How AJ+ Is Preying on Our Impressionability

Media and news in the digital age is all consumption and minimal digestion. Outlets such as NowThis and ATTN dismiss journalistic efficacy and contextual research with brief, 2-3 minute videos of cherry-picked current events that dwell over a few facts without providing the meat of a valid story. This often ignites flames on social media, with these reports garnering hundreds of thousands of shares and millions of views within a matter of hours, utilizing the users as tools to spread a one-sided narrative of an often multi-dimensional issue.

Their work in imbuing users with emotion while often remaining deficit of any facts and research has proven successful. Those who watch are impassioned, and plea for a solution to whatever the video contends — that is, until the next video is created and the preceding clip fizzles and is tossed into the digital junkpile.

Qatari sponsored network Al Jazeera has taken notes on this, and in response, they have conceived of their own NowThis incarnate: AJ+, a bite-sized news mass-producer that preys on the demographic of impressionable consumers. With videos lambasting homophobia and sexism (in excitedly serious, bold black and yellow helvetica fonts) such as “About North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Laws”, they’ve managed to insert themselves into this non-reporting news game by flaring those LGBT-pride, feminist sparks within all of us millenials (despite, of course, the fact that the country that sponsors AJ+ also deems homosexuality a punishable offense and can result in up to 5 years in prison).

They’ve also taken the opportunity to exploit this new system of surface level broadcasting to demonize and delegitimize one of Al Jazeera’s most oft targets of media bias and misrepresentation: Israel.

In their videos about the Jewish State, they capitalize on ignorance surrounding the Israeli-Arab Conflict as well as millennials’ insatiable thirst for this kind of reporting

By conflating anti-Israel vitriol with these snippets of news, they’re effectively disseminating propaganda that reduces the conflict to a matter of minutes. In one video, they take the past 68 years and squeeze it into a tiny, fallacious little cartoon entitled, “Where Did The Palestinians Go?”. In it, AJ+ makes erroneous claims, including that the Palestinians within Israel were not given rights until 1967, that their treatment is akin to second-class citizens, and that they receive no political representation.

In truth, Palestinians within Israel (or, as many refer to themselves as, Arab-Israelis)  were granted full citizenship in 1949, they receive more democratic rights than in the West Bank, Gaza, or for that matter almost any Arab country (unless you consider criminalizing homosexuality and stoning women as democratic rights), and they are represented by a large Arab party in the Knesset which they democratically voted for. They are also represented by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza (both of which have withheld elections from the Palestinians for over a decade).

It also omits the countless efforts and attempts to put forward peace agreements by the Israeli government, ignoring Two-State Solutions put forth as recent as 2008.

Another viral clip was that of an “IDF soldier stealing a Palestinian girl’s bike in Hebron in the occupied West Bank”. However, shouldn’t one note the current division of Hebron by the PA and the IDF? Essentially, Hebron is split into two factions, the Palestinian controlled H1, and the Israeli controlled H2. If one were to try and contextualize the situation and open a map, then they would see the clear division that leaves Hebron widely controlled by the Palestinians, with the Jewish Hebron a mere sliver of the Palestinian section. Since the Palestinian side of Hebron is under PA government rule, it would mean that the video was either fabricated by AJ+, or that the soldier in question is a Palestinian (either way, it implicates their egregious deception).

Also, it should be noted that the term “occupied West Bank” is a misnomer that gleefully doctors one’s perception of the West Bank. By dwindling the complicated and often challenging question of occupation into this little phrase, it is remiss regarding the 40% of the West Bank that is still controlled by the Palestinians, and that 98% of those Palestinians reside in areas controlled by the PA. Though Palestinian grievances should always be heard, these statistics must be taken into account when considering the situation.

Criticism of Israel is often credible, and can greatly advance Israel as a democratic nation to take more progressive action both domestically and internationally. However, AJ+ is disregarding the notion that news reporting should be free of bias as well as contrived research, and if they are going to embed their opinions into the media, it should be done carefully with provisional evidence and liable elucidation so as not to hold Israel to an unattainable standard that no other country (including Syria, China, Sudan, Myanmar, the Palestinian Authority itself or Hamas, etc.) is being held to by AJ+. This kind of double standard is blatantly antisemitic and bigoted and provides no actual solution for either side to this decades-old dilemma.

It seems that, as millennials, our heartstrings are easily pulled by the kind of reporting that minimizes issues regularly orbiting the news cycle. We slam the “share” button with immense fervor and little heed for conclusivity. Yet, it is this kind of journalism, especially that of AJ+, that should be wholly disregarded until the sources rebuke previously made claims and pledge towards less bias in their practices.

About the Author
Joel Danilewitz is currently a senior at Harriton High School and an alum of the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. He is also an intern with the advocacy organization StandWithUs.
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