Israel passes law to ban Al Jazeera from broadcasting, Netanyahu calls it ‘terrorist channel’ – India TV

Israel, Al Jazeera ban, Benjamin Netanyahu
Image Source : REUTERS Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem: The Israeli parliament on Monday passed a law clearing the way for the country to temporarily ban the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news channel from broadcasting from Israel, citing threats to national security. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the “terror channel” harmed Israel’s security and actively participated in the October 7, and vowed to act immediately to ban the channel.

The law passed 71 to 10 in its second and third readings in the Knesset plenum, according to The Times of Israel. Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, who spearheaded the effort to pass the law, vowed immediately after the final vote that the Qatari-funded Al Jazeera news channel would be closed down “in the coming days,” saying “there won’t be freedom of expression for Hamas mouthpieces in Israel.”

The legislation allows the PM and the communications minister to order the temporary closure of foreign networks if they are believed to constitute a threat to national security. In an earlier statement, Netanyahu’s Likud party said that the prime minister would “act immediately to close Al Jazeera” in accordance with the terms of the new law.

“The terrorist channel Al Jazeera will no longer broadcast from Israel. I intend to act immediately in accordance with the new law to stop the channel’s activity. I welcome the law promoted by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi with the support of coalition members led by coalition chairman Ofir Katz,” said Netanyahu on X.

Why does Israel want to ban Al Jazeera?

Israeli officials have long complained about Al Jazeera’s coverage but stopped short of taking action, mindful of Qatar’s banking of Palestinian construction projects in the Gaza Strip – seen by all sides as a means of staving off conflict. Israel’s communications minister accused the station on October 15 of pro-Hamas incitement and exposing Israeli troops to ambushes.

Karhi said Israel had “proof that it is assisting the enemy, broadcasting propaganda in the service of Hamas, in Arabic and English, to viewers around the world, and even passing sensitive information to the enemy”. However, no action has been taken until today, as Doha mediated ceasefire negotiations since the war broke out on October 7.

However, the Qatar-based network has denied the allegations and has previously accused Israel of systematically targeting its offices and personnel. Notably, some Al Jazeera journalists have been killed while covering Israel’s devastating onslaught in the Gaza Strip in its nearly six-month-long war against Hamas. In November, Israel ordered the shutting down of local broadcasts of Lebanese pro-Iranian channel Al Mayadeen.

US express concerns over the new law

Meanwhile, the United States has expressed concern over the law allowing the ban on Al Jazeera in Israel. “We believe in the freedom of the press. It is critically important. The United States supports the critically important work journalists around the world do, and that includes those who are reporting on the conflict in Gaza. If those reports are true, it is concerning to us,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing.

Both Israel and the US are critical of Al Jazeera’s coverage of Israel, in general, and its coverage of Israel’s war against Hamas since the October 7 terrorist attack, according to the Hill. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for the Qatari government to tone down anti-Israel incitement in Al Jazeera’s coverage of the aftermath of Hamas’s attack in October.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s six-month military offensive in Gaza, including 63 in the past 24 hours, according to the Palestinian health authorities. The war broke out when Hamas-led militants entered southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages.

(with input from agencies)

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