Israel Faces Backlash Over Threat to Shut Down al-Jazeera

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed the call by his Communications Minister Ayoub Kara to ban al-Jazeera from the country, including forbidding all of its reporters from operating within Israel or occupied Palestine.

That’s not sitting well with a lot of people, unsurprisingly. Free press organizations are unsurprisingly critical of the move, seeing it as driven primarily by the Israeli government’s cynical interest in distracting the public from ongoing controversies surrounding al-Aqsa mosque, the Jordan embassy, and Netanyahu’s corruption probe.

Al-Jazeera, for its part, has threatened legal action over the potential move, saying that Kara’s allegations of al-Jazeera’s “incitement” were unsubstantiated, and that Israeli officials hadn’t even attempted to provide any sort of evidence to justify a move against them.

Israel has made half-hearted moves against al-Jazeera in the past, usually during its various wars, and it’s usually a winning issue for Israel’s far-right. As a practical matter, however, banning the journalists will be legally difficult, and banning the station will be outright impossible, as most Israeli Arabs and Palestinians watch al-Jazeera on satellite broadcasts over which Israel has no control.

Israel’s decision is so unpopular across the Middle East that everyone is trying to attribute it to their political opponents, with Qataris suggesting the move mirrored recent bans by the Saudi-led blockading states, and the Saudis actually claiming the whole thing was a Qatari plot to discredit their move against al-Jazeera.

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