TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday praised Communications Minister Ayoub Kara for taking concrete steps to “stop incitement” with a decision to permanently shutter Qatari-based news channel Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau.
Earlier in the day, Kara announced the pending closure of the station, which he said “supports terrorism, supports religious radicalization,” the Associated Press reported.
He went on to say that many countries in the region “have determined as fact that Al Jazeera is a tool of the Islamic State (group), Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.”
“[If] we are the only one[s] who have not determined that then something delusional is happening here,” he added.
Following the announcement, Netanyahu tweeted: “I congratulate Minister of Communications Ayoob Kara who, in accordance with my instructions, took practical steps today to stop Al Jazeera’s incitement in Israel.”
The network is also the subject of an aggressive boycott in the Arab world led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which shut down its local offices.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman recently slammed Al Jazeera for being an “incitement machine” that publishes propaganda “in the style of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.”
In line with Saudi, Jordanian and Egyptian accusations, Liberman also charged the news service with supporting Iran.
“I’ve been tracking Al Jazeera for many years,” Liberman said. “You’ll never see a single article against Iran.”
The Qatari-based service is one of the largest news organizations in the world and its Jerusalem bureau employs 34 people, mostly Israeli-Arabs, whose press credentials will be revoked according to Kara. Despite accusations that the Qatari outlet is anti-Semitic, until now Israel has not moved to shut down the Jerusalem bureau for fear of a PR backlash.
In June, Breitbart Jerusalem quoted Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Jerusalem Walid al-Omari as saying that any move towards closing his office down would be challenged in court.
“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.”
“We convey the news. It’s not our fault if the news is ugly,” al-Omari added. “We convey everything that happens to our viewers and to our target audience. In Israel, we put on air people from the government and the opposition, the right and the left, and even settlers. … Even the prime minister himself was on our channel when he was the head of the opposition in 2009.”
Since the network’s Jerusalem Israeli-Arab employees are unionized, any move towards shutting the local offices down would need to receive approval from Israel’s Supreme Court.