Is­raeli pushes for ban on Al-Jazeera

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Ian Deitch, Mo­hammed Daragh­meh, Jon Gam­brell and Isaac Scharf of The As­so­ci­ated Press; and by Love­day Mor­ris of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

JERUSALEM — Is­rael said Sun­day that it plans to ban Qatar’s flag­ship Al-Jazeera news out­let from op­er­at­ing in the coun­try over al­le­ga­tions that the broad­caster in­cites vi­o­lence, join­ing Arab na­tions that have shut down the or­ga­ni­za­tion amid a sep­a­rate po­lit­i­cal dis­pute. Al-Jazeera, 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, adding that he is seek­ing leg­is­la­tion to ban them al­to­gether.

“Free­dom of ex­pres­sion is not free­dom to in­cite,” he said, ac­cord­ing to a min­istry state­ment. “Democ­racy has lim­its.”

The min­is­ter, a mem­ber of Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s Likud Party, gave no timetable for such mea­sures.

Ac­cus­ing Al-Jazeera of in­cite­ment, Ne­tanyahu vowed last month to shut down its Jerusalem bureau amid clashes be­tween Is­raeli author­i­ties and Pales­tinian wor­ship­pers over ac­cess to the Al-Aqsa Mosque site in Jerusalem’s Old City. How­ever, his of­fice de­clined to give spe­cific ex­am­ples of con­tent they deemed to have stoked ten­sions.

On its English lan­guage web­site, Al-Jazeera con­demned the mea­sures as “un­demo­cratic” and said 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 had not been in­formed by Is­raeli of­fi­cials of any pos­si­ble mea­sures the gov­ern­ment might take.

Al-Jazeera, a pan-Arab satel­lite chan­nel funded by the Qatari gov­ern­ment, al­ready has been tar­geted by Arab na­tions iso­lat­ing Qatar as part of a months-long 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 broad­caster and its af­fil­i­ate sites have been blocked in Saudi Ara­bia, the 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, 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.”

“There­fore, I have con­tacted the se­cu­rity ech­e­lon and have re­quested a pro­fes­sional opin­ion re­gard­ing the Al-Jazeera net­work,” he said.

A de­ci­sion will be made after re­ceiv­ing that opin­ion, Chen 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.”

“Chang­ing the law in or­der to shut down a me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tion for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons is a slip­pery slope,” said Glenys Su­gar­man, the ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary of the For­eign Press As­so­ci­a­tion in Is­rael.

Al-Jazeera said it was un­clear when the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment would act on Kara’s re­quest. A legal amend­ment will be made to adopt the mea­sures, the min­istry state­ment said, with the law up­dated to re­flect the “cur­rent geopo­lit­i­cal re­al­ity.”

The Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, a New York-based ad­vo­cacy group, crit­i­cized the Is­raeli pro­posal.

“Cen­sor­ing Al-Jazeera or clos­ing its of­fices will not bring sta­bil­ity to the re­gion, but it would put Is­rael firmly in the camp of some of the re­gion’s worst en­e­mies of press free­dom,” said Sherif Man­sour, the com­mit­tee’s Mid­dle East and North Africa pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor. “Is­rael should aban­don these un­demo­cratic plans and al­low Al-Jazeera and all jour­nal­ists to re­port freely from the coun­try and ar­eas it oc­cu­pies.”

Ha­mas, the Is­lamic mil­i­tant group that rules Gaza, con­demned the move. “Al-Jazeera had a big role con­vey­ing the Pales­tinian nar­ra­tive with a high pro­fes­sion­al­ism,” said Hazem Qassem, a Ha­mas spokesman.

Amer­i­can view­ers be­came fa­mil­iar with Al-Jazeera after the at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when its golden-hued Ara­bic logo be­came syn­ony­mous with video mes­sages by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. That sparked fre­quent com­plaints by then-Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. The broad­caster de­fended its pol­icy, say­ing the mes­sages were news­wor­thy.

Al-Jazeera was the first Arab satel­lite news chan­nel to of­fer a va­ri­ety of views out­side of heav­ily cen­sored state me­dia across the re­gion, and it ex­ten­sively cov­ered the 2011 Arab Spring protests. It also was the first Arab-owned news out­let to host Is­raeli of­fi­cials and com­men­ta­tors.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.