Israel’s government passes law to temporarily shut down Al Jazeera

Israel’s legislature passed a law Monday paving the way to shut down the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network, under legislation allowing for the temporary ban of foreign news networks that the government deems a threat to national security.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would “act immediately” to implement the law against Al Jazeera, accusing the Qatari-funded news outlet of supporting Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack against Israel and serving as a mouthpiece for the U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

“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,” Netanyahu posted in Hebrew on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

The law passed Israel’s Knesset 71-10 in its second and third reading in the Knesset plenum, the Times of Israel reported. Orders to shut down foreign news outlets deemed a national security threat can only be carried out for 45 days but can be renewed for further 45-day periods. The law is set to expire July 31.

Both Israel and the U.S. are critical of Al Jazeera’s coverage of Israel broadly, and of its coverage of Israel’s war against Hamas since the Oct. 7 attack. 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 the October attack.

But the Biden administration said it was concerned over the Israeli passage of the law.

“We’ve seen the reports and certainly I’m going to refer to Israel for what they may or may not be considering. But if it is true, a move like this is concerning. We believe in the freedom of the press. It is critical. It is critically important,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

But Israeli lawmakers have gone farther in their accusations of Al Jazeera’s ties to Hamas. The office of Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said in October that there was “proof that [Al Jazeera] 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.”

The Israeli military has accused Al Jazeera journalist Ismail Abu Omar of being a Hamas operative. Abu Omar was wounded in February during an Israeli airstrike near Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt and flown to Doha for treatment, the Times of Israel reported.

The Committee To Protect Journalists said at the time it was “deeply alarmed” that the Israeli airstrike had injured both Abu Omar and freelance cameraman Ahmed Matar.

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