Israel is to ban al-Jazeera from operating in the country as well as in the Palestinian territories, revoking journalists’ credentials and closing the station’s office.
The announcement follows a threat to do so from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, in which he blamed the Qatar-based network of incitement and links to terrorist groups.
On Sunday, communications minister Ayoub Kara said that Israel would follow the lead of Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, who recently banned al-Jazeera as part of their dispute with Qatar.
Israeli leaders have long criticised the network’s coverage, with Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman describing it as “Nazi Germany-style” propaganda.
Qatar, which state funds the channel, said the network’s editors are guilty only of giving the Palestinians a voice, adding that Israeli ministers are also interviewed frequently – an opportunity other Arabic channels deny them.
The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) said Kara’s ban “would fail the test of legality” if put before the Supreme Court, but the minister said he would put the plan before the Israeli Knesset (parliament) “as soon as possible”.
This week British Jewish group Yachad expressed concern about the action. “While Al-Jazeera’s reporting is sometimes slanted in ways many find problematic, it is far less damaging to Israel’s democracy and reputation than attempts to restrict press freedom,” said a spokesman.
“We worry about the impact this type of adversarial attitude to international media will have on Israel, and on global public opinion towards Israel. It is vital that international and Israeli news organisations continue to report freely from Israel and the Palestinian territories.”
This week Amnesty International added its voice to the criticism, saying Israel’s plans to ban al-Jazeera were “a brazen attack on media freedom… Instead of initiating a repressive clampdown on freedom of expression the Israeli authorities must halt any attempt to silence critical media”.