Israel plans to cancel media credentials of Al Jazeera journalists and close the network’s office in Jerusalem, the country’s communication minister has announced. Israel’s communications minister has said he wants to shut down pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera in the country.
Ayoob Kara, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said on Sunday that he wants the news network’s press cards revoked and has asked cable providers to block their transmissions. He said he wants them banned altogether. No timetable for the measures was given.
Kara said the station is used by militant groups to “incite” violence. He said it is “delusional” that Arab states in the region banned Al-Jazeera for that reason but Israel has not. Notably, 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.
Israeli officials have long accused Al-Jazeera of bias against the Jewish state. However, Al Jazeera denounces measures in a statement, claiming to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”. “Al Jazeera stresses that it will closely watch the developments that may result from the Israeli decision, and will take the necessary legal measures towards it,” the statement read.
Al Jazeera also denied the charges its coverage of al-Aqsa Mosque unrest was unprofessional. “Al Jazeera will continue to cover the events of the occupied Palestinian territories professionally and accurately, according to the standards set by international agencies, such as the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom).” The pan-Arab network’s offices in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah would not be affected by the current Israeli move.
The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, also known as Adalah, challenged the plan, saying it would be subject to scrutiny before the Supreme Court, adding that “it would fail the test of legality”. Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Jerusalem on Sunday, said that the request to revoke the credentials cover all the network’s journalists in both the Arabic and English channels.