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Israeli government votes to halt Qatar-funded Al Jazeera broadcasts in Israel

Hamas blasts decision, says Israel tries ‘to hide the truth’ about Gaza War

Workers at the Al Jazeera offices in Jerusalem on June 13, 2017. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israeli coalition government cabinet headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted unanimously to suspend Al Jazeera’s license to broadcast within Israel and the Palestinian Territories on Sunday. 

The coalition cabinet gave its approval on a vote in the Knesset earlier in April, permitting the temporary closure of foreign media outlets that Israel considers to be harmful to national security. 

Immediately following the decision, Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi signed orders for Israel’s broadcast companies to cease broadcasts of the Al Jazeera channel, close the network’s offices in Jerusalem, confiscate Al Jazeera’s broadcast equipment, and block access to the company’s website in Israel. 

Netanyahu issued a joint statement with the Ministry of Communications, which read: “Al Jazeera correspondents have harmed the security of Israel and incited against IDF soldiers. The time has come to eject Hamas's mouthpiece from our country.” 

The closure took effect mere hours after the Israeli government announced the 45-day shutdown of the Qatar-owned news channel in Israel. The decision to suspend the broadcasts in Israel includes the option to extend the decision. 

On Sunday afternoon, shortly after the vote was in effect, viewers tuning in to the channel saw a black screen with a message in Hebrew stating the broadcast is "suspended in Israel.” 

Walid Omary, Al Jazeera television network bureau chief in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, told Reuters the decision was politically motivated and said the network is examining its options to respond legally.

"Israel's suppression of free press to cover up its crimes by killing and arresting journalists has not deterred us from performing our duty," Al Jazeera said in a statement.

The National Unity party, led by Israeli Minister Benny Gantz, which did not participate in the cabinet vote [Gantz sits on the war cabinet, not the broader coalition cabinet], said the timing of the vote was "terrible."

"Bringing the topic forward this morning for a vote in the government meeting is a correct decision but with terrible timing, that could undermine efforts to exhaust the (hostage) negotiations, and stems from political considerations," the group said.

The Hamas terrorist organization released a statement saying the decision by Netanyahu and the coalition government to shutter the Qatari network's broadcasts is a "flagrant violation of press freedom, and a repressive and retaliatory measure against Al Jazeera's professional role in exposing the crimes and violations of the occupation... as a culmination of the declared war against journalists who face systematic Zionist terror aimed at hiding the truth.” 

The Foreign Press Association condemned the decision, saying it is a “cause for concern for all supporters of a free press.” 

“With this decision, Israel joins a dubious club of authoritarian governments to ban the station,” the FPS said in a statement. “And the government may not be done. The prime minister has the authority to target other foreign media that he deems to be ‘acting against the state.” 

Al Jazeera is funded by the Qatari government, which has also provided millions of dollars in funding to Hamas and hosts several top Hamas leaders in Doha

Israeli government members have accused Al Jazeera of spreading Hamas propaganda.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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