Under pressure from Qatar, Israel shelves plan to ban Al Jazeera

Qatari-based Arabic TV network to continue broadcasting in Israel.

By Susan Tawil, World Israel News

Israel has shelved plans to pull the plug on Al Jazeera‘s local operations.

Worried that Al Jazeera was helping disseminate Hamas propaganda, the Israeli government preliminarily approved a motion to close down the Arabic TV station.

However, due to pressure from Qatar, the country currently helping broker the release of Hamas-held Israeli hostages, the shut-down was abandoned.

Qatar, a fundamentalist Muslim country, is a small peninsula on the eastern border of Saudi Arabia.

It is one of the world’s largest producers of petroleum and gas, and ranks as one of the top ten richest countries on earth.

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, owns Al Jazeera, and is a strong supporter of the so-called Palestinians. The Qatari royal family also owns Israel’s Arabic broadcast network Al-Araby, as well as the pro-Hezbollah Al Mayadeen station which operates in Judea and Samaria.

Israel’s Minister of Communications, Shlomo Karhi, referred to Al Jazeera as a “propaganda mouthpiece” that incites against Israel.

There is worry that the station helps Hamas transmit sensitive military and political information and poses a threat to national security.

President and founder of MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) Yigal Carmon, former counter-terrorism advisor to Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, wrote that Al Jazeera and Al-Araby act as “megaphones for Hama’s military, operational, and propaganda messages.”

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Communications Minister Karhi, together with the Mossad, the Shin Bet, and the Israel Defense Ministry, in consultation with the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General, approved regulations on October 19 to halt activities of “foreign broadcasting organizations that harm the security of the State, for the duration of the war.”

However, Qatar is playing a key role in mediating the release of approximately 240 Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas. Worried that shutting down Al Jazeera would adversely affect the sensitive negotiations, the plan to shut down the Arabic network was scuttled.