Sherrie Gossett | Staff Writer | Thursday, December 8, 2005
Compared with similar protests in other cities, this one stood out for its strident anti-Bush rhetoric.
The Al Jazeera employees chanted epithets against Bush, calling him a mafia leader and an enemy of civilization. "[Bush] should collapse and be trampled on," the employees chanted.
The protests took place on Thursday, Nov. 24, and were mentioned in passing in some media reports, although the content of the protests was not covered in detail. Cybercast News Service obtained a translation and video of the protests from the Middle East Media Research Institute. (Click here to view video of protests)
"Down with fascist America and with the terrorist administration," chanted severeal dozen employees gathered before television cameras in the West Bank city. The protest was broadcast on Al Jazeera the same day.
The allegations that sparked the protests appeared in a story published Tuesday, Nov. 22, in the Daily Mirror, a London tabloid.
The report quoted unidentified government sources as saying that a top secret memo revealed President Bush had discussed bombing Al Jazeera's headquarters in a conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House in April 2004.
According to the Daily Mirror's report, Blair talked Bush out of it, warning him it would create big problems. The report said the U.S. blames Al Jazeera for fueling the Iraqi insurgency.
The allegations made worldwide headlines. Some politicians called on the British government to release the memo, which is said to be a transcript of the Bush-Blair meeting.
The protesters in Ramallah carried banners bearing Al Jazeera's company logo. A protest leader stood behind one banner, written in both English and Arabic, that read, "Push Bush Out of My Life." Another banner in English and Arabic demanded an official investigation into charges that Bush had considered attacking the Al Jazeera offices.
The employees denounced Bush for his "criminal ideas" and "destructive policies" and said the president was an "enemy of the [United] States."
"Oh, my comrade, oh, my friend, George Bush is not normal," they chanted. The employees' response to the protest leader's instigation appeared somewhat reserved.
"Al Jazeera with cleverness, with its experience and expertise has exposed Bush and (his) despicability," chanted the protest leader. "This channel is for all people."
Al Jazeera employees in Beijing and Cairo also reportedly protested Bush's alleged remarks. At the company's headquarters in Qatar, employees signed a petition demanding an official investigation.
When asked to comment on statements made at the Ramallah protest, Frederick Jones, spokesman for the Bush administration's National Security Council, said he had not heard about the incident. "This is the first I'm hearing about this, and from your description this is something that does not merit response from the White House," Jones said.
Jones declined to comment further on the allegations that President Bush discussed bombing Al Jazeera headquarters and reiterated White House spokesman Scott McLellan's previous statement, labeling the accusations "outlandish."
Media reaction to the allegations has been mixed, with some pundits suggesting the accusations are probably true, and others dismissing them as uncorroborated and unlikely.
British journalist Brendan O'Neill said journalists were understandably "outraged" over the allegations. Saudi journalist Mshari Al-Zaydi, writing in London's Al-Sharq al-Awsat, likened the Daily Mirror report to a "conspiracy theory." Al Jazeera has "many aspects for which one can praise it," Al-Zaydi wrote, but it has a "bias toward the fundamentalist camp" and is guilty of inciting "the Arab street, which already has open wounds."
Meanwhile, Lord Goldsmith, the United Kingdom's attorney-general, has banned newspapers from publishing details of the memo under the Official Secrets Act.
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