According to the BBC:

Israel's government has moved to shut down the operations of the Al Jazeera television network in the country, branding it a mouthpiece for Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the cabinet agreed to the closure while the war in Gaza is ongoing. Police raided the Qatari broadcaster's office at the Ambassador hotel in Jerusalem on Sunday. Al Jazeera called claims it was a threat to Israeli security a "dangerous and ridiculous lie".

This follows on from Israel's imprisonment of "record numbers" of journalists, 17 as of January, 2024.

However, what purpose does closing Al Jazeera in Israel provide? It would make sense to close all anti-Israel-biased journalistic organisations within its borders, but why Al Jazeera? Being a news organisation, doesn't this violate freedom of speech laws?

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    Can you give a link to those freedom of speech laws, so we can check them for this question, please? Commented May 5 at 18:10
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    This question seems to be based on the assumption that they explicitly wanted to close only Al Jazeera and no one else, but you can't reliably deduce someone's intention purely from one action they took. Just because someone does one thing does not mean they wouldn't like to do more things if they felt able to do them.
    – Flater
    Commented May 8 at 0:42
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    @Flater Hence the question. I just added my naive assumptions hoping they would be disproven. Commented May 8 at 8:44
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    The purpose is stated in the question itself. The question clearly states that "Israel's government has moved to shut down the operations of the Al Jazeera television network in the country, branding it a mouthpiece for Hamas." Given that Israel has openly declared war against Hamas, this is a consistent action. If you are asking about an ulterior motive, then that's an invitation for speculation and off topic on this site.
    – wrod
    Commented May 8 at 9:21

8 Answers 8


However, what purpose does closing Al Jazeera in Israel provide? It would make sense to close all anti-Israel-biased journalistic organisations within its borders, but why Al Jazeera?

Al Jazeera is being singled out because they are the only anti-Israel-biased journalistic organization that is accused of being a security threat. Other anti-Israel-biased journalistic organizations are not.

Israel is not the only country to perceive and single out Al Jazeera as a security threat. The U.S. government singled out Al Jazeera as a security threat during America's occupation of Iraq after its 2003 invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein and for airing videos of Osama bin Laden. Egyptian authorities raided the Al Jazeera operating base after the military takeover against President Mohammed Morsi. They then gave 10-year prison sentences to three Al Jazeera staff members. It remains banned there since 2013.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain also banned and continue to ban Al Jazeera over claims of incitement, security risks, and backing terrorist groups similar to the claims Israel is currently making. And unlike Israel and Egypt, those countries did not do so as a result of being in the midst of a war.

Being a news organisation, doesn't this violate freedom of speech laws?

Freedom of speech laws do not include security risks. The European Union banned Russian state-controlled media outlets, RT and Sputnik in its entire 27-country bloc over accusations that were a lot more benign than what Al Jazeera is being accused of by Israel and the other Middle Eastern countries who banned it.

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    +1 Fair enough, but since Al Jazeera's business is writing news articles, perhaps you'd care to cite one such article that presents a clear security risk? That they are biased and anti-Israel is not in doubt, but that's not, quite, the same thing as a "security risk". Though RT and Sputnik is a valid reminder that Western countries play the same games when it suits them. The regional countries ban Al Jazeera for what to seem slightly different motives: criticism of hereditary rulers risks waking demands for democracy (criticism oddly absent of AJ's coverage of Qatar news). Commented May 5 at 21:52
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    To a large extent, a simple "this is wartime and this paper favors the opposite side" suffices to explain, and justify, Israeli actions. Commented May 5 at 22:12
  • Related question on the RT ban: politics.stackexchange.com/q/70579/130
    – gerrit
    Commented May 6 at 8:40
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    Except as propaganda, there are no accusations against Al-Jazeera - no breach of any law, no charges, and not even any criminal investigations (that I know of).
    – einpoklum
    Commented May 6 at 10:57
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Al-Jazeera is based in Qatar and partially owned by Qatari government... which also happens to be one of the main backers of Hamas - so analogy with the RT is very appropriate. Of course, in theory all information should be made accessible and people should be able to make their own judgement... but we see how it works in the west :D
    – Morisco
    Commented May 6 at 13:09

Anti-journalistic policy

Israel historically has had a high rate of journalists killed in conflicts it is involved in, mainly in occupied Palestinian territories, such as Gaza. Recently, the count for killed journalists and media workers in the 2023/2024 Israel-Gaza war has reached 89, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Even before the war, notable examples of journalists killed in peace time include Shireen Abu Akleh in 2022, and Yaser Murtaja in 2018.

The action taken to take Al Jazeera in Israel off-air does not stray from this trend, except in that it is of a less violent variety, with no reported deaths or injuries, although we don't have independent reports as the BBC has not been able to enter the location of a reported raid:

Israel's Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said equipment had been taken in the raid.

A video posted by the minister on X shows police officers and inspectors from the ministry entering a hotel room.

A BBC team visited the scene, but was prevented from filming or going into the hotel by police.

Statements from Al Jazeera, in a BBC article:

In a statement, Al Jazeera said: "Netanyahu could not find any justifications to offer the world for his ongoing attacks on Al Jazeera and press freedom except to present new lies and inflammatory slanders against the Network and the rights of its employees.

"Al Jazeera holds the Israeli Prime Minister responsible for the safety of its staff and Network premises around the world, following his incitement and this false accusation in a disgraceful manner."

The channel has accused Israel of deliberately targeting its staff. Journalists including Hamza Al-Dahdouh, the son of Al Jazeera Gaza bureau chief Wael Al-Dahdouh, have been killed by Israeli strikes. Israel denies targeting journalists.

Anti-Arab bias

Israel is known to treat Arabs (whether Israeli citizens or not) and specifically Palestinians differently and with greater restrictions than others, including non-Arab Israeli citizens. It is likely that this is a significant factor, as Al Jazeera is an Arab media organisation, both in funding and ownership, and likely in terms of ethnicities employed.

Human Rights Watch (2021):

Across these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

Council on Foreign Relations (Oct 26th 2023):

Today, Arab citizens of Israel—distinct from Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip—remain the country’s largest minority group.

They have the same legal rights as Jewish citizens, but many continue to face discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages. Meanwhile, the two communities are divided by the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as religious and cultural differences. A flare-up of intercommunal violence in 2021 highlighted that the simmering tensions can sometimes boil over.

Indirect retaliation against Qatar for unofficially supporting Hamas

Qatar is known to be a harbour of safety for Hamas leadership against attempts of assassination by Israel, as has been conducted against some Hamas leadership in Lebanon. Al Jazeera is also funded in part by the Qatari government, and Israel does not have warm relations with Qatar, especially recently. Israel knows that shutting down the Al Jazeera office in Israel will harm Qatar and this would form part of the reason for their action against Al Jazeera.

It's not just Al Jazeera

According to the BBC:

Israel has previously banned a smaller Lebanese channel, Al Mayadeen, from operating in the country.

Accusations of anti-Israeli bias

Israel has previously accused Al Jazeera of anti-Israeli bias. Coupled with this, Israel recently passed laws allowing the shutdown of foreign media broadcasters under the basis of national security (BBC article).

For years, Israeli officials have accused the network of anti-Israeli bias.

Their criticisms of the broadcaster have intensified since the 7 October Hamas attacks on southern Israel, in which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 were taken hostage. Some 128 of those hostages are still unaccounted for, with at least 34 presumed dead.


Last month, the Israeli parliament passed a law giving the government power to temporarily close foreign broadcasters considered a threat to national security during the war against Hamas.

And in another article:

For years, Israeli officials have accused the network of anti-Israeli bias. But their criticisms of the broadcaster have intensified since the Hamas attacks of 7 October. Authorities claim it has close links with Hamas, which Al Jazeera vehemently denies.

BBC published an article on 1st April about Israel's intent:

The Israeli parliament has approved a law giving the government the power to ban broadcasts of TV channels including Al Jazeera, the Qatari-owned network.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would "act immediately" to close the network's local office.

The US expressed concern over the move.

Furthermore, the ban is temporary, and would have to be renewed:

The ban would be in place for a period of 45 days at a time, which could be renewed. The law would stay in force until July or until the end of significant fighting in Gaza.

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    Al-Mayadeen is directly linked to Hizballa terrorist organization, it should not be considered "a television network". Commented May 6 at 6:47
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    This reply is biased, and collects a pile of unrelated claims, some of them complete false. For example, Israel doesn't target journalists in Gaza. There is war, and journalists are killed in every war. Commented May 6 at 6:49
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    @TsahiAsher : Testimonies and evidence from news networks (not only Al-Jezeera, but also main Western anchors) point to at least some journalists been targetted on purpose. Whether these are individual crimes by overzealous soldiers or part of a concerted plan from Tsahal commandment is off-topic here but could be the subject of another question. Examples : cpj.org/2024/05/… washingtonpost.com/world/2024/03/19/…
    – Evargalo
    Commented May 6 at 7:16
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    @DavidS "Hamas affiliated news organizations" What's a Hamas affiliated media organization? It's a Palestinian news organization that's being run in Gaza, literally every institution that is being run there can be described as Hamas affiliated. Anyway I counted the journalists who happened to work for Al-Aqsa TV from the CPJ link, they are only 26 journalist, if we take for guarantee that all of those were militants really this does not make it sound any better at all.
    – صالح
    Commented May 7 at 9:25
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    @StandAgainstGazaGenocide "literally every institution that is being run there can be described as Hamas affiliated." Well, you kinda debunked your claim that Israel is targeting journalists then. One of Israel's stated goals in this war is to eradicate Hamas. A lot of them appear to be affiliated with Hamas. War is hazardous as well. Journalists aren't known to avoid hazardous situations in general, and the US has been criticized over its airmen mistaking camera equipment for weapons. Combine it together and its not really supporting a deliberate target on journalists.
    – David S
    Commented May 7 at 15:17

A major part of Israel's long-term strategy is to not just win the war on the ground, but to also win the war of public opinion: to control the narrative. Threats to this goal are targeted by the state. Israel is not unique in this regard and authoritarian regimes all over the world frequently attack independent media; Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Russia, etc.

The Al-Jazeera shutdown should be viewed in this perspective because it is not an isolated incident. For example, in May last year an NGO tax bill was considered in the Israeli parliament which would add a 65% tax rate to donations from foreign entites to Israeli Non-Governmental Organizations. The intent of the law was to pennalize Israeli left-wing groups such as Peace Now, B'TSelem, and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

The Israeli right-wing populist establishment has also attacked independent domestic media. It claims, despite having controlled the government for over 20 years, that Israeli media is biased against them. Their rethoric and strategies closely resemble what other right-wing populists across Europe use. For example, last year communications minister Shlomo Karhi threatened to impose financial penalties on the liberal newspaper Haaretz for publishing "lying, defeatist propaganda". Karhi has also suggested shutting down Israel's public broadcaster Kan which he deemed "too biased toward the left".

So why single out Al-Jazeera? The channel has at times been banned in almost every country in the Middle East and is likely seen as a soft target. Banning, say, France 24 would cause a much larger uproar in the West than banning the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera. Indeed, the foreign broadcasting law was recently used to confiscate equipment belonging to the Associated Press. However, the equipment was returned after intense backlash and criticism from, among others, Israel's eternal ally the United States.

Al-Jazeera has also long been in Israel's crosshairs. In 2014 Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman claimed that it broadcasts "anti-Israel incitement, lies, and encouragement to the terrorists". In 2017, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Al-Jazeera journalists of inciting violence and threatened to "legislate the required laws in order to remove Al Jazeera from Israel". Communications minister Ayoub Kara announced that press credentials of Al-Jazeera journalists would be revoked and its Jerusalem office closed. Defense minister Avigdor Lieberman compared the channel's reporting to Nazi German propaganda. The channel was also temporarily taken off the air.

  • You can add Czech Republic to the list: irozhlas.cz/zpravy-domov/… Commented May 6 at 11:19
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    "Benjamin Netanyahu accused Al-Jazeera journalists of inciting violence" <- Let's remember though, that Netanyahu was just running his mouth on Facebook, i.e. did not ask the prosecutor general to charge them with incitement of violence (a criminal offense in Israel), nor ask the police to investigate the matter. AFAIK anyway.
    – einpoklum
    Commented May 7 at 16:26
  • Regarding the Kan "public broadcaster", it's important to note that it's not a privately owned business but a state-funded news agency provided to the citizens as a service. So suggesting to shut down the company because of not being politicaly nuetral enough, simply by cutting the government funding, is not like suggesting to close by force a privately owned news agency.
    – Jacob3
    Commented May 24 at 10:14
  • The anology to Turkey and Russia isn't really fitting... How many of Netanyahu's political adversaries have been thrown out of windows? How many journalists are being jailed in Israel for the crime of "anti-regime incitement"? How about getting a list of democratic countries that "did" allow enemy state-media to operate on their soil during war.
    – Jacob3
    Commented May 24 at 10:25
  • Israel and Qatar are not engaged in warfare against each other and thus not enemies in the usual sense of the word. Moreover, I don't know of any Qatari laws forbidding Israeli media from operating within its borders which could justify a tit-for-that. Commented May 24 at 12:34

However, what purpose does closing Al Jazeera in Israel provide?

  1. Sabotage Al-Jazeera's coverage of the war and Israeli attacks in Gaza and the West Bank.
  2. Legitimize future targeting of Al-Jazeera correspondents and employees in Gaza and the West Bank (or elsewhere).
  3. Deprive Israelis from getting non-pro-Zionist coverage of news in general and the war in particular.
  4. "Penal" measure against Qatar, which the Israeli government has recently been sparring with somewhat over the breakdown of the negotiations Qatar had mediated until recently.
  5. Red meat I: for the coalition party supporters, to shore up their support after the toll the war has taken; its failure, so far, to reach its stated objectives; Netayahu's perceived responsibility for the Oct 7th debacle; etc. A useful and cheap distraction.
  6. Red meat II: for Netanyahu's cabinet ministers and coalition party leaders: Qar'i, Ben-Gvir, Smotrich, etc. - which keep egging him on to take harsher measures against external and internal threats, enemies and detractors.
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    Of course, if Israel isn't committing horrible war crimes as you believe (gasp) then this answer completely turns on its head, as Al Jazeera wouldn't be a purveyor of truth, but an inciting propagandist organization (which they are). Never mind the implied nonsense about Israel targeting journalists.
    – Rafael
    Commented May 7 at 3:46
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    @Rafael: No item in this answer depends on Israeli committing war crimes, nor on Al-Jazeera purveying truths. I've rephrased the first item slightly, so that now, none of the items makes value-judgement regarding Israel's actions in recent months.
    – einpoklum
    Commented May 7 at 10:47
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    As for the targeting of journalists, see the CPJ report; and this has been going on for decades, well before the current war, see here for example. Specific cases of high-profile targeting are the assassination of Shireen Abu-Aqleh and of the family of Waael Al-Dahdouh.
    – einpoklum
    Commented May 7 at 10:49
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    This is a list of claims which have no basis in reality. For example, many foreign networks are available for Israeli TV viewers - Fox News, CNN, Sky News and others. Commented May 8 at 10:15
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    @TsahiAsher: The existence of other networks has nothing to do with my answer.
    – einpoklum
    Commented May 8 at 10:48

Al-Jazeera is biased against Israel, and often spread complete lies about Israel and it's operations. This has pushed populist politicians in Israel to demand it's banning in Israel, a demand that eventually was met this week.

Israel is not the first country to ban Al-Jazeera. It was also banned in several other countries in the Middle East, in India, and was banned from reporting from the New York Stock Exchange.

Edit: This doesn't break freedom of speech or freedom of press laws in Israel, because such laws don't exist. These rights are protected solely by court rulings throughout the years. The basic ruling is the Kol HaAm appeal from 1953 (sorry no English version), which protected the freedom of press and speech for the first time.


In the view of Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council for Foreign Relations, it is that Al-Jazeera has documented the human toll of Israel's campaign against the Gaza:

Through the war ⁦Al-Jazeera⁩ has been reporting from inside Gaza, bringing most disturbing pictures to the world. You might agree on disagree with Israeli policies, but it has been brave journalism. As a result they are now banned by the Israeli government.

source: https://twitter.com/carlbildt/status/1787111666448261251#m


Being a news organisation, doesn't this violate freedom of speech laws?

Certainly not. Russia Today has been closed in the EU and in other countries. Al-Jazeera was blocked in the US. Al-Mayadeen, an Iran and Hezbollah affiliated network, was closed in Israel:

According to the emergency regulations, after approval by the Cabinet, the Minister of Communications is at liberty to order, by decree, to shutter offices, confiscate broadcasting equipment and block the use of various communications infrastructure for a broadcasting organization that imposes damage on the security of the State.

So this was done within the law and does not violate freedom of speech. Also remember that Israel is the country with the strongest freedom of speech by far in the MENA and going over all the banned networks in these countries will be too long. Not to talk about Gaza and the Palestinian Authority's territories...

It would make sense to close all anti-Israel-biased journalistic organisations within its borders

That can be said about any country: "it would make sense to close all anti-<country> journalistic organisations within <country>'s borders". Honestly, this claim shows a bias in the question, trying to hint that the closure was due to bias and not due to security concerns. This claim is easily disproved by the non-blocking of anti-Israel-biased networks such as the BBC and Sky News UK.

What purpose does closing Al Jazeera in Israel provide?

Most importantly, it will reduce Hamas's effectiveness:

  • Its journalists have been shown to double as Hamas terrorists: 1 2, 3 4, and a more extensive report can be found here.
  • It has reported on IDF positions to Hamas (spying) in the guise of journalism: 6 7.
  • It has called on its viewers to join in Hamas's attacks.
  • It has aired a video detailing how to strike Israeli tanks, which Hamas operatives use.

Al-Jazeera also violates journalistic practices:

  • It has made up a story about IDF rapes of Palestinian women, which it has removed only after being caught: 8 9, former AJ director admits 10.
  • It had previously made up a story about Israel opening up dams in order to flood the Gaza strip... which is in a desert... on flat land... 11.
  • Its journalists in Gaza have been silencing voices opposing Hamas, which you could consider a violation of freedom of speech:
    • Al-Jazeera reporter cuts off mid-sentence an elderly wounded man at Gaza Hospital when he started to criticizes Hamas for hiding among civilians 12.
    • Al-Jazeera reporter cuts short an interview with a man in Gaza City when he started to criticizing Qatar (who owns AJ) and Turkey, and doesn't let him approach the microphone 13 14.
    • Al-Jazeera TV host cuts short an Egyptian who blamed Hamas for the destruction of the Gaza strip and the killing of Palestinians, and who has said that Hamas is a terrorist organization (not allowed in AJ reporting) 15 16.

Al-Jazeera also incites for terrorism against Israel and the US: it hosted a program in which a Muslim Brotherhood leader called for terror attacks on US soldiers, praised the Holocaust as “divine punishment” upon Jews, and encouraged the murder of Israeli civilians 17.

Arab journalists also write about the incitement of Al-Jazeera:

  • An Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, a Palestinian Authority media agency, column says that "Al-Jazeera TV Is Not A Source Of Truth; It Serves Hamas And Terror Organizations".
  • An Al-Arab, an Emirati media agency, article says that "Al-Jazeera Is Brainwashing The Arabs In The Service Of Qatar's Political Plan".

Other countries have had many issues with Al-Jazeera as well, showing a global trend rather than just an Israeli one.

A more detailed report about Al-Jazeera can be found here.

  • Actually, The Guardian is arguably more critical than even Al Jazeera. And certainly more critical than the BBC. Commented May 7 at 17:08
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica The Guardian changed a lot since Corbyn was kicked out of the Labour and has becomes less toxic with regards to Israel. It's not as hostile as Al-Jazeera, but probably still more than the BBC and Sky. It won't be shut down because it doesn't call on Muslims to attack Israel, its journalists aren't Hamas operatives, and it doesn't send IDF locations to Hamas, at least.
    – Mark
    Commented May 8 at 13:41
  • Those are some very interesting reads you've linked. Thanks for gathering that. The video on the tank is not particularly useful for taking a tank down so I wouldnt characterize the video as such. It's largely informational and very similar to ones I've seen about tanks like the Abrams. The only information they provide is "there are lighter spots of armor". It doesn't say where but even that information would not be considered strange to report. Granted I watched the translated version. For comparison
    – jmathew
    Commented May 8 at 21:28

Foreign journalists are banned from entering Gaza, and Al Jazeera staff there have been some of the only reporters on the ground.

For years, Israeli officials have accused the network of anti-Israeli bias.

Their criticisms of the broadcaster have intensified since the 7 October Hamas attacks on southern Israel, in which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 were taken hostage. Some 128 of those hostages are still unaccounted for, with at least 34 presumed dead.

At least 34,683 Palestinians have been killed and 78,018 injured in Israel's subsequent military campaign in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Last month, the Israeli parliament passed a law giving the government power to temporarily close foreign broadcasters considered a threat to national security during the war against Hamas.


Al Jazeera is considered to be a national security threat according to Israel and for years it was accused of anti-Israel bias unlike most Western media. That's why they decided to ban the media.

The statement comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted unanimously to close Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel, weeks after Israel’s parliament passed a law allowing the temporary closure of foreign broadcasters considered to be a threat to national security during the months-long war in Gaza.

Netanyahu announced the decision on X, formerly Twitter. “The government headed by me unanimously decided: the incitement channel Al Jazeera will be closed in Israel,” he posted in Hebrew.


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