Israel threatens to close Al Jazeera offices
Though no timeline has been given it has been announced by Israel’s Communications Minister Ayoub Kara that Israel plans to close the pan-Arab news broadcaster Al Jazeera. Israel intends to close its Jerusalem bureau, revoke the media credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists and pull the Qatar-based station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers.
In a move that is being seen as an attempt to boost his support with right- wing voters, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tweeted his support for the decision. The Prime minister recently vowed to close the network and has accused the broadcaster of inciting violence in Jerusalem during the recent tensions over the added security measures on the Temple Mount / Haram al Sharif compound. However, his office has yet to produce any actual examples of this supposed incitement.
(An employee of the Qatar based news network and TV channel Al-Jazeera is seen at the channel’s Jerusalem office on July 31, 2017.)
The move has been condemned by human rights groups and Al Jazeera itself. Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director, Magdalena Mughrabi said:
“This is a brazen attack on media freedom in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The move sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage. Al Jazeera has denounced the decision made by a state that claims to be “the only democratic state in the Middle East”.
Al Jazeera has also accused Israel of siding with the other Arab nations that have sought to close the broadcaster. Jordan and Saudi Arabia have 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. The move is linked with the Saudi led embargo on Qatar and the political standoff that has ensued. The closure of Al Jazeera is one of the things listed on the Saudi led group’s demands on Qatar.
(Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem Sunday. Israel seeks to ban Qatar’s flagship Al-Jazeera news network from operating in the country, joining regional Arab states that already shut the station after accusing the broadcaster of inciting violence)
Minister Kara’s statement includes some serious accusations
“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 ludicrous is happening here,” he said, adding that the channel “caused us to lose the lives of the best of our sons.”
Not only has the minister claimed that Al Jazeera is inciting violence, he has claimed it is an active tool of ISIS, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, which is interesting on many levels, including the fact that Hezbollah is actively fighting ISIS with the support and help of the United States of America. Similarly using the fact that Saudi Arabia, probably the most authoritarian state in the middle east with a dreadful human rights record, and its allies have banned the network only shows the true nature of this decision.
“Israel: Plans to shut down Al Jazeera an attack on media freedom” Amnesty International News, August 2017. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/08/israel-plans-to-shut-down-al-jazeera-an-attack-on-media-freedom/
“Amnesty: Israel’s ban on Al Jazeera a brazen attack” Al-Jazeera 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/amnesty-israel-ban-al-jazeera-brazen-attack-170808040251229.html
“Israel says it plans to close Al Jazeera’s offices” The Times of Israel, 2017. http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-says-it-plans-to-close-al-jazeeras-offices/
“Israel moves to shut down local operations of Al Jazeera” Reuters 2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-aljazeera-idUSKBN1AM0J6
Opinion piece: “Al Jazeera Jerusalem Bureau Chief: Netanyahu’s Colluding with Arab Autocrats to Silence Us” Walid Omary, Haaretz 2017. http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.804320
“Israel the Latest Middle Eastern Nation to Ban Qatar’s Al-Jazeera” NBC 2017. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/israel-latest-middle-eastern-nation-ban-qatars-al-jazeera-n790046