After ban, ministry raids Al Jazeera’s Nazareth branch, seizes equipment

Inspectors confiscate broadcasting gear from blacklisted network; Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi vows ‘Israel won’t let Hamas broadcast from here’

Communications Ministry inspectors raid the Al Jazeera network's Nazareth office, May 9, 2024. (Communications Ministry)
Communications Ministry inspectors raid the Al Jazeera network's Nazareth office, May 9, 2024. (Communications Ministry)

The Communications Ministry said Thursday that its inspectors raided the Nazareth offices of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera, in accordance with the recent government decision to halt the channel’s operations in the country.

Inspectors accompanied by police confiscated equipment designed for live broadcasts last used on Wednesday, including a camera, a TVU transceiver, a tripod and an audio kit, the ministry said in its statement.

“Israel won’t let Hamas broadcast from here,” Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi posted on X, reiterating Israel’s accusation that the Qatari network serves as a propaganda mouthpiece for the terror group.

On Sunday, the government voted unanimously to authorize Karhi to shut down Al Jazeera for 45 days, in accordance with a law passed by the Knesset in April allowing the temporary closure of foreign media outlets deemed to be harming national security.

Immediately after the cabinet decision, Karhi signed four orders instructing Israel’s television and internet providers to halt access to Al Jazeera, as well as instructions to close the network’s offices in Israel and to confiscate the channel’s broadcast equipment.

“Al Jazeera’s journalists have harmed Israeli security and incited against IDF soldiers,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a joint press release issued together with Karhi’s office following the government decision.

Netanyahu and Karhi have both claimed the channel has caused harm to Israeli national security, but the government has not publicly released the evidence of this claim, and an Israeli official said earlier this week that a Shin Bet report that led to the closure would remain confidential.

Al Jazeera described the decision to shut its operations down as a “criminal action” and said the accusation that the network threatened national security was a “dangerous and ridiculous lie” that put its journalists at risk.

“Israel’s suppression of free press to cover up its crimes by killing and arresting journalists has not deterred us from performing our duty,” the network said.

The temporary law passed in April allows foreign media networks to be shuttered for a 45-day period, which can then be renewed.

The law itself was passed as a temporary law and will expire on July 31 or earlier, if the declaration of an emergency situation is lifted by the government.

The law gives the prime minister and the communications minister the authority to order the temporary closure of foreign networks operating in Israel and confiscate their equipment if it is believed that they are “doing actual harm to state security.”

It is the communications minister that is empowered to issue such orders, but only after receiving the approval of the prime minister and the security cabinet, and after a professional position paper has been presented to the prime minister and the communications minister by the security services detailing the “factual foundations” of allegations that the channel is causing damage to Israel’s national security.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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