LONDON: On July 8, Al Jazeera anchor Ghada Oueiss wrote an opinion article for the Washington Post in which she detailed her alleged struggle with cyberbullying campaigns on Twitter at the hands of — as she claims — droves of Saudi and Emirati bots.
While the piece demarcates what has happened to her, it fails to bring to light what her own account regularly churns out in terms of anti-Semitism as well as pure and targeted vitriol.
“This Holy Land belongs to Palestinians because Palestinians are Semitic unlike the Israeli Khazars who are occupiers,” Oueiss tweeted in late August last year to over 716,000 followers.
Later that same day, another tweet read: “An aerial photo of the Marhab fort in Khaybar, Saudi Arabia, which was a Jewish stronghold. Should they not return there instead of Palestine?”
The tweets sparked outrage across social media from both the Jewish community for its anti-Semitic sentiment, as well as the Muslim community for belittling the Prophet’s homeland of Madinah, where Khaybar is located.
"Al Jazeera, though Ghada Oueiss and others, calls for chaos in its support for militias and violence against the state and calls for hatred in any form possible to defy and distort the image of those who oppose its sponsors in Qatar and its ally Turkey,” Egypt-based media expert Hani Nasira told Arab News.
Oueiss, from Lebanon, also tweeted support for detained Saudi cleric Salman Al-Oudah, who was profiled in Arab News’ Preachers of Hate series.
In a television interview in 2006, Al-Oudah said: “The worst enemy is the Jews, and this is by consensus. When any party fights the Jews, we should rejoice out of spite for the Jews, even if Christian Lebanon, according to sectarian divisions for example, fights the Jews, and it happened. We hope that (Palestinians) defeat the Jews especially since they are oppressed in their country and their homes.”
This is not the first time an Al Jazeera journalist has been accused of anti-Semitism. In May last year, Al Jazeera’s youth channel AJ+ Arabic drew widespread condemnation over a video that was branded as “Holocaust denial” by claiming the Jews exaggerated the scale of the genocide to help establish Israel.
In 2017, the news agency’s English outlet tweeted an anti-Semitic meme known as “Happy Merchant” that showed a hook-nosed Jewish man wearing a traditional yarmulke and rubbing his hands together with the caption reading: “He, he, he, my global warming, uh, I mean, climate change scam is working out perfectly for our long term Talmudic plan of world domination.”
“Oueiss, who chose Twitter as her active platform, is a clear example of this behavior that goes against the moderate Arab axis represented by Egypt and Saudi Arabia among others,” Nasira said.
“This behavior supports the agenda of Qatar, its loyal militias and the militias with whom it shares common enemies. This is a model that does not devote consciousness or objectivity but calls for chaos, defiance, hate and controversy that do not generate anything other than the same negative values,” he said.
Apart from the anti-Semitic rhetoric tweeted by Oueiss, her aggressiveness on the social media platform is evident. From sparring with her critics to tweeting provocative statements, her timeline is flooded with controversial rhetoric.
“For a long time now, Oueiss has chosen to leave her journalism behind and become a party to the conflict,” an Arab media expert, who declined to be named, told Arab News. He added: “She has accepted to be used as a pawn in the cyber war between the two sides and is now bearing the consequences.”
Jad Melki, director of the Institute of Media Research and Training, told Arab News in a previous interview regarding the way journalists use their social media profiles that “they can’t just go out and make racist statements or specifically biased statements.”
News entities worldwide have enforced strict social media policies on their staff. The New York Times’ guidelines state that in social media posts, “journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts” the newspaper’s “journalistic reputation.”
The Washington Post’s policies and standards memo states that its journalists “must refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything — including photographs or video — that could objectively be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religions or other bias or favoritism.”