White House ‘concerned’ as Netanyahu pushes to ban Al Jazeera from Israel

Knesset passes law paving way for government to temporarily shutter foreign media


Employees of Qatar based news network and TV channel Al-Jazeera are seen at their Jerusalem office on July 31, 2017, AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to shut down the Israeli office of Al Jazeera while the war against Hamas continues.

The Knesset approved a bill on Monday that allows the temporary closure in Israel of foreign broadcasters that are considered to be a threat to national security, and the Israeli PM has said he will use the new law to ban Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel.

The Biden White House expressed concern that the new law would affec freedom of the press in the country during war.

Posting on X/Twitter in Hebrew, Netanyahu said, “The time has come to eject this herald for Hamas from our country.”

The new law, which was approved by the Knesset 71-10, will allow the Israeli government to close a foreign news outlet for 45 days, and renew the shutdown for another 45 days, for as long as the war continues.

Qatari satellite television network Al Jazeera has been accused by Israel of presenting a pro-Hamas account of the war. Netanyahu has called the Qatari-owned channel a “Hamas mouthpiece” and has accused it of “harming the security of Israel, actively participating in the October 7 massacre and inciting against Israeli troops.”

A press release from the Knesset said that a news organisation’s offices may be shuttered after a “professional opinion from security agencies” is sent to the communications minister, who will then have to receive approval from the prime minister or the Security Cabinet.

Communications Minister and Likud member, Shlomo Karhi, said: “We have received an efficient and quick tool to act against those who use the freedom of the press to harm the security of Israel and the IDF soldiers, and to incite terrorism during wartime.”

White House spokesperson, Karine Jean-Pierre, said on Monday, “We believe in the freedom of the press. It is critically important and the United States supports the critically important work journalists around the world do. And so and that includes those who are reporting in the conflict in Gaza. 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.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an organisation that promotes global press freedom, criticized the new law: "This contributes to a climate of self-censorship and hostility toward the press, a trend that has escalated since the Israel-Gaza war began.”

Israel’s relations with Qatar are at a critical juncture, as the Gulf state has been hosting ceasefire and hostage negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

In October, Al Jazeera looked set to be shut down in Israel, but it has remained operational and is one of the most viewed channels for news about the war worldwide. It is funded in part by the Qatari state.

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