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Don't Bomb Al Jazeera
By Sherine Bahaa

"It was not as much surprising news as it was peculiar timing," one Arab observer remarked during an interview on Al-Jazeera this week. 

For many, reports that United States President George Bush has considered bombing Al-Jazeera fits only too well with norms of the US administration and its neo-cons. By now, their method of dealing with any irk -- whether person, place or institution -- has become somewhat familiar: just bomb it out of existence.

One has to view this recent incident in the same frame as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and secret prisons scattered throughout Europe. And US aggression against Al-Jazeera -- whether its offices, reporters, or cameramen -- carries a long history.

Al-Jazeera journalists have been harassed, denigrated, condemned and, when captured, accused of being Al-Qaeda operatives.

Like CNN in the 1991 Gulf War, the Arabic Al-Jazeera news network has became a main part of the story of the present war in Iraq. According to Al-Jazeera, the number of subscribers to the channel in Europe has doubled since the start of the war. The channel has posed a comprehensive alternative to Western-style reporting of the war.

In fact, Al-Jazeera drastically changed the face of Arab broadcasting when it was first launched in 1996 from the ashes of a BBC joint venture with a Saudi broadcaster. The station is expected to inaugurate the opening of its English transmission by March 2006.

The plot thickened last week after the British tabloid the Mirror reported news gleaned from a leaked top-secret British government memo. The five-page transcript contained a note of a meeting which took place on 16 April between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. At the time, the US assault against Iraqi insurgents in Falluja was at its height.

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