Home / NEWS / Israel clears way to shutter Al Jazeera. Netanyahu says ‘terror channel’ airs incitement.

Israel clears way to shutter Al Jazeera. Netanyahu says ‘terror channel’ airs incitement.

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Israel has long had a rocky relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of unfair bias against Israel.

Al Jazeera’s local bureau chief, Walid Al-Omari, said late Monday that the station had not heard from Israeli authorities. “But it’s clear it’s a question of time and they will take the decision within days,” he told The Associated Press.

But punishing the channel could be risky. Qatar has been acting as a chief mediator between Israel and Hamas. It helped broker and sponsor a weeklong cease-fire in November, and has been hosting weeks of on-and-off talks aimed at brokering another pause in fighting.

By targeting Al Jazeera, Israel could be trying to push Qatar to put additional pressure on Hamas to make concessions. Netanyahu has in the past accused Qatar of not doing enough. But it also risks alienating Qatar, a wealthy energy-rich Gulf state that is one of the few countries with influence over Hamas.

Israel has come under heavy criticism from press-freedom groups during the war. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 90 Palestinian journalists have been killed in the war, in addition to two Israeli journalists. Israel also has barred international journalists from entering Gaza independently to cover the war. The army has allowed small groups of journalists to enter Gaza on brief, highly controlled visits under military escort.

Hagar Shechter, an attorney with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said the law violates “the right for free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of occupation, and undermines separation of powers.” She added that the group plans to file a petition with Israel’s Supreme Court against the law.

Oren Persico, a staff writer at the Seventh Eye, an independent media watchdog website in Israel, said the law was a watered-down version of legislation sought by the country’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, due to pushback from legal experts.

The closure needs an expert opinion from a top security official deeming the network “harming Israel’s security.” The order would then need Cabinet or parliamentary approval, and further approval from the courts.

Persico said most worrying was that other media, including Israeli outlets, could also be in the line of fire.

“What’s important here isn’t Al Jazeera, it’s about the authority that the government has to shut down media, it’s a slippery slope,” he said.