Joining Arab states, Israel says it plans to ban Al-Jazeera
Israel said Sunday it plans to ban Qatar’s flagship Al-Jazeera network from operating in the country over allegations it incites violence, joining Arab nations that have shut down the broadcaster amid a separate political dispute. The news organization, in turn, said it will take legal action.
Communications Minister Ayoob Kara said he plans to revoke the press credentials of Al-Jazeera journalists, effectively preventing them from working in Israel.
Kara said he has asked cable and satellite networks to block Al Jazeera transmissions and is seeking legislation to ban them altogether.
The minister, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, gave no timetable for such measures.
Doha-based Al-Jazeera on its English language website condemned the measures as “undemocratic” and said that it will take legal action. It said it will continue operating in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Walid al-Omari, the broadcaster’s bureau chief in Jerusalem, said on air that his office has not been informed by Israeli officials of any possible measures the government might take.
Al-Jazeera, a pan-Arab satellite network funded by the Qatari government, already has been targeted by Arab nations now isolating Qatar as part of a monthslong political dispute over Doha’s politics and alleged support for extremists.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia have recently closed Al-Jazeera’s local offices, while the channel and its affiliate sites have been blocked in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.
“Lately, almost all countries in our region determined that Al-Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalization,” Kara said. “And when we see that all these countries have determined as fact that Al-Jazeera is a tool of the Islamic State (group), Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and we are the only one who have not determined that, then something delusional is happening here.”
Israeli officials have long accused Al-Jazeera of bias against the Jewish state. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has likened its coverage to “Nazi Germany-style” propaganda.
Nitzan Chen, director of the Government Press Office, said press credentials are not issued if security officials deem the cards would be “liable to endanger the security of the state.” He said “Therefore, I have contacted the security echelon and have requested a professional opinion regarding the Al-Jazeera network.”
A decision will be made after receiving that opinion, he said.
The Foreign Press Association, which represents journalists covering Israel and the Palestinian territories for international news organizations, said the move “is certainly a cause for concern.” It said it will study the issue and decide how to proceed.