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In anti-Semitic tirade, prominent UAE cleric says Al-Jazeera is Israeli-backed

'This is why Shimon Peres went hand in hand with the Al-Jazeera network'
The Al-Jazeera channel has been at the centre of the ongoing Gulf dispute (Reuters)

One of the most prominent clerics in the United Arab Emirates has launched into an anti-Semitic tirade against the media, singling out Al-Jazeera for being Israeli-backed.

Waseem Youssef, originally from Jordan, is one of the most important religious figures in the UAE.

He delivers the Friday prayers at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which is owned by the government, and has a television show on Abu Dhabi TV.

Speaking on 13 June, Youssef attempted to draw parallels with a story from the time of the Prophet, saying that Jews have long used the media in an effort to control Muslims.

"Media was the first weapon of the Jews in their efforts to make the Muslims doubt their faith," he said.

"Look at the wickedness of the Jews ... See how they relied on the media. Media is power," he said.

"The Jews relied upon several things in their media. First of all, falsification of facts; when they heard a news item, they would add a hundred lies to it, this falsifying the facts. This is how newspapers operate today."

He continued: "Control of the media is one of the weapons used for the destruction of the Islamic nation. On the religious and national levels.

This is why Shimon Peres went hand in hand with the Al-Jazeera network

- Sheikh Waseem Youssef

"This is why Shimon Peres went hand in hand with the Al-Jazeera network,” he said, referring to the former Israeli president and the Qatari-owned TV channel, which has become emblematic of an ongoing dispute between Doha and Riyadh.

As part of its demands for ending a now three-week old blockade on Qatar, Riyadh - and allies the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain – have told Doha it must close down the channel.

The demand is an "unacceptable attack" on the right to freedoms of expression and opinion, the United Nations human rights chief said on Friday.

UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein is "extremely concerned by the demand that Qatar close down the Al-Jazeera network, as well as other affiliated media outlets," his spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing.

"Whether or not you watch it, like it, or agree with its editorial standpoints, Al-Jazeera's Arabic and English channels are legitimate, and have many millions of viewers. The demand that they be summarily closed down is, in our view, an unacceptable attack on the right to freedom of expression and opinion," Colville said. 

Colville stressed that countries that take issue with items broadcast on other countries' television channels "are at liberty to publicly debate and dispute them".

"To insist that such channels be shut down is extraordinary, unprecedented and clearly unreasonable," he said.

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