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Israel’s Battle Against Free Speech: The Shuttering of Al Jazeera


“Politics,” as the harsh, albeit successful German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck claimed, “is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.” 

To that should be added the stark awareness of being prudent, gingerly wise, appropriately cautious.  Mind how you go in avoiding any foolishness on the way.

Going after the motley press and news outlets while claiming to be a card-carrying member of the democracy club is far from prudent and more than a touch foolish, bound to make the critics croak and other fellow members decry.  And this is exactly what has happened in the context of Israel’s decision to shut down the Qatar-backed station Al Jazeera.

On May 5, police raided the offices of the network at the Ambassador hotel in Jerusalem. According to Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, equipment had been seized in the raid.

Al Jazeera duly released a statement strongly condemning and denouncing “this criminal act that violates human rights and the basic right to access of information.”  The network went on to affirm “its right to continue to provide news and information to its global audiences.”  Oddly enough, the ban is far from being a watertight one, as the channel remains accessible in Israel via Facebook.

Al Jazeera has had a troubled relationship with Israel.  Sounding like paranoid family members who have imbibed a bit too much, accusations frothed from various politicians accusing the network of being a Hamas front. In a dubious honour, the network’s name became associated with a law passed by the Israeli Knesset on April 1.

The instrument authorises the Minister of Communication, with the consent of the Prime Minister and the Ministerial Committee on National Committee, to shut down foreign news outlets operating in Israel deemed a national security threat…

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