Israeli Foreign Minister Threatens to Ban Al Jazeera

Ethan Corey July 21, 2014

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the Israeli government will work to prevent Al Jazeera from operating in Israel. (Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Just one month after three of its jour­nal­ists were sen­tenced to sev­en-year prison terms in Egypt for their alleged sup­port of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, Al Jazeera faces anoth­er threat to its report­ing in the Mid­dle East. This time, how­ev­er, it’s a demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­ern­ment, not a mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, that’s doing the threat­en­ing: Israeli For­eign Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man has called for a ban on the Qatari media network’s oper­a­tions in Israel, Haaretz reports.Dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on Mon­day, Lieber­man called Al Jazeera a “cen­tral pil­lar of the pro­pa­gan­da appa­ra­tus of Hamas” and com­pared the net­work to Der Sturmer, a World War II-era Nazi-run Ger­man news­pa­per.Al Jazeera has frus­trat­ed the Israeli gov­ern­ment with its crit­i­cal cov­er­age of the ongo­ing con­flict in Gaza, report­ing on the heavy human­i­tar­i­an toll of Israeli airstrikes and tank shells, includ­ing the destruc­tion of a Pales­tin­ian hos­pi­tal on Mon­day. 
Israeli offi­cials have also accused the Qatari gov­ern­ment, which owns Al Jazeera, of pro­vid­ing fund­ing and mate­r­i­al sup­port for Hamas, which has its polit­i­cal head­quar­ters in Qatar’s cap­i­tal city of Doha.The Israeli gov­ern­ment has long had a tense rela­tion­ship with the jour­nal­ists and media out­lets that report on its con­flicts with Pales­tine. Israeli secu­ri­ty ser­vices have pre­vent­ed jour­nal­ists deemed too crit­i­cal of its poli­cies from enter­ing the coun­try. Dur­ing pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Gaza, Israel has tar­get­ed media out­lets alleged­ly asso­ci­at­ed with Hamas, killing two cam­era­men based in Gaza and wound­ing at least 10 media work­ers in a series of Novem­ber 2012 airstrikes. A spokesper­son for the Israeli gov­ern­ment defend­ed those strikes, say­ing that those tar­get­ed were “not legit­i­mate jour­nal­ists.”But experts say ban­ning Al Jazeera in Israel would like­ly vio­late the country’s Basic Laws, which guar­an­tee free­dom of the press. Only the Israeli Supreme Court could ban the news out­let, accord­ing to Haaretz.Lieber­man has also called on Israelis to boy­cott Arab busi­ness­es that have protest­ed Israel’s inva­sion of the Gaza Strip, writ­ing on his Face­book page:I call upon every­one not to shop any­more at the stores and busi­ness­es of those among the Arab sec­tor who are par­tic­i­pat­ing today in the gen­er­al strike that was declared by the High­er Arab Mon­i­tor­ing Com­mit­tee as a sign of empa­thy for Gaza res­i­dents and against Oper­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge.The Al Jazeera ban comes as the death toll in Gaza sur­pass­es 550, with no imme­di­ate end to the con­flict in sight. Defense Min­is­ter Moshe Yaalon told a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on Mon­day that Israel’s mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Gaza would con­tin­ue until it com­pletes its objec­tives.If need­ed, we will recruit more reservists in order to con­tin­ue the oper­a­tion as long as nec­es­sary until the com­ple­tion of the task and the return of the qui­et in the whole of Israel espe­cial­ly from the threat of the Gaza Strip,” Yaalon told the committee.
Ethan Corey is a writer and researcher based in New York. His work has appeared in The Nation, Rolling Stone and MEL magazine.
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