Court approves extension of ban on Al Jazeera operations in Israel

Ruling finds direct and causal connection between terrorist activities inside Israel and consumption of Al Jazeera content; law being challenged in High Court of Justice

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Police raid the Al Jazeera offices in Jerusalem on May 5, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Police raid the Al Jazeera offices in Jerusalem on May 5, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa District Court approved Thursday Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi’s request to renew the temporary ban on the Al Jazeera news network in Israel, whose broadcasts and website will now be blocked for an additional 45 days.

In its decision, the court found that there is a direct and causal connection between individuals who have carried out terror attacks inside Israel and the consumption of Al Jazeera content.

It also determined that there was a “close connection” between Al Jazeera and Hamas, that some Al Jazeera reporters in Gaza had turned themselves into “assistants and partners” with Hamas, and that some of them had even carried out terror attacks.

The court’s findings were similar to its previous ruling on the initial order banning Al Jazeera in Israel.

Deputy President of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa District Court Judge Haggai Brenner wrote in his decision that raw, classified material presented to him by the state to justify the ban demonstrated “the existence of a close connection” between Hamas, Al Jazeera and its reporters.

“The picture that is formed is that Al Jazeera has a number of reporters within the borders of the Gaza Strip (certainly not all of them, and not even most of them) who have crossed the line between a legitimate connection of source-journalist relations, to a connection of another type, and turned themselves into de facto assistants and partners of the Hamas terror organization, while preserving close ties and passing mutual messages,” Brenner wrote.

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

“Other classified documents establish the conclusion that Al Jazeera is seen by the Hamas terror organization as its public diplomacy and intelligence arm,” he added.

Brenner also said there is a “very grave and very worrying influence” of Al Jazeera broadcasts on specific population groups in Israel, and that “this content has been the motivator, the catalyst, and the incentivizer for the activities of terrorists inside the borders of Israel,” adding that “there is no doubt that for these terrorists there is a clear and proven causal relationship between the content that Al Jazeera broadcasts and the terror attacks they carried out.”

He concluded: “We are therefore talking about actual harm to the security of the state (even if Al Jazeera did not intend for this harm).”

Al Jazeera’s broadcasts in Israel were first taken off the air, its website taken offline, its equipment seized and its offices sealed on May 5 in accordance with an emergency law passed in April allowing for foreign outlets that are deemed to be violating national security to be temporarily blocked. It is the only outlet against which the law has been enacted.

Such bans must be approved by the prime minister and the security cabinet on the recommendation of at least one security agency, and have a maximum duration of 45 days, although the term can be renewed for further periods as long as the emergency law is in effect. The law is currently set to expire on July 31, although it too could be extended.

Decisions to shutter a foreign outlet require the review of a district court judge.

The emergency law is currently being challenged in the High Court of Justice by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel on the grounds that it unduly infringes upon the right to free speech, freedom of the press, and the right of the public to hear narratives not heard in Israel.

The High Court court issued a conditional order on Sunday telling the government that it must explain why the law is constitutional. Justice Isaac Amit said the unprecedented nature of the law will also require an expanded panel of justices to review it.

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