JERUSALEM, Israel – After a Knesset discussion Wednesday, Israel’s government has decided, for now, not to ban the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera network from operating in Israel, but the government did retain the authority to close communication channels that harm national security, and left the decision to do so in the hands of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
Last month, Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi fired a broadside at the network, saying “Al Jazeera’s broadcasts and reports constitute incitement against Israel, help Hamas-ISIS and the terror organizations with their propaganda, and encourage violence against Israel.”
Kahri reportedly agreed this week with Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, in favor of the Knesset’s decision to have Gallant rule on media threats to national security.
At the same time, a U.S. lawmaker, Representative Jack Bergman (R-MI), sent a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson calling for Congress to revoke Al-Jazeera’s press credentials in Washington. “Hamas is using Al -Jazeera daily to promote blood libels against Israel—and even calling for ‘Jihad’ against the United States and the West,” Bergman wrote.
In an opinion piece in The Hill, Bergman wrote that revoking Al-Jazeera’s credentials would be “a dramatic shot across the bow of more than a dozen media outlets owned or controlled by the Chinese Communist Party that openly flout the Foreign Agents Regisration Act – many of which, like Al Jazeera, still maintain free rein of the U.S. Capitol by virtue of credentials awared them by the House Press Gallery.”
Such talk rattles the nerves of the global journalistic community, although there was comparatively little fanfare when both the European Union and the United States banned and deplatformed Russian media outlets at the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war last year, putting sanctions on RT, Sputnik, and other entities.
The General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, Anthony Bellanger, wrote, “We are deeply concerned at Israel’s attempt to censor media coverage of the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict using national security as an excuse to restrict critical media that do not confirm its narrative of the ongoing war.’
He added, “This is a clear attack on media pluralism and the public’s right to know. The whole world must be allowed to see what is happening in the ongoing conflict and we urge Israel to review its decision.”
Bergstrom’s battle to pull Al-Jazeera’s credentials in the U.S. has steeper odds against it in light of the First Amendment free speech protections. Still, he cites the network’s defiance of U.S. law after the Justice Department ruled in 2020 that Al-Jazeera was acting as an unregistered agent for the state of Qatar.
The Congressman believes the legal violations give the House speaker freedom to move, and he notes, “There is recent precedent for such action: former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) revoked the press credentials of the Epoch Times unilaterally several years ago. The case of Al-Jazeera is much more clear cut. Kick them out.”