Israel passes law enabling closure of Al Jazeera

Media outlets that harm Israel’s national security can now be temporarily shut down by the government.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Knesset passed the final readings Monday of the so-called “Al Jazeera Law,” which allows the government to temporarily shut down foreign news outlets if they threaten Israel’s national security.

A vast majority of 71 lawmakers approved the bill that gives the communications minister the right to shut down foreign networks for 45-day increments if he or she believes that their content “does actual harm to state security.”

This includes blocking that media’s television channel and website in Israel, closing its offices and seizing its communications equipment.

To shutter a media outlet, Israel’s communications minister must first receive a report by the security services outlining the “factual foundations” of the dangers they believe the outlet represents, and both the prime minister and security cabinet must approve the shut-down as well.

The chief justice of a district court must also sign off on such an order within three days of its presentation, and has the right to change the period of time it is to be applied.

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It is nicknamed for the Qatari-based news network with a global audience that has gone far beyond its usual clear pro-Palestinian line in the current Hamas-Israel war, according to Israeli authorities.

The Mossad called for Al Jazeera’s closing just over a week after the war began due to its concern that it was revealing the location of soldiers and sensitive military installations.

The intelligence agency was backed by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the Shabak internal security service, and the National Security Agency, among others.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said at the time that the initiative was based on “proof that it is assisting the enemy, broadcasting propaganda in the service of Hamas, in Arabic and English, to viewers around the world, and even passing sensitive information to the enemy.”

Plans to shut down Al Jazeera were soon shelved, however, after pressure from its owner, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

The Qataris had quickly become the chief negotiators with Hamas regarding the release of the 253 hostages the terror organization abducted on October 7 during their massacre of 1,200 people in a surprise invasion of Israel that sparked the current war.

Since October, much worse has been discovered about the Arab outlet, as the IDF has outed several Al Jazeera reporters as being outright Hamas terrorists based on documentation found during and after operations in the Gaza Strip.

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Mohamed Washah’s laptop, discovered in a Gazan Hamas base, proved that he was a “prominent commander” in Hamas’s anti-tank missile unit, while Ismail Abu Omar served as a deputy company commander in Khan Yunis, the army revealed in February.

Two other Al Jazeera journalists, who were killed in a January Israeli airstrike in Gaza, were a Hamas deputy squad commander and a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket unit commander, respectively.

After the law passed, Karhi rejoiced, saying, “We have brought to fruition an effective and swift tool against those who use freedom of the press to harm Israel’s security and IDF soldiers, and who incite to terrorism during a time of war.”

Ten Knesset members, including all those from the Arab parties, opposed the law.