Support for the war is strong in the hills around Dalton, Ga., but few know that the town of 28,000 is also home to one of the largest Arab news sites on the Internet. The Dalton-based Al-Jazeerah Information Center blames the conflict with Iraq on American imperialism, greed for oil and "the Israeli lobby." There's even a link to the notorious anti-Semitic forgery "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion." "Well, I'm shocked," said a woman at the chamber of commerce in the northern Georgia city, after she learned that the Web site — www.aljazeerah.us — is run by a Palestinian-born professor at the nearby community college. Proprietors of the site say it is not connected to the well-known Arab-language Al-Jazeera television network, and they have little to say to the press.
"I have an agreement with Dalton College not to talk to the news media," said Hassan A. El-Najjar, editor of the site and an associate professor of sociology at Dalton State College. "The Al-Jazeerah Web site that you refer to is not connected to the Al-Jazeera news company in the Middle East," James A. Stevenson, associate professor of history at Dalton State, said in reply to an e-mail inquiry. "And it is not connected to this college in any way. It is an opinion and discussion Web site and tries to translate some Arab news. ... Although I submit essays on history and contemporary events to it, I do not give interviews, and I can't speak for everything on the site."
The site claims to get millions of "hits" from Internet visitors, and its coverage of the Iraq war emphasizes photos of destroyed U.S. tanks and Iraqi civilian casualties.
It includes cartoons that show the allies brutalizing Iraqi prisoners of war, portray Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as the true aggressor behind the Iraq war, and depict the conflict as driven by U.S. greed for Iraqi oil.
In addition to links to articles from Middle Eastern news agencies, the site includes opinion columns and editorials by Mr. El-Najjar and others. "The power-elite alliance which rules the United States includes three main interests: the military-industrial complex, oil interests and Israeli interests. All the three have a vested interest in invading the Middle East now," Mr. El-Najjar wrote in February. "This invasion of Iraq will complete the U.S. military occupation of the entire Arabian Gulf area, which includes about 70 percent of the proven world oil reserves, thus, achieving the interests of the oil industry. ... "The world attention will be distracted from the Israeli atrocities in the occupied Palestinian territories to the horrors of war in Iraq. Even if the war doesn't happen, Zionist Israelis have already benefited from the shift of focus away from their war crimes."
In May 2002 Mr. El-Najjar wrote, "Zionism is the highest stage of imperialism, which is the third stage of the development of capitalism. Its ultimate goal is hegemony over the world economies, using its control over the United States' foreign policy." Mr. El-Najjar wrote that the Israelis "have systematically persecuted the Palestinian people, replicating what the Nazis did to Jews and to gypsies in Europe." Mr. Stevenson's columns on Al-Jazeerah are critical of "the U.S. monopoly capitalist system." In a Feb. 22 column, Mr. Stevenson predicted that war in Iraq "will stain and shame the U.S. people for all time." "The Israeli lobby inside the United States is obviously very influential," Mr. Stevenson wrote in an October 2002 column in which he also credited "arms merchants and energy interests" with influencing U.S. policy in the Middle East. The antiwar sentiments of the Al-Jazeerah site are starkly at odds with the patriotic mood in north Georgia. In 2000, President Bush got 69 percent of the vote in Whitfield County, which includes Dalton.
"Ordinary people here are very pro-war," said Peter Augustine Lawler, a political-science professor at Berry College near Rome, Ga., about 40 miles from Dalton.
The state has a strong military tradition, Mr. Lawler explained. "A disproportionate number of the men in battle are from Georgia. It's a very military state, comparatively speaking."
And the anti-Israel rhetoric of the Al-Jazeerah site clashes with the Bible Belt beliefs of most northern Georgians, Mr. Lawler said. "There's really no constituency for that here," he said, adding that many evangelical Christians believe the state of Israel is prophetically important. "People are very pro-Israel. Even the rednecks are pro-Israel, because of evangelical teachings."
The existence of the Al-Jazeerah site came as a surprise to an official of the Dalton-Whitfield County Chamber of Commerce. "That's really very strange," said the official, who did not want to be named. "I have never heard of either of these professors."
Mr. Lawler said he was also "stunned" that the site was based in Dalton, but added, "Professors are a different breed, even in Dalton, I guess."