Join­ing Arab states, Is­rael says it plans to ban Al-Jazeera

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Isaac Scharf

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.

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