A CNN news anchor has accused Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi of using an anti-Semitic slur during a live interview after the diplomat claimed that Israelis “control the media.”
The interview began with Qureshi talking about a possible ceasefire between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel. “Israel is losing out. They’re losing the media war despite their connections,” the minister said.
Journalist Brianna Golodryga quickly asked, “What are their connections?”
Qureshi chuckled and replied, “Deep pockets.”
“What does that mean?” Golodryga asked.
“Well, they’re very influential people. I mean, they control the media,” the minister said.
The journalist responded by saying that she “would call that an anti-Semitic remark.”
The Pakistani FM doubled down, claiming that Israel has “a lot of influence and they get a lot of coverage.” He added that citizen journalism has “woken up people,” and mentioned protests in support of Palestine in countries all over the globe.
I won't be surprised if you mistake this for an SNL skit. CNN talking to Pak Foreign Minister Qureshi. 😭 pic.twitter.com/L1pPZKy7dr
— Gabbbar (@GabbbarSingh) May 21, 2021
Qureshi condemned the loss of innocent lives on both sides of the conflict, as Israel has been bombing targets in Gaza in response to a barrage of rockets launched by Hamas and other militants from Gaza towards Israeli cities.
“I will not justify any rocket attacks. And I cannot justify and I cannot condone the aerial bombardment that is taking place,” Qureshi said.
When asked about the display of anti-Semitism at pro-Palestinian rallies and the role of Hamas in starting the violence, the FM argued that “an extremist element takes advantage of the situation” when there are no talks and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands continues.
Golodryga pressed Qureshi again, accusing him of invoking “an anti-Semitic trope” earlier in the interview by claiming that Israel has great influence over the media.
“No, no. What I’m saying is, the perception – look at the perception the world has. You cannot ignore that, ma’am,” Qureshi said, to which Golodryga responded, “But that’s a wrong perception.”
“Could be wrong. But that’s the perception. Negate it by giving a balanced coverage,” Qureshi said.
The CNN journalist argued that it was up to high-ranking officials like Qureshi “to say that that’s wrong.”
“What we are saying – what is wrong is wrong, and I’m not shying away from that,” he replied, saying that countries must promote peace and dialogue to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
In its report about the interview, CNN again accused Qureshi of using an “anti-Semitic slur.”
Some, including Pakistani-born journalist and talk show host Fereeha Idrees, defended Qureshi. “He didn’t even utter the word ‘Jew’ or even made a feeble reference to it. All he said was media is controlled by Israel,” Idrees wrote on Twitter.
Biana, do you even understand the meaning of anti semetic? He didn't even utter the word "Jew" or even made a feeble reference to it. All he said was media is controlled by Israel. After bombing of @AJEnglish offices only last week, do you still want to refute the claim?
— Fereeha@abbtak (@Fereeha) May 20, 2021
Idrees pointed out that during the recent flare-up Israeli jets had levelled a high-rise building in Gaza that housed the offices of several media outlets, including AP and Al Jazeera. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warned reporters ahead of the incoming airstrike, giving them enough time to evacuate. The IDF said the building was targeted because it contained Hamas military assets.
Michael Dickson, who leads StandWithUs, a group that fights anti-Semitism, thanked Golodryga for “pushing back” against Qureshi’s remarks. “You made unacceptable slurs into a teachable moment,” he said.
Thank you for pushing back on this rank antisemitism on live TV. You made unacceptable slurs into a teachable moment.
— Michael Dickson (@michaeldickson) May 20, 2021
Journalist and talk show host Mehdi Hasan, a big critic of Israel’s government, also thought Qureshi was wrong. “If you are accusing Israelis of having ‘deep pockets’ and ‘controlling’ the media, then yeah, you’re invoking some pretty anti-Semitic slurs. Sorry,” he tweeted.
I see some people trying to defend the Pakistani foreign minister’s remarks as anti-Israeli & not anti-Semitic but let’s be clear: if you are accusing Israelis of having ‘deep pockets’ and ‘controlling’ the media, then yeah, you’re invoking some pretty anti-Semitic slurs. Sorry. https://t.co/aBKvkcDRj7
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) May 20, 2021
During the 11 days of cross-border attacks between Hamas and Israel 232 people were killed in Gaza and 12 in Israel. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into effect early on Friday.