IF GOOD REPORTING can be judged by the enemies it makes, then al-Jazeera must be doing something right. The Arabic-language TV channel provoked rebukes from the U.S. government and military officials in the early days of "The War on Iraq" (al-Jazeera's phrase) when it rebroadcast Iraqi footage of dead and captive U.S. soldiers. Shortly afterwards the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ expelled al-Jazeera reporters from their trading floors.
On April 2, Iraq expelled one of al-Jazeera's Baghdad correspondents and barred another from working, apparently because they had sought interviews without government permission. The network responded by suspending operations in Iraq. "They cannot dictate to us who can and who cannot work," said editor-in-chief Ibrahim Helal.
Aficionados of the "clash of civilizations" school should hesitate before branding Osama bin Laden's favorite TV station as a mere mouthpiece for the axis of evil. The Qatar-based network has a distinguished history of ruffling feathers within as well as outside the Arab world. Arab opinion leaders of every stripe have castigated the station at various times, and on more then one occasion Arab governments have demanded that Qatari authorities rein in the station.
To his credit, the Sandhurst-educated Emir of Qatar, who has underwritten the station's expenses for most of its life, has steadfastly refused to interfere with editorial decisions. Established in 1996 from the remnants of a failed venture between the BBC and Saudi Arabia, al-Jazeera burst on the Arab scene like a …