On March 18, the Palestinian-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following opinion piece by Toufiq al-Rabahi: “Thank God we lived to see the day when Israel decided to boycott an Arab television channel and not the other way around. Now we are waiting to see the day when Al-Qa’idah will decide to boycott the unbalanced Arab media. Before this time came, the Israelis used to seek out Arab channels and beg for an appearance for only a few seconds, while the Arabs, with their television channels (despite their deplorable state), used to show arrogance toward the Israelis and place sanctions against those who allowed anything Israeli to appear on the screen, even if by mistake.
“Now, the Israeli officials have decided to boycott the most prominent Arab television channels, which not only gave them seconds or minutes on the air, but hours monthly and weekly to defend their viewpoint and justify their crimes. This appearance on Al-Jazeera among other channels, made us become acquainted with the faces of Israeli officials to the point of considering them one of our own... Al-Jazeera offered the Israeli officials so much that David Ben Gurion is wishing it well from his grave. So why are his grandchildren boycotting it? I don’t think that Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the Gaza massacre solely justifies this decision. The Qatari channel has always provided a coverage filled with emotions when addressing the suffering of the Palestinians...
“One can say that this coverage was biased in favor of the Palestinians but was never against the Israelis and never meant to raise their anger. The Israelis knew that as soon as the picture show was over, their spokespersons would be asked to comment and maybe even undermine what was seen and heard about these images. Therefore, this boycotting might not exit the context of a blackmail attempt exercised by the Israeli government against Al-Jazeera. With time, the Israeli government no longer perceived itself as a strange entity planted in a hostile environment. It started to perceive itself as part of this environment and its structure and think it enjoys the same rights as all its other components.
“Therefore, it is dealing with Al-Jazeera like any other Arab government even though the absence of the Israeli officials from its screen harmed them and not the channel... Through their angry reaction, they are giving the impression they are not seeking any act of favoritism but objective coverage that does not think of them as an occupation state destroying homes over the heads of children and women. I believe that the decision of the Israeli government will be a landmark in the region’s history and the relations between the governments and the media institutions and outlets. In another 30 or 40 years, and after Israel joins the Arab League, the Al-Qa’idah organization will decide to boycott Al-Jazeera under the pretext that it is not fairly covering its activities around the world.
“[On the other hand], I saw a report during a newscast on Dubai Television talking about the preparations in Syria to host the Arab summit in two weeks. The report talked about the Media Center and its ability to meet the needs of around one thousand journalists. However, I don’t know what these journalists will do since the summit sessions are closed and are besieged by high walls and security and intelligence bodies... Meanwhile, the report did not talk about what the Syrian media outlets were doing to secure the success of the summit, since on such occasions, the contribution to securing success becomes a national duty undertaken by the local (and ally) media outlets regardless of the hosting state.
“Many questions came to my mind as I was watching the report: What will the Syrian television do for example to convince the people that the summit is successful knowing that all the Saudi media outlets and many Lebanese media outlets doomed it to failure? From the past experiences and the past summits, we only remember which Arab kings and presidents attended, which didn’t and why. This was the way to measure success apart from the results since the Arabs washed their hands of that a long time ago... In these circumstances, the official Syria requires a massive media machine capable of turning bad into good and vice versa, of convincing the world that yogurt is black and that the summit has succeeded.
“Who will do Syria justice while its rotten media is ten light years back and with only Bashar al-Assad and Dr. Imad Fawzi al-Shu’aibi? Certainly, one should not consider Al-Arabiya channel but maybe Al-Jazeera channel which enjoys a silent love affair with Syria. There is also Al-Alam channel and Al-Manar, but the first is less widespread and the second is blockaded technically and politically. Therefore, Syria has lost the image and news battle before it even started...” - Al-Quds al-Arabi, United Kingdom