s ‘murder’ were the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the Turkish dictator, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. No surprise there, alas, as Erdogan has become the new godfather of the Brotherhood.
For most of the day, Al Jazeera’s featured guest was Erdogan, a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and the largest jailer of journalists in the world. Erdogan described el-Sisi’s Egyptian government as a “tyranny,” and lashed out at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — two Islamic countries that strongly support Sisi against the Brotherhood — for remaining silent with respect to Morsi’s death.
Throughout its news bulletins, the Qatari media outlet strongly criticized Cairo for allowing a reporter from Israeli national television to cover the event and tour the streets of the Egyptian capital, claiming that the reporter was “inaccurate” when he stated that Egyptian people were not moved by Morsi’s death.
This latest controversy comes amid renewed scrutiny of the Qatari network in the United States.
On Capitol Hill, Al Jazeera has recently come under fire from members of Congress who are urging the Qatari state-controlled outlet to register with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). Kremlin-funded Russia Today registered under FARA in 2017 and has since been denied press credentials by the Congressional Press Association.
“If any question remained about whether Al Jazeera is an independent news network or an organ of radical Islamist propaganda, it has now been put to rest,” wrote Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) in the Washington Examiner this month. As the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo has reported, Bergman had a subsequent testy exchange over the issue with an attorney at DLA Piper, a prominent law firm that has been retained by Al Jazeera. The congressman called out the law firm’s “heavy-handed attempt to intimidate a Member of Congress to advance the interests of a foreign government that promotes Islamic extremism and anti-Semitism.”