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Media in Wartime: Knesset and Netanyahu Force the End of Al Jazeera’s Operations in Israel

On April 1st, the Knesset, the assembly of Israeli legislators, passed a bill that would shut down  Al Jazeera and all other international news outlets considered a security threat on Israeli soil. Al Jazeera heavily criticized the Israeli decision, calling it “a dangerous and ridiculous lie.” The media outlet added that the security threat argument was an assault on the media network and press freedom.

Al Jazeera has long been on the radar of Netanyahu. Since the beginning of the war on Oct. 7, the Qatari-owned network has heavily criticized Israeli military operations in Gaza. It remains one of the few international media outlets staying in Gaza throughout the war and covers bloody events, military interventions, crowded hospitals and accuses “Israel of massacres.”

Israel’s communication minister stated he supported the decision and called Al Jazeera a “propaganda arm of Hamas.” His office stated the ban would cease the operations of the media in Israeli territory, but not in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, two Israeli-occupied territories. 

Israel now has joined Saudi Arabia, Jordan and many other Mideast countries that have banned Al Jazeera from their territory.

Such a ban can increase tensions in the conflict. Al Jazeera is a Qatari media company, and Qatar is one of the chief mediators of the war. It helped negotiate the first ceasefire and hostage exchanges.

Netanyahu may have decided to make the bill into law to pressure Qatar into forcing Palestine to make concessions with Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister frequently stated Qatar was not making enough efforts in the negotiation process.

News Coverage of the War in the US

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said that the United States supports journalists' work around the world, and the Israeli bill is an attack on journalism, as the U.S. believes in freedom of press.

Professor Elise Labott from American University stated the current news coverage of American news outlets is more “play-by-play” by covering specific tragedies like Palestine casualties and bombing scenes instead of covering the events as a bigger picture of the situation. 

She then added that the narrative of Israel and the United States is far more present in the media, which neglects Palestine's perspective. For example, the words “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing” and “ genocide” are all used by human rights international relations but barely used by American news outlets to cover the war. 

Change of Coverage Strategy

During the same interview, Labott also mentioned that the media can frame the news from a certain perspective to influence the public's opinion on the matter. She noted the news framing about the Palestine-Israel war evolved through time. The news coverage started as a wave of empathy and support for Israel but is currently leaning towards a ceasefire approach.

The Al-Jazeera ban did not officially occur, but the Israeli government confirmed it would be done in the upcoming days.

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