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ISRAEL-GAZA WAR
Opinion
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Al Jazeera, an uncomfortable voice that Israel seeks to silence

By shutting down the network’s local offices, Israel joins the authoritarian governments that have banned this news outlet

Al Jazeera
Palestinian journalist Wael Al Dahdouh, head of Al Jazeera's Gaza bureau, carries his grandson, who died in an Israeli attack on October 26, 2023.Omar Ashtawy / Zuma Press / Cont (Omar Ashtawy / Zuma Press / Cont)

The closure of Al Jazeera’s offices in Jerusalem, after Israel branded the network a “threat to national security,” culminates a long history of disputes, not without its chapters of bloody confrontation, between the Qatari media network and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has always distrusted Al Jazeera. Its leaders, regardless of their ideological or political affiliation, have seen in it a “well-oiled machine of incitement” to terrorism and a loudspeaker for the Islamist movement Hamas. The Qatari network has not inspired confidence among the traditional and traditionalist powers of other countries, either. However, it is hard to understand, especially from a Western perspective, how Israel, a state widely defined as the only democracy in a region whose regimes are autocratic and allergic to freedom of the press, is thus violating the right to information, a basic foundation for any democracy worthy of the name. Resorting to the drastic and retrograde decision to close Al Jazeera’s headquarters conceals the purpose of silencing the reality of the war in Gaza, and is part of an extensive series of systematic attacks to silence the uncomfortable voice of the Qatari network.

The Israeli state thus joins a select club of countries with authoritarian governments that have vetoed this outlet. Previously, the chain’s bureaus had been raided in circumstances similar to the current ones in Rabat, Tunisia, Cairo, Baghdad, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, New Delhi and a long list of capitals. In reality, Al Jazeera’s relationship with Israel is not much different from its history with other dictatorial regimes in the Arab world.

Founded in 1996, this network is one of the few that has remained in Gaza after October 7. Its correspondents, deployed throughout the Strip, have been privileged witnesses — almost the only ones — of an unprecedented war, and they have reported at all times on the atrocities committed by the Israeli army. Since the start of the war, Israel has deliberately and repeatedly made attempts on the lives of several of these correspondents and their families. The most iconic case is that of Wael al-Dahdouh, head of Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau, whose wife, several of his children — one of them also an Al Jazeera journalist, Hamza Dahdouh — and a grandson have been killed in Israeli attacks.

The closure of the network’s offices by Israel is nothing more than another desperate attempt at intimidation, with the aim of hiding the immoral war acts committed in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army, whose genocidal intention is “conspicuous, and ostentatious,” in the expression of Francesca Albanese, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Qatari network has presented versions of events that frequently contradicted the official account of the Israeli government. This perspective contrasts deeply with the censored information from the official media outlets of that country.

Zein Basravi, an Al Jazeera journalist in Ramallah (West Bank) rightly said one day that the war between Israel and Palestine is “one of the main reasons why our channel exists.” This conflict is symbolic and moral capital for the network, almost a raison d’être. For this reason, Al Jazeera is not considering under any circumstances a change in its editorial line on the situation in the Middle East. Israel’s closure of its premises is unlikely to affect its work. On the contrary, with acts of this nature, the network’s detractors are contributing to its popularity and confirming its credibility among the masses who continue to see in it a true platform for oppressed voices in the Arab world.

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