Is­rael seeks to si­lence Jazeera

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

JERUSALEM: Is­rael said yes­ter­day it planned to close the of­fices of Al-Jazeera in the state, after Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu ac­cused the Arab satel­lite news broad­caster of in­cite­ment. Ne­tanyahu had said on July 27 that he wanted Al-Jazeera ex­pelled amid ten­sions over a sen­si­tive Jerusalem holy site. “Al-Jazeera has be­come the main tool of Daesh (the Is­lamic State group), Ha­mas, Hezbol­lah and Iran,” Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Ay­oob Kara, a mem­ber of the Druze com­mu­nity from Ne­tanyahu’s Likud party, told a news con­fer­ence.

He ac­cused the Qatar-based broad­caster of “in­cit­ing vi­o­lence which has pro­voked losses among the best of our sons”, re­fer­ring to two Druze po­lice­men who were killed in a July 14 at­tack near the Al-Aqsa mosque com­pound in east Jerusalem. Ne­tanyahu tweeted his con­grat­u­la­tions to Kara “who on my in­struc­tions took con­crete steps to end AlJazeera’s in­cite­ment” in Is­rael. An of­fi­cial at Al-Jazeera in Doha said the chan­nel “de­plores this ac­tion from a state that is called the only demo­cratic state in the Mid­dle East and con­sid­ers what it has done is dan­ger­ous”.

The of­fi­cial, who de­clined to be named, said the broad­caster “will fol­low up the sub­ject through ap­pro­pri­ate legal and ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures”. Is­rael’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­istry said “nearly all coun­tries in the re­gion in­clud­ing Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt and Jor­dan, have con­cluded that Al-Jazeera in­cites ter­ror­ism and re­li­gious ex­trem­ism”. It said it had be­come “ridicu­lous that the chan­nel con­tin­ued to broad­cast from Is­rael”.

Re­gional king­pin Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emi­rates and Egypt broke ties with Qatar on June 5, ac­cus­ing it of fos­ter­ing ex­trem­ism and later is­su­ing 13 de­mands, in­clud­ing Al-Jazeera’s clo­sure. The Al-Jazeera of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day he was “sur­prised” at Is­rael’s jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, and de­fended the chan­nel’s cov­er­age of the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, call­ing it “pro­fes­sional and ob­jec­tive”.

The Is­raeli min­istry said it would also de­mand the re­vo­ca­tion of the cre­den­tials of jour­nal­ists work­ing for the chan­nel and cut its cable and satel­lite con­nec­tions. The clo­sure of Al-Jazeera’s of­fices would come un­der the re­mit of se­cu­rity of­fi­cials. Is­raeli author­i­ties would also seek to limit ac­cess by the state’s Arab cit­i­zens to the sta­tion’s broad­casts in Ara­bic, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­istry state­ment said with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

Arab Is­raelis, the de­scen­dants of Pales­tini­ans who stayed after the state of Is­rael was cre­ated in 1948, make up 17.5 per­cent of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion. “The Al-Jazeera chan­nel con­tin­ues to in­cite vi­o­lence around the Tem­ple Mount,” Ne­tanyahu wrote in a Face­book post, re­fer­ring to the Haram Al-Sharif com­pound in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Tem­ple Mount.

Protests erupted at the con­tentious site after Is­rael last month in­stalled new se­cu­rity mea­sures in­clud­ing metal de­tec­tors, fol­low­ing the shoot­ing dead of the two Is­raeli po­lice­men by at­tack­ers who emerged from the com­pound. “I have ap­pealed to law enforcement agen­cies sev­eral times to close the Al-Jazeera of­fice in Jerusalem,” Ne­tanyahu said on July 27 in call­ing for the chan­nel’s ex­pul­sion. “If this is not pos­si­ble be­cause of legal in­ter­pre­ta­tion, I am go­ing to seek to have the nec­es­sary leg­is­la­tion adopted to ex­pel Al-Jazeera from Is­rael.”

Is­rael has reg­u­larly ac­cused the broad­caster of bias in its cov­er­age of the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict. Ne­tanyahu heads what is seen as the most right-wing gov­ern­ment in Is­raeli his­tory. He has fre­quently crit­i­cised the news me­dia, ac­cus­ing out­lets of seek­ing to un­der­mine his gov­ern­ment. The lat­est trou­ble at the holy site in east Jerusalem, which Is­rael cap­tured dur­ing the 1967 Six-Day War and later an­nexed, fol­lowed the July 14 at­tack.

Pales­tini­ans re­fused to en­ter the site for nearly two weeks over the new se­cu­rity mea­sures im­posed after three Is­raeli Arabs shot dead the po­lice­men nearby. That trig­gered protests which left six Pales­tini­ans dead. A Pales­tinian also broke into a home in a Jewish set­tle­ment in the West Bank and stabbed four Is­raelis, killing three of them. The cri­sis ended when the Is­raeli author­i­ties re­moved the newly in­stalled se­cu­rity mea­sures, in­clud­ing the metal de­tec­tors.

Pales­tini­ans, who had viewed the new se­cu­rity mea­sures as an at­tempt by Is­rael to as­sert fur­ther con­trol over the com­pound which houses the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, then ended their boy­cott of the site. The Al-Aqsa com­pound has fre­quently been a flash­point in the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict. Un­der a decades­old agree­ment, only Mus­lims are al­lowed to pray inside the Al-Aqsa mosque com­pound, al­though any­one can visit, in­clud­ing Jews.

— AFP

JERUSALEM: An em­ployee of the Qatar-based news net­work and TV chan­nel AlJazeera is seen in the chan­nel’s Jerusalem of­fice yes­ter­day.

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