Foreign Ministry Opposes Al Jazeera Ban, Report Says

The Al Jazeera office in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Foreign Ministry has expressed its opposition to shutting down the operations of pan-Arab satellite network Al Jazeera in Israel, Haaretz reported Thursday. The recommendations against shutting down operations were made in recent meetings of the National Security Council, with officials concerned that the shutting down of Al Jazeera could tarnish Israel’s reputation for freedom of expression.

Top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, have in recent weeks called for the banning of pan-Arab satellite network Al Jazeera from broadcasting from Israel. On Wednesday, the government took the first practical step in that direction, revoking the press credentials of Elias Karram, an Al Jazeera reporter who said in an interview that he saw his work as part of the Palestinian “resistance” against Israeli policies. Karram is an Arab citizen of Israel from Nazareth.

While it’s understandable why the government would want to boot Karram and other Al Jazeera reporters, the Foreign Ministry believes that the damage would outdo the benefit. With the publicity generated from its ban, Al-Jazeera would be able to point to further “evidence” of “Israeli repression” of Palestinians, whereas the general public, already inured to Al Jazeera’s slant on events in the Middle East, would be more likely to continue treating the network’s reporting from Israel in the same manner as it would have before a ban. The Ministry fears that the network, if banned, would receive more credence for its reporting than it will if it continues to broadcast from Israel.

In addition, a Ministry official told Haaretz, banning the network would “portray Israel as one of the type of countries that repress freedom of speech, like Cuba, Venezuela and Turkey.” Neither the office of Netanyahu nor that of Communications Minister Ayoub Kara responded to the Haaretz report, the paper said.

In an interview in May with the Dar al-Amein satellite channel, Karram said that “journalism is an integral part of political and educational activity” in “occupied and violent areas. Journalists fulfill their role in the resistance with their pen, camera, or voice, because they are part of the nation. They participate in the resistance in their own way.”

Commenting on the interview, Government Press Office director Nitzan Chen, who announced the revocation of Karram’s credentials Wednesday, said that the reporter’s remarks “pose a serious question as to the reporter’s ability to objectively cover the conflict in a professional manner, as he sees himself as part of the conflict. If he does see himself as part of the ‘Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation,’ as he himself put it, it is not clear how that could fit in with the universal values of objective journalism.”