Israeli Government Advances Plan to Oust Qatari Broadcaster Al Jazeera

Israeli Government Advances Plan to Oust Qatari Broadcaster Al Jazeera
A view of the main headquarters of Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera in the capital Doha, on May 11, 2022. (Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pressing ahead with calls to block Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera from operating in Israel, alleging the foreign broadcaster has harmed national security in his country.

Israel’s unicameral legislature, the Knesset, approved legislation on Monday giving Israel’s prime minister the authority to block any foreign broadcaster from operating in Israel if the broadcaster’s content is deemed harmful to national security. The legislation passed on its final reading on a vote of 71 to 10.

Knesset Member and Minister of Communications Shlomo Karhi, a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party and proponent of the legislation, indicated the bill is meant to upend Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel.

“Al Jazeera serves as a propaganda organ of Hamas. The channel encourages the armed struggle against Israel. It is intolerable for a media organization, with press cards from the Government Press Office and offices in Israel, to operate against us from within us, certainly in wartime,” Mr. Karhi said. “We have received an efficient and quick tool to act against those who use the freedom of the press to harm the security of Israel and the IDF soldiers, and to incite to terrorism during wartime.”

In a Monday press statement, Mr. Netanyahu indicated he plans to act on the power granted to him by the Knesset.

“Al Jazeera harmed Israel’s security, actively participated in the October 7 massacre, and incited against IDF soldiers. It is time to remove the shofar of Hamas from our country. The terrorist channel Al Jazeera will no longer broadcast from Israel,” reads a translation of the prime minister’s Hebrew press statement. “I intend to act immediately in accordance with the new law to stop the channel’s activity. I welcome the law promoted by Communications Minister Shlomo Karai with the support of coalition members led by coalition chairman Ofir Katz.”

Mr. Karhi had promoted efforts to curb Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel in October after the start of the current Israel-Hamas conflict, arguing that the Qatari broadcaster presents Hamas propaganda.

Al Jazeera’s Relationship With Israel, US

Al Jazeera describes itself as an independent news organization, though it is funded in part by the Qatari government.

Throughout its 26-year history, the Qatar-based international broadcaster has covered conflicts throughout the Middle East, including the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and periods of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Throughout this period, the Qatari broadcaster has been accused of holding a bias against both the United States and Israel.

Numerous Al Jazeera journalists have also been killed throughout the past two decades of U.S.-led military interventions in the Middle East.

Al Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau was struck in a U.S. bombing strike on April 8, 2003, during the early weeks of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, resulting in the death of reporter Tareq Ayyoub. The broadcaster insisted it had provided U.S. forces with the coordinates of its Baghdad office space weeks before the strike.

Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, a dual Palestinian-American citizen, was killed during a May 11, 2022, gun battle between Israeli forces and armed suspects near the Jenin Refugee camp in the West Bank. Al Jazeera attributed her death to gunfire coming from the Israeli side, and an Israeli military investigation has concluded there’s a “high likelihood” that an Israeli soldier “accidentally” shot her.

Several other Al Jazeera journalists have been killed amid the ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7.

Israel’s military alleged Al Jazeera reporter Ismail Abu Omar is a Hamas operative after the reporter was injured in an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gazan city of Rafah in February.

Last week, Al Jazeera published allegations by a woman named Jamila al-Hissi, who claimed Israeli forces kidnapped, raped, and executed women during a recent raid on Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital. Israeli forces denied the woman’s allegations, and The Times of Israel reported Al Jazeera retracted a video containing her remarks but did not officially announce a retraction.

Mansour Abbas, an Israeli-Arab member of Knesset, denounced the Israeli government’s efforts to limit Al Jazeera, insisting the Qatari broadcaster offers a range of views.

“Al Jazeera gives a platform to speakers from Israel, even to military spokespersons. The Israeli position is always present in the network’s news reports and ads. So it is in Israel’s interest in general that Al Jazeera continue to broadcast. It is impossible, also for reasons of fairness, to block them on one hand and to use Al Jazeera to present your positions on the other,” Mr. Abbas said. “The bill we are debating is unworthy.”

NTD News reached out to Al Jazeera for comment on Monday but did not receive a response by press time.

Biden Admin Raises Press Freedom Concerns

The Biden administration expressed its reservations on Monday about the apparent Israeli effort to limit Al Jazeera’s operations in the country.

“A move like this is concerning. We believe in the freedom of the press. It is critical. It is critically important. And the United States supports the critically important work of journalists around the world,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a Monday press briefing.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller offered a similar defense of Al Jazeera during a department press briefing on Monday afternoon.

“We’ve not always agreed with all of Al Jazeera’s coverage, but it’s a media organization that we engage with. I’ve done interviews with Al Jazeera, other people from the department have done interviews with Al Jazeera. So what we will continue to make clear is that we support the work that the free press does,” Mr. Miller said.

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