Israel Bans Al-Jazeera

The Israeli cabinet has voted to shut down the operations of Al-Jazeera in the country, claiming the network to be a national security threat. The move has been condemned by many, who say it is an attack on press freedom in Israel.

Operations Shut Down

On Sunday, May 5th, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted unanimously to shut down operations of Al-Jazeera, the Qatari news company. After the vote, Israeli Communications Minister, Shlomo Karhi, signed an order to shut down Al-Jazeera’s operation’s; an order that was effective immediately.

Shortly following, Israeli police raided Al-Jazeera’s offices in the country, and television providers took Al-Jazeera’s broadcasts off the air. Tuning into Al-Jazeera’s channel on Israeli broadcaster YES will only show a message that states “In accordance with the government decision, the Al Jazeera station’s broadcasts have been stopped in Israel.”


 

*The above post shows the message, in Hebrew, that reads in replacement of Al-Jazeera’s broadcasts.


In a statement, Netanyahu claimed that Al-Jazeera had “harmed the security of Israel and incited against IDF soldiers,” and that “the time has come to eject Hamas’s mouthpieces in Israel.” Karhi expressed a similar sentiment, again referring to Al-Jazeera as one of “Hamas’s mouthpieces.”



The Israeli government has accused Al-Jazeera of being a threat to national security, as was determined by Israel’s Shin Bet (one of Israel’s three intelligence agencies), and “inciting” against the IDF. In a further accusation, Netanyahu has stated that Al-Jazeera had “actively participated in the October 7 massacre.”

Al-Jazeera has largely reported with a pro-Palestinian leaning, and has notably been one of the few media networks to remain in Gaza.

Legality and Details of the Ban

The ban is based off of a law passed in early April that permitted senior ministers to shut down foreign networks that had been deemed a threat to national security. The ban must be recertified every 45 days, or else it will be lifted.



For Al-Jazeera, the ban means that their broadcasts are being shut down, access to their websites are being limited, their broadcast equipment is being seized, and their offices are being shut down.

The ban has reportedly not affected Al-Jazeera’s operations in the West Bank.

Notably, the law which permits Israel to carry out the ban expires on July 31st. If Israel wants to continue the ban past this date, they will need to extend the length of the legislation.

The law is facing a legal challenge by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), who argues the ban violates the right to free speech. ACRI argued that while Al-Jazeera does run a “pro-Palestinian” narrative, it was not reason enough to shut down the network.

ACRI filed a request with Israel’s High Court on Thursday requesting a temporary order that the court block the government from being able to shut down Al-Jazeera, however the court rejected the request, instead saying it would consider an order after “receiving the state’s preliminary position.”



Condemnations and Diplomatic Ramifications

The ban has been condemned by a number of different groups, including many press freedom groups, but most prominently by Al-Jazeera itself, who claimed the ban by Israel was “an effort to conceal its actions in the Gaza Strip.” They further added that the ban “will not deter Al-Jazeera from its commitment to cover.”

“Israel’s ongoing suppression of the free press, seen as an effort to conceal its actions in the Gaza Strip, stands in contravention of international and humanitarian law. Israel’s direct targeting and killing of journalists, arrests, intimidation and threats will not deter Al-Jazeera from its commitment to cover, whilst more than 140 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the beginning of the war on Gaza” -A statement from Al-Jazeera

Al-Jazeera rejected the Israeli government claims of incitement, stating that it “reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the values embodied by its Code of Ethics.”



Notably, this is not the first opportunity that Israel has had to ban the network. Netanyahu first expressed wishes to ban Al-Jazeera several months ago, and could have under emergency measures that had been enacted earlier in the war.

However, Israel did not enact the ban, due to the potential effect that it could have on their diplomatic relations with Qatar. Although Al-Jazeera is not technically owned by the Qatari government, and operates as a private company, they receive large amounts of funding from the Qatari government.

Qatar has been central to hostage negotiations due to their relationship with Hamas, and thus it was important to Israel to keep relations as good as possible in order to not sabotage negotiations. Israel and Qatar hold no official relations, and thus this relationship is easily damaged.


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pictured with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani (Photo from the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

Qatar has yet to release an official statement on the matter, and so the effect that the ban may have on Israeli-Qatari relations is thus far unclear.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.

MORE FROM ATLAS NEWS

North Korea Jams GPS Signals Near Sea Border Amid Rising Tensions

North Korea has jammed GPS signals near the inter-Korean maritime border for the second consecutive day, intensifying regional tensions. The move follows the DPRK's threats of military action if...

A Look Into Venezuela’s Upcoming Presidential Election

The Venezuelan government is organizing the first presidential election in the country since 2018, following negotiations between the Venezuelan government and the United States during which the US promised...