Israel plans to revoke media credentials of Al Jazeera journalists and close the network’s office in Jerusalem, the country’s communication minister has announced.
Ayoub Kara made the announcement on Sunday during a press conference in Jerusalem, where Al Jazeera was barred from attending.
“We have based our decision on the move by Sunni Arab states to close the Al Jazeera offices and prohibiting their work,” Kara said, adding that the channel is being used by groups to “incite” violence – an accusation the network has denied.
Kara said he expects Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to consider his request in the next session.
“I will go through the [legislatorial] mechanism to create the authority in which I can act freely. We will try to end it as quickly as possible.”
In a statement, the Doha-based media network denounced the measures from a country it says claims to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”.
“Al Jazeera stresses that it will closely watch the developments that may result from the Israeli decision and will take the necessary legal measures towards it,” the statement read.
Al Jazeera also denied the charges its coverage of al-Aqsa Mosque unrest was unprofessional.
“Al Jazeera will continue to cover the events of the occupied Palestinian territories professionally and accurately, according to the standards set by international agencies, such as the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom).”
The pan-Arab network’s offices in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah would not be affected by the current Israeli move.
The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, also known as Adalah, challenged the plan, saying it would be subject to scrutiny before the Supreme Court, adding that “it would fail the test of legality”.
Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Jerusalem on Sunday, said that the request to revoke the credentials cover all the network’s journalists in both the Arabic and English channels.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to shut Al Jazeera’s operations in the country, accusing the network of inciting violence against Israel. His most recent attack on July 27 accused the network of “inciting violence”.
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera senior political analyst, said the latest move by Israel shows a “synergy” of “dictatorships” in the Arab world and “dictatorship of military occupation in Palestine”.
“It is as if closing down a network will diminish violence, when everyone knows that repression and military occupation and aggression is the reason for violence in the region. Not reporting it,” he said.