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Why closure of Al Jazeera is futile and slippery slope for Israel

There is broad understanding in Israel that shutting down Al Jazeera's local outfit is not only technologically impossible but also harmful to Israel's international image.
This picture shows a view of the newsroom at the main headquarters of Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera in the capital Doha on May 6, 2024. Al Jazeera went off-air in Israel on May 5, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government decided to shut it down following a long-running feud, a move the Qatar-based channel decried as "criminal". (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP) (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)

JERUSALEM — In polarized Israel, almost every issue is a source of controversy. Nonetheless, there is wide agreement on the populist and harmful government decision last Sunday to shut down Al Jazeera’s Israel operations. 

Following the May 5 closure order, Communications Ministry officials accompanied by police officers entered the Jerusalem office of the Qatari-owned network, confiscating cameras and broadcasting equipment.

The government’s closure order aims to block Al Jazeera in Israel and prevent its staff of some 70 journalists from reporting in Israel. The offices of Al Jazeera will be shut down and the Israeli broadcasting platforms HOT and YES can no longer include the network. The ministry also demanded the Israeli government revoke the press cards of Al Jazeera journalists, which means that non-Israeli reporters for the network will no longer be eligible for working visas in the country. The order is valid for 45 days, after which the ministry will have to petition to extend it.

After years of Israeli criticism of the network’s pro-Arab bias, the move was designed to halt the highly influential network’s transmissions from Israel as well as stem viewers' ability to see them in Israel. Nonetheless, the broadcasts remain easily available in Israel via satellite, streaming channels and on platforms such as Telegram, WhatsApp, X, Facebook and TikTok.

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