Mideast’s ‘Only Democracy’ joins push to Silence Al Jazeera: Netanyahu

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump has his Twitter. Apparently far right wing Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has his Facebook. In a Facebook posting, Netanyahu vowed to close the Jerusalem office of the Qatar-backed Al Jazeera satellite news station. Failing that, he said, he would introduce legislation to ban Al Jazeera in Israel (presumably Israel/ Palestine, since Israel keeps 4.5 million Palestinians under siege or direct military rule).

Netanyahu accuses Al Jazeera of “incitement,” which in the right wing Israeli lexicon means reporting news about how the Israelis are militarily occupying and gradually expropriating the Palestinians.

Netanyahu is widely seen to be blaming Al Jazeera for his own poor judgment, inasmuch has he put metal detectors in the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, provoking demonstrations in Jerusalem and Jordan. Netanyahu was forced into a humiliating retreat, and the Israeli public thinks he should have had better sense in the first place.

Al Jazeera itself reported on this story, writing that Netanyahu held a cabinet meeting with high Israeli intelligence and security heads on June 12 to discuss shuttering Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem office. The channel alleged that Netanyahu wanted to take advantage of the closing of Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf countries, as part of their campaign against Qatar for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and for various forms of political openness and free discussion.

It alleged that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Al Jazeera not only of instigation but also of being Nazis. Lieberman, a former club bouncer from Moldova, once spoke of how it would be possible for Israel to blow up Egypt’s Aswan Dam and wash 90 million Egyptians into the Mediterranean, so I don’t think he is exactly James Madison. Likewise Al Jazeera says that in June, far far right Israelis demonstrated against the channel, demanding it be closed in Israel just as it was being closed in Saudi Arabia.

The right wing of hard line Jewish nationalism (such as the Likud Party from which Neanyahu springs) has no respect whatsoever for freedom of speech or the free flow of information which is why an Israel under a Lukud government is not actually fully a democracy (there is military censorship and there is no freedom at all in the Occupied territories that comprise about 1/3 of the population ruled by the Israeli government).

In fact, they’re trying as hard as they can to have Congress get rid of the US First Amendment and make it a felony to criticize them and advocate boycotting them in the United States.

Al Jazeera has been banned from lots of countries. It deals with that problem by phoning interviewees in those countries. Unless Netanyahu wants to make phone calls illegal, too, he can’t stop Al Jazeera putting critical voices on the air.

Not sure it is a good look for Netanyahu to ape Saudi Arabia’s media and foreign policies.

Or for his agents in AIPAC on the Hill to try to turn America into Saudi Arabia, either.

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10 Responses

  1. Israel and Saudi-Arabia have two of the strongest lobbies in Washington. The fact that the have joined forces is ominous. Saudi-Arabia is home to the leading sources of support for terrorism in the Middle East.The fact that Netanyahu’s government has allied itself with this evil, despotic regime does not bode well for the future of Israel or the US.

  2. Banning alternative news and comment is nothing new. Over here in the UK there are voices in high places who want to ban RT (Russian TV) and of course as we all know, the clamour to edit out ‘fake news’ and alternative comment with special algorithms is rampant. I believe legislation has already been passed to fine ISP’s if they don’t filter out ‘undesirable content’. One way or another the MSM and their government handlers will silence alternative sources of information, you can bet on it!!

  3. Thank you for finally talking about the odious bill to criminalize, with back-breaking minimum penalties, any speech that might be interpreted as advocating a boycott of Israeli neo-colonialism — here in America, the land of free speech !

    It’s not like the boycott of something you don’t care for is an original idea, people have been doing it one way or another forever, and the cultural and political “conservatives” of the world are often advocating boycotts against things they don’t care for (or advocating even much more aggressive retaliations, as the boycott is essentially a tactic of impotence to do anything more violent and aggressive).

    Significant pressure needs to flow towards Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on this issue. Remind him of how this is not how he is going to win the love of the progressive wing of his party if indeed he ever has Presidential ambitions.

  4. We should not be surprised at Israel’s hypocrisy. They seem to project this “we are the only true democracy in the ME” image in the Western world, but in reality they are like some other non democratic nations in the ME when it comes to human rights violations. Al Jazeera has been quite critical of Israel, like they have been to other ME nations, in their documentaries, which must make Netanyahu so mad that he joins the other pariah nations to silence a voice that has highlighted the inhumane treatment of others. Here is a good example:

    Hard Crossings
    link to aljazeera.com

    Hope Al Jazeera continues these series, and that Qatar is not pressurized to shut it down.

  5. “Or for his agents in AIPAC on the Hill to try to turn America into Saudi Arabia, either.” The Hill has been a joke for a long time.

  6. The Trump administration intervened on the side of those who opposed the installation of metal detectors at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

    It’s hard to imagine that Netanyahu would have acquiesced so meekly if it had been the Obama administration.

  7. Juan, am I right in thinking that the only countries in the Middle East that have religious police are Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel?

  8. t is worth remembering that Israel’s ‘negative’ actions, even when they are not obviously connected, like metal detectors at Aqsa mosque and shutting down Al Jazeera, are nevertheless cumulative, they all add to the camel’s load. Having good trade arrangements with European and far Eastern countries, flying off to Moscow to bend Putin’s ear, being invited to public events, don’t diminish the load which is increasing daily, and there is nothing any of Israel’s trade partners can or will do when the final straw is added. Netanyahu, Lieberman, et al are gamblers and they are not on a winning streak, far from it. The West generally and Israel above all fear the Arab world uniting. In fact, there is a salutary saying that this or that action could even ‘unite the Arab world’. My hunch is that when it happens it will be just like the metal detector incident and if they think closing Al-Jazeera will avert it they are pissing gasoline on a smouldering log.

  9. The extensive attempts to silence any form of opposition to Israel’s atrocities and violations of international law have meant that rightwing Israeli politicians can get away with murder. Despite daily violations of the Palestinians’ human rights, Israel is held up in the West as “the only democracy in the Middle East”, while those who try to resist its brutal occupation are branded as terrorists.

    After placing metal detectors around Al-Aqsa Mosque and preventing Palestinians below the age of 50 from praying in the mosque, there were major clashes between the Palestinians and Israeli security forces and six Israelis and Palestinians were killed. Far from trying to calm the tension, Tzachi Hanegbi (ironically minister for regional cooperation) threatened to unleash another nakba on the Palestinians. He told them to remember ’48 and ‘67”, and bluntly warned them: “Don’t try us again because the result won’t be any different.” link to lobelog.com

    One does not expect Netanyahu to expel that minister from his cabinet, but the silence of the international community in the face of such blatantly aggressive remarks is deafening. No wonder the Israelis and the Saudis want to silence Al Jazeera.

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