Israeli Government Passes Law to Shut Down Al Jazeera

Thomas Koehler/Photothek via Getty
Thomas Koehler/Photothek via Getty

The Israeli parliament passed a bill on Monday allowing it to shut down Al Jazeera’s news operations in Israel, a decision the White House labeled a “concerning” restriction of press freedom.

The bill, which passed 71-10, paves the way for Israel to shut down foreign news outlets it deems a security risk—a move widely viewed as targeting Al Jazeera. Israel has blasted the Qatar-based outlet as a propaganda arm for Hamas in Gaza, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the organization on Monday of aiding Hamas terrorists during the Oct. 7 attack.

“Al Jazeera harmed Israel’s security, actively participated in the October 7 massacre, and incited against IDF soldiers. It is time to remove the shofar of Hamas from our country,” Netanyahu wrote on X. “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.”

The law allows the government to shut down the outlet for 45 days, which it can renew. The law itself expires on July 31 unless Israel lifts the country’s emergency status before then.

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Communications minister Shlomo Karai, who promoted the bill, said it was “​​impossible to tolerate a media outlet, with press credentials from the government press office and with offices in Israel, acting from within against us, certainly in wartime,” according to Reuters.

Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The imminent ban comes as several journalists and their families have been killed by the Israeli army’s siege on Gaza. Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief Wael Al-Dahdouh fled the country in January after his wife and three of his children were killed by Israeli airstrikes—and only after he himself had been injured by an airstrike in December. He learned about his wife and two of his children’s deaths while reporting on-air in October.

The law’s passage also followed years of hostilities between Israel and the outlet, which is publicly funded in part by the Qatari government. Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was killed while wearing a press badge and covering a May 2022 raid by the Israeli Defense Forces in the West Bank. The United Nations blamed Israel for her death, and Israel admitted it was likely responsible.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Netanyahu’s intentions were “concerning” and reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to press freedom.

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“It is critical,” she said during a White House press briefing on Monday. “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 the conflict in Gaza.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also condemned the law, saying it poses “a significant threat to international media in the country.” The CPJ added in a statement: “This contributes to a climate of self-censorship and hostility toward the press, a trend that has escalated since the Israeli-Gaza war began.”

The nonprofit has found that, as of Monday, 95 journalists and media employees have been killed since the Oct. 7 attack that saw 1,200 Israelis murdered. Nearly 33,000 Palestinians have died since Israel launched its counteroffensive, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Of the nearly 100 journalists killed, 90 of them have been Palestinian, according to the CPJ.

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