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Intercultural Communication as a Clash of Civilizations

Al-Jazeera and Qatar’s Soft Power

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Tal Samuel-Azran

Intercultural Communication as a Clash of Civilizations argues that Al-Jazeera is not an agent of globalization, as is widely argued, but a tool used by the Qatari government to advance its political as well as Islamist goals. This book also maps the Western tendency to reject the network outright despite Al-Jazeera’s billion-dollar investments designed to gain entrance into Western markets; it shows empirically that this rejection is similarly rooted in religious, cultural and national motives. This book asserts that the main outcome of Al-Jazeera’s activities is the promotion of religious and cultural conflicts. The network persistently portrays global events through the prism of conflicting religious and cultural values – propelling a clash of civilizations as per Samuel P. Huntington’s well-known thesis.
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Chapter 3. Qatar Operates Al-Jazeera as a Smart Power Tool in Its Relationship With Saudi Arabia

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← 38 | 39 →

· 3 ·

QATAR OPERATES AL-JAZEERA AS A SMART POWER TOOL IN ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH SAUDI ARABIA

Based on an empirical analysis of Al-Jazeera’s role over an eight-year period surrounding the Qatari-Saudi conflict, this chapter reveals the ways in which Al-Jazeera acts as an autocratic-controlled station during crises that involve crucial Qatari interests. It portrays how Qatar utilizes Al-Jazeera’s credibility gained during peacetime, which made Al-Jazeera the most popular channel during the Qatar-Saudi Arabia conflict, to influence public opinion in Saudi Arabia and subsequently apply pressure on Saudi decision makers. These analyses strongly indicate that it was Al-Jazeera’s pressure that largely contributed to the Saudi-Qatari resolution and coerced the Saudis to modify their policies in a manner that fits Qatar’s interests. Next, Qatar stopped Al-Jazeera from criticizing Saudi Arabia altogether, possibly because silencing Al-Jazeera was part of the Qatari-Saudi resolution. The chapter shows how Al-Jazeera fulfills its role as a highly potent soft power tool during crises involving Qatar, serving as both a stick (in criticizing Saudi Arabia during the conflict) and a carrot (in refraining from criticism after the resolution). The chapter also portrays how a soft use of media can change the traditional power balance between countries, as Al-Jazeera’s coverage of Saudi Arabian affairs allowed tiny Qatar to pressure its mighty neighbor to end the ongoing conflict between them. ← 39 | 40 →

The idea and motivation for the study stems from a cable sent by the US ambassador to Qatar, Joseph...

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