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Al-Jazeera, tool of the elite?

3 April 2011 3,424 views No Comment

By Max Ajl, March 26th, 2011.

MRZine has an interesting article up by Sukant Chandan on the contradictions within Al-Jazeera. Yoshie smartly pointed out a few weeks ago that the station is the tool of the Qatari ruling class, and like any ruling class, it wants something very simple: it wants to continue to rule. The Gulf Cooperation Council petro-bourgeoisie knows that opposition to the Zionist project animates Arab social mobilization. It knows that the Egyptian opposition was forged in the crucible of solidarity with the 2nd Palestinian Intifada, and that opposition to Zionism binds Arab working classes together across religious and national lines. So they are very logical: transform Zionism’s nakedly racist, settler-colonial apparatus of control in the West Bank and Gaza into a stable guided democracy – or dictatorship – run by the PA which can take on the task of repressing its own, much as the Gulf ruling classes are doing in Bahrain. Zionism is very profitable for large segments of global capital, but capital in the Gulf States is fixed spatially and geographically – it’s in the subsoil, in petroleum, and the GCC states must be aware that the US strategy of modulated and forced instability to maximize oil profits is dangerous. Hence the Arab League proposal in 2002 for a withdrawal to the 1967 lines and full normalization with the Zionist entity.

Al-Jazeera plays a very interesting role in all of this: one the one hand, they run pieces by Mark Levine, a decently radical scholar, and also by writers like Ali Abunimah and Matthew Cassel, who I like but who scrub class pretty thoroughly from their analyses. Chandan writes that in coverage of the Egyptian insurrection,

Whereas AJE censored out just about all the anti-imperialist and pro-Palestinian/anti-Zionist slogans and sentiments of the masses at Tahrir, Press TV accentuated these voices from Tahrir, voices which were very loud and massive in their numbers.  One thing is for certain, despite a changing situation in the region, the West, especially the USA, wants to make sure that the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt will never turn anti-imperialist, and AJE has been an integral part of keeping these struggles within the boundaries set by the West.

I agree with this analysis, although I think the tensions are slightly different than Chandan says they are. Most Al-Jazeera staffers probably want justice in Palestine, while its management and owners most likely want to channel that sentiment into support for a negotiated settlement that ossifies existing socio-economic inequality into a system of neo-colonial as opposed to settler-colonial domination. Chandan writes that “AJE no longer has the Palestinians’ interests in its editorial line,” but I think the situation is slightly different: the institution never cared for Palestinians except in that vague sense Arab bourgeoisie liberals care/shrug about Palestine: they say ya haram when Israel carries out some barbarity in Khan Younis or al-Zaytoon as it has been doing this week, then go back to the coffee shop in Zamalek. What the channel’s sponsors care about is a settlement that has a veneer of justice so that the masses will go back to their tired stupor of helping — or at least not hindering — ruling class accumulation. Same thing this prick wants.

I like Rami Zurayk much better (whose blog I’ve been meaning to plug for a while): “The rights of all people to live in freedom and dignity is inalienable, non-negotiable and not open to compromise…This is the essence of our struggle against Arab dictatorships and against the zionist colonial project in Palestine.” As he goes on to ask, “I understand the necessity of having a broad based concept in order to gather people around an activity, but isn’t who you gather just as important and relevant?” Compare that sentiment to what Idrees Ahmad has been posting at Pulse, trying to make a political project…with whom exactly? He has not thought this through, but the answer is people even closer to fascism in sentiment than the people behind Sara Palin, and people whose hatred of Israel’s contamination of American purity goes hand-in-hand with hatred of Muslims and brown people. You want the right-wing social movement of your dark imaginings? If you get it, that could break the Special Relationship (but maybe not). But there will be pogroms along with it if it has any power, and Arabs in America will be the very first targets. If you dance with the devil, he always chooses the music.

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