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Israeli Communications Minister wants to end Al Jazeera 'incitement broadcasts'

Ayoob Kara
Kara's announcement is the latest in a long string of Israeli threats against the Qatari broadcaster

Israel's Communications Minister announced on Sunday that he is figuring out a mechanism for "bringing about the closure of Al Jazeera's incitement broadcasts in Israel," following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's repeated calls for its presence in Israel to be terminated.

Saying he will hold talks with the legal department of the Ministry of Communications and the national Broadcasting Authority, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara of the ruling Likud party said that "we identify with the moderates in the Arab world who are fighting terrorism and religious extremism."

"Here, too, there is no room for a channel that backs terror, just as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, and others - who expelled the inciting channel from their country - did," he added, referring mostly to the Saudi-allied states who loathe Al Jazeera's often critical coverage of some repressive Middle Eastern regimes.

"We must join forces and cooperate - in the war against the channels that preach terrorism," Kara said.

Kara's announcement is the latest in a long string of Israeli government threats against the Qatar-owned global broadcaster, which operates Arabic and English channels.

On Thursday Netanyahu published a late-night Facebook post in which he said "I have appealed to law enforcement agencies several times to close the Al Jazeera office in Jerusalem. If this does not happen because of legal reasons, I will work to legislate the laws required to remove Al Jazeera from Israel."

The network, based in the Qatari capital Doha, flayed the Facebook post as a "vicious" attack on free speech, defended its coverage as professional and objective and foreshadowed a legal battle if Netanyahu follows through on his vow.

Just a month earlier the Yedioth Ahronot newspaper reported that Netanyahu had met with members of the Foreign Ministry, Shin Bet security service, Government Press Office and the Defense Ministry to discuss preliminary steps for shutting down the network's Jerusalem bureau.

"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," Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was quoted saying at the time.

The broadcaster's bureau chief in Jerusalem, Walid al-Omari fired back the following 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."

Despite the government's distaste for the network, which retains several reporters in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, several senior officials have granted interviews to it.

As recently as this year, Netanyahu's foreign media spokesman David Keyes - who sits in the inner circle of the Prime Minister's advisers - appeared on the English channel.

The PM's Arabic spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, is also a frequent guest on the main Arabic channel.

In February, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett, also appeared on the channel, which is headquartered in the Qatari capital, Doha.

Read more: Al Jazeera slams Netanyahu's threat to shut J'lem bureau as 'vicious attack'

Read more: Netanyahu considers closing Al-Jazeera Israel amid Qatar spat

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“God, don’t keep quiet! Don’t close your ears! Please say something, God. Your enemies are getting ready to do something. Those who hate you will soon attack. They are making secret plans against your people. Your enemies are discussing plans against the people you love. They say, “Come, let us destroy them completely. Then no one will ever again remember the name Israel.” God, they have all joined together. They have united against you. Their army includes the Edomites, Ishmaelites, Moabites, and Hagar’s descendants, the people of Byblos, Ammon, and Amalek, the Philistines, and the people of Tyre. Even the Assyrians have joined them. They have made Lot’s descendants very powerful. Selah” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭83:1-8‬ ‭ERV‬‬ http://bible.com/406/psa.83.1-8.erv

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