Taha A. Lemkhir
A voice from Morocco

BBC ARABIC and sisters: a state of nonconformity with mother ships

Like if an American franchise restaurant in the Middle East operating on behalf of an American fast-food company and displaying its symbol, but when you get inside you realize that they are serving dishes of Saudi kabsa and Egyptian ful medames.

Arabic-speaking western TV channels like BBC Arabic, France 24, Sky News Arabia and others,which are supposed to observe an editorial line totally different from mainstream Islamist and Pan-Arab media—that enjoy absolute control over the information and its interpretation in the Arabsphere— seem to staggeringly contradict the convictions and virtues of their original English counterparts.

Since they were catapulted into the Arabsphere there was strong hope that those independent and unrestrained channels would bring a new vision and ideas from the civilized and enlightened world to counteract the Islamized and tabooed Arab media, and introduce to the confined and highly indoctrinated unilingual Arab viewers a new horizon to contemplate and tackle from different perspectives their most argued topics and burning issues, and most importantly to expose them to the repressed informations and defamed facts that fascist regimes and sociocultural norms are used to suppress and refuse to debate unless through an ideological glass.

But in process of time it became clear that those satellite channels branded with Western liberalism and freedom, expediently conformed themselves to mainstream narration, capitulated to the totalitarian aura of the region and soon they were solubilized as an undistinguished component in the Arab media makeup. Remarkably, since their inception they have considered the Qatari state-controlled broadcaster Aljazeera and the Saudi-run Alarabiya TV (the two major Wahhabi TV channels in the lead) as a well-established models of success that they just had to follow in their footsteps instead of inventing the wheel. And they deciphered the code of success in this region:

1. Never dare to challenge well-established Islamist dogmas or break medieval taboos.

2. Never show sympathy with regard to Israel or ever provide unbiased coverage to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Furthermore the Islamist and pan-Arab narratives are screened by those channels in various ways: through political programs, journalists reports, documentaries, manipulation of information, the selectivity of topics, guests, experts, analysts, etc. The Arab crews (coming from different Arab nationalities) which in effect run those TV stations are (a good deal of them) clearly not trained for professional journalism, and often merge their convictions with their profession. Many professional cadres were headhunted from other Arab channels and are known for their ideological baggage that they hauled with them to their new posts.

A quick look into the ongoing discussions at the digital hang-out places of some of those journalists (who constitute the manpower in the Arabic-speaking western channels), on Twitter for example, tell us a lot about their views and opinions that are in stark contrast with western values that the English and Latin sections of their channels promote.

Also by searching furthermore in the list of their followers and whom they are following as for the materials they retweet and causes they support; their reflections on events and their ideological aspirations leave no doubt that they are, in general, orbiting the same universe of dark ideas and relating themselves with the same fascist network that has been strangling the Middle East for decades.

Of course they have certain limits they can’t exceed; they know they have to fasten the leash in some issues, to keep a fair distance where others venture freely. For instance they do not call terrorist killed by an Israeli air strike a martyr like Aljazeera (the first to introduce the term in its coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict) or describe Israel as an entity and not a state like Alarabiya TV, or give airtime to strident preachers of hate such as “Sheichsführer-SS ” Youssef al-Qaradawi and his new successor the Mauritanian troglodyte Muhammad Al-Hassan Ould Al-Dadou.

However, when they have to deal with the Israel it is apparent that they are not able to get out from their ideological clothes. One can still notice the bad temper in their gesticulations and the arguments they implement when they engage with someone who is in favor for the normalization of relations with the Hebrew state.

A social media program called “BBC trending” is a show that doesn’t exceed five minutes and usually discusses a heated subject or popular event that caught the Arab social media attention. The presenter displays a slide of selected Arab comments over the discussed subject. The nature of that program makes it easier for the producer when discussing an issue dealing with Israel to choose antisemetic comments and display them as opinions of random commentators. That can be noticed frequently in many episodes of that program, like the one of Israeli comedian Naom Shuster, or the one about the stepping on Israeli flag in Amman  by a Jordanian official, or the episodes that discussed the first chief rabbi in the United Arab Emirates and many others following the same pattern.

One doesn’t have to be obvious to convey a message of hatred. On the contrary, it is possible to run an ardent antisemitic show without uttering a single word against the Jews. The display of purportedly random offensive tweets and comments could produce a deliberate composition of a full and conscious antisemitic text.

I would like to give to the readers two more other examples: the first one is about a certain Laila Odeh, a Palestinian journalist in France 24 Arabic who uses her Twitter account  to spread dark rumors and bombard Israel on a daily basis, and incite against its citizens without any reaction so far from the French channel she works for. Now, how could it be possible to expect from an anti-Israel fanatic to report on Israeli and Palestinian matters without suppressing unwanted facts or adding unverified elements to the news story?

The other is the Lebanese Giselle Khoury, a Christian Arab nationalist and the widow of Lebanese writer Samir Kassir (assassinated by the Syrian regime in 2005) who presents the talk show Almashhad (the scene) on BBC Arabic, and where she used to host prominent figures in the Middle East mainly  belonging to the pan-Arab and Islamist milieu and known particularly for their jingoism and open hatred to Israel, even terrorists like Naim Qassem who is the second in command of Hezbollah with the title of deputy secretary-general and Hamas leader Khalid Mishal, calling their movements Muquawama or resistance (the title terror groups use to describe their terrorist activities).

Her latest interview was with Michel Nawfal who was one of a group of journalists who accompanied Ayatollah Khoumeini in his return to Iran, and a one-time media consultant to Palestinian gangster Khalil al Wazir. The interview depicted a glorious if not mystical portrait of Khomeini— a man responsible for the killing of thousands of secular dissidents who opposed his theocratic rule. let alone the suspicious timing of the interview against the background of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran (Khouri has recently received the Legion of Honour (Chevalier de l’ odre national de la legion d’honneur) from the French ambassador to Lebanon.)

As yet those channels are systematically obscuring the Israeli point of view. there wasn’t a single israeli intellectual who was invited to an interview in those channels, not once (the invitations that IDF spokesmen receive from those channels to comment exclusively on military conflict are carefully designed to depict the army as a killing machine in a broader biased coverage.) And even though Israel is an essential part of their scope that covers the MENA region, it is blatantly neglected. That’s equivalent to an intellectual extermination of a whole nation and its culture.

About the Author
Taha Lemkhir is a Moroccan writer and photographer. Degree in Arabic literature and Islamic studies. Critic of Islamism. languages: Arabic, English and Spanish. He Lived part of his life as an Islamist— until enlightenment flashed through his heart.
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