By: Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Although Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and members of her administration, including Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud have been defending Palestinians and condemning Israel and Jews, Qatari ruler, being the key patron and funder of Palestinians including mega-terror outfit Hamas has been continuously using Al Jazeera against Prime?Minister Sheikh Hasina and key figures in her government through vile media assault. It may be mentioned here that to continue anti-Hasina media assault on Al Jazeera, Qatari authorities have placed several anti-Awami League individuals such as David Bergman, a British journalist at forefront while Al Jazeera's Bangladesh representative, Tanvir Chowdhury is openly running massive propaganda on social media platforms.
Following January 7 general election, Al Jazeera operatives are frantically trying to label the election as "flawed" while its representatives such as David Bergman and Tanvir Chowdhury are branding Awami League government as "illegal".
Surprisingly, such notorious bids of Al Jazeera cronies remain un-countered and unattended by the members and activists of Awami League.
Interestingly, while the entire team of Al Jazeera in Bangladesh, London and Qatar are making frantic bids in demonizing Sheikh Hasina and Awami League, they are trying to promote Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ideological ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). One of the many reasons behind Al Jazeera's bias towards BNP is its strong support towards Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.
According to media reports, in 2006 then coalition government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami named a bridge as 'Hezbollah Bridge' honoring the Lebanese terrorist group. The bridge is located in the southern part of the South Asian country, spanning the Batakhali River in an area known as Cox's Bazaar. Junior communications minister Salahuddin Ahmed named the bridge after the Lebanese group at the height of Hezbollah's war with Israel.
The bridge was renamed in 2013 by the Awami League government.
Bangladesh's former Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan and a senior leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) issued several strong statements on the war, calling Israel's actions "state terrorism" and "religious terrorism" and accusing the United States of sponsoring it.
Due to such track records of BNP, Qatari Amir possibly considers it as favorite and capable of turning a secularist Bangladesh into a Sharia state or even Caliphate. It may be mentioned here that BNP's acting chairman Tarique Rahman, who has been living on self-exile in the United Kingdom since 2007 has repeatedly said – once his party returns to power, he will establish "Islamic democracy" in Bangladesh. Experts believe, beneath this vague term of "Islamic democracy", Tarique Rahman is indirectly expressing his willingness of turning Bangladesh into a Sharia nation.
Al Jazeera's rogue journalism
In an article in the American Journalism Review (AJR), Sherry Rocchiardi noted that critics of Qatari-broadcast network Al Jazeera have "assailed what they see as anti-Semitism, anti-American bias in the channel's news content". She has earlier criticized an Al Jazeera report that Jewish employees of 9/11 targets were informed of the attacks beforehand, a report which was also criticized in an October 2001 editorial of The New York Times.
Ricchiardi cited the former Al Jazeera weekly show Sharia and Life, hosted by Yusuf Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric who argues clearly and consistently that "hatred of Israel and Jews is Islamically sanctioned".
Al Jazeera hosted a 2008 on-air birthday party for Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese terrorist convicted of killing four Israelis who was released in July of that year. Later this Qatari-broadcast network, which also is known as terror-broadcast network, admitted that its coverage of Kuntar's release violated its code of ethics. But again, Al Jazeera's Beirut bureau chief said "Brother Samir [Kuntar], we wish to celebrate your birthday with you" and called him a "pan-Arab hero".
In May 2019, AJ+ [Al Jazeera Plus] produced a video denying and minimizing the Holocaust. Later it said it had "swiftly deleted" the video, stating that it had "violated the editorial standards of the network". The video stated that "[the] number [of Jews murdered in the Holocaust] had been exaggerated and 'adopted by the Zionist movement', and that Israel is the 'biggest winner' from the genocide.
Meanwhile, according to media reports, the US State Department is offering up to US$10 million for information on five accused Hamas financiers, including Sudanese businessman Abdelbasit Hamza whose extensive business ties in Europe were recently exposed by ICIJ and Israeli news outlet Shomrim.
The department announced on January 12, 2024 that it was seeking any information that could be used to identify and disrupt the financial networks underpinning the Palestinian militant group, designated a terrorist organization by the United States.
Hamza, an ally of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, was sanctioned by the US following the October 7 Hamas pogrom in Israel for managing its investments and for his involvement in the transfer of almost US$20 million to the terrorist organization.
The almost US$20 million sum included directed payments to a senior Hamas financial officer, according to the State Department. Hamza is also accused by the US of having "longstanding financing ties" to Al Qaeda and its founder Osama bin Laden through companies in Sudan.
In December, an investigation by ICIJ and Shomrim revealed that Hamza has maintained business operations in Europe for nearly two decades, including owning a lucrative stake in a Cyprus-based holding company that mines Egyptian gold.
Following Al Bashir's fall from power in 2019, Hamza sold a significant portion of his shares in Matz Holdings but maintains a 10% stake through the Zawaya Group for Development and Investment, a Sudan-based company that was sanctioned alongside a Spanish real estate company by the US Treasury Department in October. Hamza is the beneficial owner of both.
The reward offered by the US follows four rounds of sanctions targeting Hamas and may be provided for information on the organization's revenue sources or key financial backers, as well as financial institutions that facilitate its transactions.
Hamza was named in the State Department's announcement along with three Hamas operatives involved in Hamas' investment network in Turkey and one operative linked to Iranian entities.
The four others are Amer Kamal Sharif Alshawa, Ahmed Sadu Jahleb, Walid Mohammed Mustafa Jadallah and Muhammad Ahmad 'Abd Al-Dayim Nasrallah. All five were previously designated global terrorists by the Treasury Department.
As the US State Department and other agencies are looking for Hamas contacts, funders and patrons worldwide, possibly with the plan of punishing them through sanctions, Al Jazeera member and Qatari-asset David Bergman is contacting the US agencies with information about Dr Hasan Mahmud, former information minister and now foreign minister of Bangladesh by branding him as "antisemitic". It may be mentioned here that, anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred is considered a serious crime by most of the Western nations, including the United States.
According to media report, commenting on David Bergman, Dr Hasan Mahmud said, "... People have rejected BNP's call to resist poll. Now they are urging to boycott the election and employed some Jewish agents including David Bergman to make the poll questionable".
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, and Editor, Blitz, a newspaper publishing from Bangladesh since 2003. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers. Follow him on X @Salah_Shoaib