Israel is planning to close Doha-based news outlet Al Jazeera office in Jerusalem and censor its transmissions on claims of supporting terrorism and inciting violence. It also plans to revoke the media credentials of its journalists.
Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara announced that both Arabic- and English-language channels will be taken off air. The announcement was made during a press conference where the journalists of Al Jazeera weren’t allowed to attend.The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Al Jazeera of incitement.
Kara said that the decision is based on a similar one taken by Sunni Arab countries to close the offices of Al Jazeera, further adding that he is expecting the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to consider this request in its next session. He went on to say that Al Jazeera has become the key tool to ISIS, Hezbollah, and Iran.
Netanyahu congratulated Kara in a tweet for following his instructions and taking steps to end “the incitement of Al Jazeera”.
Al Jazeera reacts to closure calls
In response, the news organization condemned the move in a statement and said that it will pursue the necessary legal measures towards it. Al Jazeera also refused claims that it covered recent events in Jerusalem unprofessionally and insists that its coverage was professional and objective, adding that they will continue reporting on the occupied territories of Palestine.
In July, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli security forces after the latter had decided to set up metal detectors at the entrance of Haram al-Sharif in the old city of Jerusalem, a place that is deemed holy to Muslims. However, Israel stepped back and removed the detectors to end the violent confrontations. Netanyahu said that Al Jazeera fueled the crisis.
The offices of Al Jazeera in Gaza and Ramallah will not be affected by the decision of Israel.
An official from the news organization told AFP that they deplore such a decision from a country that claims it is the “only true democracy in the Middle East”.
In an Interview with Al Jazeera, Rami Khouri of the American University in Beirut (AUB) condemned the decision and said that it is a typical action from governments in this region. The Committee to Protect Journalists also criticized the move and stressed that the Israeli authorities should abandon efforts to close Al Jazeera.
Similar decisions were taken by Saudi Arabia and Jordan as they closed the bureaux of Al Jazeera. Egypt closed the office of the news organization in 2013 and banned its website in May. The signals of Al Jazeera, both channels, and websites were banned in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Multiple countries, including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Egypt, cut their ties to Qatar in June after they had claimed that the tiny Gulf state funds terrorism and supports Iran. Qatar rejected the claims and refused to comply with a list of demands imposed by the boycotting countries. Even though the crisis is still ongoing, the boycotting countries showed a willingness to start a dialogue with Qatar.