Israel raids Al Jazeera office as Netanyahu government votes to shut channel down

By Vincent Ni and Michele Kelemen
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel on Oct. 28, 2023. Netanyahu’s government has voted to shut down Israel-based offices of Al Jazeera. AP

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s cabinet has voted to shut down the offices of the Al Jazeera network operating in the country with immediate effect.

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government had decided “unanimously” to close Al Jazeera in Israel. He accused the Doha-headquartered network of being an “incitement channel” against Israel.

Netanyahu’s announcement was immediately echoed by Shlomo Karai, Israel’s minister of communications. In a statement, Karai said that Al Jazeera will be closed immediately, and its equipment will be confiscated.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

On Sunday afternoon, Israeli police raided the Qatari broadcaster’s office in Jerusalem. According to a video posted on Karai’s X account, several Israeli inspectors entered the network’s office and took photos.

Al Jazeera, which broadcasts in both English and Arabic, condemned Israel’s move, calling it a “criminal act that violates human rights and the basic right to access of information.” The network said it will pursue “all available legal channels.”

Israel’s decision raised concerns among human rights and press groups. In a statement, the Foreign Press Association in Israel said that with this decision, Israel joins a “dubious club of authoritarian governments to ban the station.” “This is a dark day for the media. This is a dark day for democracy,” the statement added.

The United Nations Human Rights Office urged the Israeli government to overturn the ban. Writing on X, it said “a free & independent media is essential to ensuring transparency & accountability. Now, even more so given tight restrictions on reporting from Gaza.”

Despite having operated on the ground in Gaza throughout the war, Al Jazeera has long had a tense relationship with Israel. In April, the Israeli parliament passed a law that would give the government the power to shut down foreign news networks that are viewed as harming national security. Some lawmakers accuse Al Jazeera of being “a mouthpiece of Hamas.”

Israel’s decision on Sunday comes as Qatar, which along with Egypt, plays a key diplomatic role in hostage talks between Hamas and Israel. In November, negotiations mediated by Qatar had led to a temporary cease-fire and a number of hostages being released.