Al Jazeera’s Israeli fan club

Gideon Levy, a prominent journalist at the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has been criticized and praised in his home country for writing a column in which he describes Al Jazeera English’s correspondent in Gaza, Ayman Mohyeldin, as his “war hero.”

“Whoever recoils from the grotesque coverage by Channel 2’s Roni Daniel is invited to tune in to this wise and considered broadcaster,” Levy writes in a column this week. “Whoever recoils from our heroic tales, bias, whitewashed words, Rorschach images of bombing, IDF Spokesman-distributed photographs, propagandists’ excuses, self-satisfied generals and half-truths is invited to tune in. Whoever wants to know what is really happening, not only of a postponed wedding in Sderot and a cat forgotten in Ashkelon. Watching is sometimes hard, bloodcurdlingly hard, but reality is no less hard right now.”

Readers can judge the quality of Mohyeldin’s reportage themselves by watching his clips on You Tube or on Al Jazeera’s English website. I personally find him much more credible than some of their other correspondents – Avi Lewis comes to mind. But you won’t be able to watch anyone from Al Jazeera on Canadian television. The thought police at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission have ruled that any cable or satellite company that broadcasts Al Jazeera must prevent the broadcast of any “abusive comment.” No company can afford the time, or the risk, this task would require, so none is carrying the channel.

This raises an interesting and obvious question: If Al Jazeera is widely available, and watched, in Israel, if a writer at Israel’s most important newspaper can praise Al Jazeera while Israel is at war with an Arab Islamist movement, why have lobby groups such as the Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith sought to prevent its distribution in Canada? And why do Canadians accept that the bureaucrats at the CRTC should decide how much abusive commentary we can handle?