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UAE slams Al Jazeera for anti-Semitism, inciting hate

Foreign affairs minister Anwar Gargash accused the broadcaster of promoting 'anti-Semitic violence'
Al Jazeera's logo, in the Doha offices (AFP)

A top UAE official on Wednesday accused Qatari broadcast giant Al Jazeera of anti-Semitism, discrimination and inciting religious hate, in a rebuttal to UN accusations that the United Arab Emirates and its allies are attacking freedom of expression.

The United Nations has warned that demands that Qatar close Al Jazeera by a rival Saudi Arabian-led alliance, which includes the UAE, violate basic freedoms.

The Emirates' state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, hit back in a letter to UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein.

In it, Gargash wrote that Al Jazeera had "promoted anti-Semitic violence by broadcasting sermons by the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi".

Qaradawi, he added, had "praised Hitler, described the Holocaust as 'divine punishment,' and called on Allah to 'take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people... and kill them, down to the very last one'."

The letter was published in a statement from the UAE National Media Council.

Saudi Arabia and its allies cut all ties with Qatar last month over accusations the country funded Islamist extremists and was too close to Shia-ruled Iran, sealing the emirate's only land border and ordering its citizen to return home.

The closure of Al Jazeera is one of 13 wide-ranging demands the alliance placed on Doha as conditions for lifting the "blockade," now in its second month.

On 30 June, al-Hussein said the demand that Al Jazeera be shut down represented "an unacceptable attack on the right to freedom of expression and opinion".

Gargash's letter, dated 9 July but released Wednesday, also accuses Al Jazeera of having "repeatedly crossed the threshold of incitement to hostility, violence and discrimination" and lists multiple examples, among them broadcasting the speeches of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

In late June, a prominent Emirati cleric was criticised for anti-Semitism after he accused Al Jazeera of being used by Jews to undermine Islam.

Waseem Youssef, originally from Jordan, is one of the most important religious figures in the UAE, delivering the Friday prayers at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which is owned by the government.

Speaking on a TV show on 13 June, Youssef attempted to draw parallels with a story from the time of the Prophet Muhammad, 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.

"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, thus falsifying the facts. This is how newspapers operate today."

"This is why Shimon Peres went hand in hand with the Al Jazeera network,” he added, referring to the former Israeli president.

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