Yesterday was the first anniversary of the arrest and incarceration of three al-Jazeera journalists in Cairo. Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were charged with broadcasting false news and aiding a 'terrorist organisation' (the Muslim Brotherhood). Al-Jazeera rejects the charges. 'They’re not terrorists, they’re journalists,' Lindsey Hilsum, the Channel 4 News international editor, told me at a protest outside the Egyptian embassy in London. 'Everybody knows that. President El-Sisi knows that. It’s completely insane that they’re still in prison.'
A video of the imprisoned al-Jazeera journalist Abdullah El-Shamy was released online two days ago. The 26-year-old, arrested by the Egyptian authorities last summer, has yet to be charged. He has been on hunger strike for more than 100 days. According to his family, he has lost a third of his body weight, dropping from 108 kg to 68 kg. In the video, he says the Egyptian regime is responsible for his condition, and will be responsible if he dies. He says he has received no medical care in prison, and his requests to be seen by an independent doctor have been denied.
The 'Palestine Papers' being published this week by al-Jazeera confirm in every detail what many Palestinians have suspected for a long time: their leaders have been collaborating in the most shameful fashion with Israel and the United States. Their grovelling is described in grim detail. The process, though few accepted it at the time, began with the much-trumpeted Oslo Accords, described by Edward Said in the LRB at the time as a ‘Palestinian Versailles'. Even he would have been taken aback by the sheer scale of what the PLO leadership agreed to surrender: virtually everything except their own salaries. Their weaknesses, inadequacies and cravenness are now in the public domain.
US embassy cables released yesterday by Wikileaks describe al-Jazeera as ‘a useful tool for the station's political masters’ and claim that the channel altered its output to suit the interests of Qatar’s foreign policy. These allegations, which al-Jazeera has denied, are neither new nor surprising, even if they’ve never come from such an authoritative source before. A confidential cable sent from the US Embassy in Doha to Washington in February this year quotes a conversation between the Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim (HBJ) al-Thani, and US senator John Kerry, in which HBJ says that he told the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, that Qatar would stop al-Jazeera broadcasting if Cairo would change its position on Israel-Palestinian negotiations: