Israel Is Trying to Ban Al Jazeera: Here’s What You Nee…

Paul Goldman and Lawahez Jabari and Alexander Smith

TEL AVIV — Israel is often described as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” But in recent weeks it has outraged human rights organizations by taking steps to ban the pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera.

Israel has opposed Al Jazeera for years, claiming it broadcasts biased coverage of conflicts and violence involving itself and the Palestinian territories.

The government took this one step further by pledging to ban Al Jazeera’s journalists, shutter its offices and block it from the airwaves.

So what’s going on?

Backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s communications minister, Ayoub Kara, accused the channel of inciting violence, particularly the recent flare-ups surrounding the historic Al-Aqsa mosque that is holy to both Muslims and Jews.

Some opponents have claimed the whole thing is a smokescreen to distract from corruption cases surrounding Netanyahu. Others have pointed out that the ban may be near impossible to implement.

For the ban’s supporters, however, the move is long overdue.

“Al Jazeera has been guilty of terrible and fundamentally unprofessional reporting that uses incitement to please their radical paymasters in the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood,” said Dan Diker at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, referring to two Islamist organizations based in Gaza and Egypt respectively.

“Israel is saying, ‘Enough is enough,’ and that you cannot exploit our democratic system in order to assault our democratic country via your propagandistic and radical-Islamic reporting,” Diker told NBC News.

The human rights organization Amnesty International disagrees.

“This is a brazen attack on media freedom in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement Monday. “The move sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage.”

Image: An employee works inside the office of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem

An employee works inside the office of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem on Monday.