Netanyahu Vows To Close Al Jazeera 'Immediately' After Knesset Passes Controversial Law

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Apr 01, 2024 - 08:40 PM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced he has renewed and intensified efforts to shut down Qatar-based Al Jazeera's operations inside Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.

He pledged to "act immediately to stop" Al Jazeera's ability to function there, following Israel's Knesset approving a law which grants top ministers sweeping powers to ban any foreign news networks deemed a threat to Israel's security.

"Al Jazeera will no longer be broadcast from Israel," Netanyahu said on X Monday. "I intend to act immediately in accordance with the new law to stop the channel’s activity."

Israeli officials have long charged Al Jazeera with advancing an anti-Israel bias in its coverage. Simultaneously the Arab media network has stood accused of sympathizing with Hamas terrorists. Netanyahu's fresh statement further accused Al Jazeera of harming Israel's security on Oct.7 and actively participating in the attack on civilians.

Israel's parliament passed the new law giving authorities unprecedented powers to shut down foreign press offices in a 70-10 vote on Monday evening (local). There are reports indicating that the legislation is literally called the "Al Jazeera" law.

The White House has responded by calling the development "concerning" in a very carefully worded statement which stopped short of outright condemning the move.

"We believe in the freedom of the press. It is critical. It is critically important, and the United States supports the critically important work journalists around the world, and that includes those who are reporting in in the conflict in Gaza," said spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre in a briefing. "So, we believe that work is important. The freedom of the press is important. And if those reports are true, it is concerning to us."

Currently, Al Jazeera has offices located in the West Bank and Gaza, and has provided 24-hour news coverage in English and Arabic of the Gaza war, going back to Oct.7. The network's website also carries frequent, round-the-clock updates of regional developments. Its camera crews have also been capturing Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip in real time, sometimes with buildings coming down in the very moments live shots are rolling.

A fresh example of Al Jazeera's live coverage from on the ground in Gaza...

Almost two years ago, in May of 2022, a popular senior Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, was shot dead while reporting on the scene of an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin. As a Palestinian Christian, she was given a church burial attended by thousands, but the procession with the coffin was later attacked by Israeli police, in an incident that garnered international media attention.

Abu Akleh also held American citizenship, and so her killing resulted in strong statements of condemnation from the White House. From there, tensions between Al Jazeera and the Israeli government have only gotten worse.