Netanyahu considers closing Al-Jazeera Israel amid Qatar spat
Faisal al-Tamimi (AFP/File)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering closing the Jerusalem bureau of the Qatar-based Arabic media outlet Al-Jazeera, the Yedioth Ahronoth Hebrew media outlet reported on Tuesday.
Netanyahu met with members of the Foreign Ministry, Shin Bet security service, Government Press Office and the Defense Ministry on Monday where they discussed preliminary steps for shutting the bureau down, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
The possible closure was reportedly discussed at a Knesset meeting on Israel's strategies towards the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which is heavily reliant on Qatari funding for support, in which Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman waded into a diplomatic spat between Qatar and Gulf Arab nations, slamming the Doha-based Al-Jazeera news service as an "incitement machine" which peddles propaganda "in the style of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia."
"Al-Jazeera is not media, it’s not journalism. It’s an incitement machine. It’s pure propaganda, of the worst variety, in the style of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia," Lieberman said.
Al-Jazeera, one of the largest news organizations in the world, has long been a source of conflict between Qatar and its neighbors, who accuse the broadcaster of bias and fomenting trouble in the region.
Lieberman echoed this criticism, accusing the news service of supporting Iran, the arch-nemesis of Saudi Arabia.
“I’ve been tracking Al-Jazeera for many years,” Liberman said. “You’ll never see a single article against Iran.”
The broadcaster's bureau chief in Jerusalem, Walid al-Omari fired back on Tuesday in an interview with the Hebrew daily Maariv.
"If they try to discontinue our activity in Israel and close our office here, we will petition the High Court of Justice," he was quoted as saying.
"How can Israel continue to argue to the world that it is part of a democratic and universal dialogue if it behaves like a dark dictatorship,"
"What's wrong with Al Jazeera?" asked al-Omari. "We are duly registered, law-abiding workers who pay taxes and behave according to journalistic ethics. From day one we have been registered. Everything is transparent, everything is coherent."
In his remarks, Lieberman conceded that any decision to close Al-Jazeera would have to go through Israel’s Supreme Court in order to be implemented due to the fact that the channel’s employees in Jerusalem are Israeli Arabs who are unionized and protected by Israeli workers’ rights.
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