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Israeli Knesset passes ‘Al Jazeera Law’ to allow closing of foreign news channels deemed to act against the state

Israeli government argues that Qatari channel provides ‘Hamas propaganda’

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

The Israeli Knesset passed the “Law to Prevent Foreign Broadcasting Harm to State Security,” dubbed the “Al Jazeera Law,” by a majority of Knesset members, 71 supported the law while 10 opposed it. on Monday

According to the new bill, if the Israeli prime minister is convinced that the content being broadcast on a foreign channel in Israel represents substantial harm to national security, the communications minister – with the premier’s consent and with the approval of the cabinet – may take several steps against the foreign channel, including the closure of the channel in Israel. 

The following actions are allowed under the bill: cessation of broadcasts within or from Israel; closure of the offices of the foreign channel; closure of the foreign channel's website if the server on which the website is stored is located in Israel; or seizure of a device used to supply the foreign channel's content. 

The bill states that before issuing such an order by the minister of communications, the order will be brought before the prime minister and the cabinet or the government. At least one professional opinion from the security authorities regarding the factual basis – supporting the claim that the foreign channel's broadcasts substantially harm state security – must be presented. 

The law, which is proposed as an emergency regulation, is only in effect until July 31, 2024, or until a declaration by the government that the Israel-Hamas war is over. 

The law is more simply referred to as the “Al Jazeera Law” because the Qatari-owned television channel often presents extremely biased news regarding Israel. The Qatari government, which has no formal dealings with Israel, has been supportive of Hamas and the Palestinian cause since its inception. 

Several Knesset members reacted to the passing of the law. 

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, who sponsored the bill in the Knesset, presented the coalition government’s view. 

“Al Jazeera TV serves as Hamas' propaganda arm,” Karhi said. “The channel encourages the armed struggle against Israel. It is intolerable for a media outlet, with press cards from the government press office and with offices in Israel, to act against us, certainly in times of war."

"We received an effective and rapid tool for action against those who use freedom of the press to harm the security of Israel and IDF soldiers and incite terrorism in time of war,” he added.

Knesset Member Sharan Haskel, a member of Benny Gantz’s National Unity party, also supported the bill. 

“Al Jazeera is a racist anti-Semitic channel that produces false propaganda and incites billions against Jews and the State of Israel,” she said.

“On October 7, Israeli citizens of various religions were murdered, and this challenge belongs to all of us. Al Jazeera TV encourages violence and fans hatred towards Israel. Why is it that six months after the massacre and this channel is still working and its reporters are broadcasting propaganda from here? Now it's the government's task to shut down this channel within a few days.” 

Knesset Member Mansour Abbas, leader of the United Arab List, opposed the bill. 

“Al Jazeera provides a platform for spokesmen from Israel, even military spokesmen,” Abbas stated. “The Israeli position is always present in the news and in the network's announcements. Therefore, it is in Israel's interest in general for Al Jazeera to continue broadcasting. It is impossible, even for reasons of fairness, to block them on the one hand and on the other hand to use Al Jazeera to present your views. This law we are discussing is inappropriate.” 

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre expressed deep concern on Monday over reports suggesting Israel's attempts to shut down Al Jazeera, stating that, if confirmed, it would be 'deeply concerning.” 

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

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