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Israel threatens to close Al Jazeera offices, compares it to Nazi propaganda

June 15, 2017 6:59 P.M. (Updated: June 16, 2017 10:33 A.M.)
Al Jazeera's logo.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After Saudi Arabia and Jordan shuttered offices of the Qatari-funded Al Jazeera news network and revoked its media license amid an ongoing conflict between Qatar and other Gulf nations, Israel jumped on the bandwagon, with Israeli authorities advancing plans to close Al Jazeera's office in Jerusalem and comparing the award-winning network to media bodies operating in Nazi Germany.

Israeli news outlet Ynet reported on Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had met on Monday with Government Press Office (GPO), the Foreign Ministry, and the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, among other security apparatuses to discuss the possibilities of shuttering Al Jazeera.

Israel’s ultra-right Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman repeated claims on Wednesday comparing Al Jazeera’s publications with propaganda disseminated during Nazi Germany. “It is not media, it is a propaganda outfit in the style of the Soviets or Nazi Germany,” he reportedly said.

He added that Israeli authorities were seeking “legal solutions” to shutter Al Jazeera’s offices.

Both the Saudi Arabian and Jordanian governments have already closed down Al Jazeera offices as part of their political campaign against Qatar, which they have accused of funding “terrorist activities” in the region -- most notably citing Qatar’s support of Hamas, the de facto leading party in the besieged Gaza Strip, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, analysts have pointed out that the recent Gulf rift spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, whose foreign minister has accused Qatar of supporting an “extremist group,” despite Saudi Arabia itself hosting Hamas delegations and sponsoring visits with the group as recently as 2016, could be used by Israel to further isolate Hamas with the backing of Arab countries.

The political campaign against Qatar has also been encouraged by right-wing US President Donald Trump, who took credit for the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf in one of his infamous Twitter posts at the same time as other US officials attempted to calm tensions between the countries.

Israel’s calls to close Al Jazeera’s offices are not new, as several other attempts have been made in the past to shut down the network over what Israeli officials consider to be negative coverage on Israel owing to Al Jazeera's focus on Israel’s activities in the Palestinian territory, which Israeli authorities have deemed “incitement” against the Israeli state.

Others have pointed out that Al Jazeera has instead provided an important platform for Palestinian voices, which are often marginalized by Israel’s influence over international media, and for stories exploring the effects of Israel’s half-century military occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

Ynet reported that these requests to close the network had previously been abandoned, as they contradicted Israel’s claims of being a democracy equipped with a functioning free press.

However, analysts have pointed out that Arab nations have provided Israel with the perfect political climate to go forward with their longstanding inclination to pull the plug on the network.

Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Israel Walid Omari spoke with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, saying that the network would challenge any attempts to shutter it in Israel’s Supreme Court.

"What's wrong with Al Jazeera?" Omari reportedly asked. "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."

"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," Omari added.

Some have pointed out the irony of the so-called "only democracy in the Middle East" shutting down a news network at the behest of a monarchy ruled by a royal family that is routinely accused of human rights abuses, and whose citizens have no basic rights of expression or press freedoms.
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