Knesset advances bill to allow ban of Al Jazeera, would also require political will

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Illustrative: An employee of Al Jazeera walks past the channel's logo at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. (AP/Kamran Jebreili, File)
Illustrative: An employee of Al Jazeera walks past the channel's logo at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. (AP/Kamran Jebreili, File)

A temporary measure allowing the government to censor foreign media passes its first reading in the Knesset in a 25-4 vote.

Under the bill, the communications minister will be empowered to shutter foreign networks operating in Israel and confiscate their equipment if the defense minister identifies that their broadcasts poses “an actual harm to the state’s security.”

If ultimately passed into law, the bill — which would also allow for the censoring of a targeted network’s website — would pave the way for Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi to follow through on his threat to shut down Qatari news channel Al Jazeera, which he has said is working against Israel’s defense interests and fueling anti-Israel sentiment.

It is unclear whether the new law is actually what is needed to ban Al Jazeera, and it is widely understood that the reason Israel has refrained from taking the step of closing the network is so as not to anger Qatar, which funds Al Jazeera

In November, Karhi alleged that Al Jazeera had “photographed and published” the positioning of IDF forces, “broadcast military announcements by Hamas,” and “distorted facts in a way which incited masses of people to riot.”

On Monday morning, the IDF published images and documents recovered in the Gaza Strip which it said showed that Mohamed Washah, a Palestinian journalist working for Al Jazeera, also appears to also be a commander in Hamas’s military wing.

“In the morning, he’s a journalist on the Al Jazeera channel, and in the evening, a terrorist in Hamas!” wrote Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, in a Sunday post to social media platform X.

The post included photographs apparently showing Washah training in the use of anti-tank weapons as well as working with other weapons and a drone.

Emanuel Fabian and Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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