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Israel´s Al Jazeera ban proposal tightening hold on media environment, reducing opposition

Istanbul (Anadolu): The approval this week by Israeli lawmakers of a bill paving the way for a ban on the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, along with other international news outlets perceived as posing a threat to security, is not surprising in a state that is increasingly curtailing freedom of expression and opposition of its grievous war strategy in Gaza and treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
By Dina Matar* Israel use extreme discourses since beginning of the war

The proposal, which is likely to take effect given public statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in posts on X, would give government officials and army personnel more space and freedom to publish their extreme and dangerous views about the war, thus continuing to screen the Israeli domestic audience from other versions of the ongoing attacks and their repercussions.

The proposal is the latest in a series of actions intended to give Israeli government and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officials increasing control of an already tightly controlled media environment which has meant there remains a handful of mainstream outlets providing alternative news or views opposing the increasingly far-right discourse of the government and the settler movement.

Since the beginning of the war, Israel has intensified its propaganda campaign known as Hasbara, which entails manipulating content for external audiences to garner international support for its policies and war by using press conferences and releases while allowing others to create extreme content on social media platforms such as Telegram.

From the beginning of the war, Israel has used language framed in a discourse of a war on terror and a war that is launched in defense of its security and existence, repeating the same tropes used in the United States-led war on terror.

At the same time, the Israeli government and senior officials have targeted Israeli domestic audiences with increasingly extreme far-right language replete with reference to biblical terms to ensure they mobilized behind the war effort.

These campaigns have been helped by the visible polarization in the Israeli media landscape and the lack of diversity in viewpoints as a result of the infiltration of Israeli settler far right into the mainstream media through the setting up of media outlets such as Channel 14 in 2014, with the support of Netanyahu.

These news organizations, along with other hard-right media outlets, have changed the media landscape and allowed extreme right content promoting hate speech against Palestinians to enter the public sphere.

The extreme discourse has been so widespread that South Africa has cited journalists from Channel 14 and others cheering for mass killings in its appeal to the International Court of Justice against Israel.

Israel is also involved in techno-authoritarianism, in which it has used information technology to control foreign and domestic populations, as well as use it for surveillance of the Palestinians.

Israel’s censorship of Al Jazeera

Etan Nechin, a journalist based in New York and a contributor to the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, one of the handful remaining liberal media, argues in his piece for the United Kingdom’s Guardian that the far-right infiltration of Israel’s media has screened the public from the dire situation in Gaza.

“The takeover by the settlers and the far right has been significant in 2 ways. First, it has aggressively targeted the last strongholds of a free and liberal press, seeking not only to normalize the settlement project but also to conceal the crimes committed to maintaining it.”

What is worrying and problematic about this retreat into authoritarian governance and control of the press in a country that defines itself, and has been defined in the West, as the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, is that it has silenced public opposition to the war on Gaza and obscured the devastating impact of the war on human lives and the landscape, as well as the ongoing expulsions occurring in places such as Masafer Yatta, the dispossession faced by residents of East Jerusalem and continued violent settler and army attacks against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

As such, Al Jazeera’s reporting on the war and its consistent criticism of Israel as a settler-colonial state and aggressor are problematic for Israel as it seeks to maintain national unity and support for its Israeli self-constructed narrative about itself.

Al Jazeera, which is popular across the Arab world and diaspora, has been one of the few international media outlets covering the war on the ground, using real-time content and vivid images of death, dispossession and destruction in Gaza while relying on eyewitnesses reporting on the battlefield.

Its reporters are some of the few who report live from the battlefield, as Israel has banned foreign journalists from entering Gaza -a ban that has been in place since October 2023.

In January, the network accused Israel of the targeted killing of two of its journalists in Gaza, Hamza Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuria, who were killed while on assignment. A third freelancer, Hazem Rajab, was wounded.

Overall, according to Reporters Without Borders, 103 Palestinian journalists have been killed by the Israel Defense Forces since Oct. 7, 2023.

Israel has often threatened to use emergency regulations against Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. It has frequently clashed with Al Jazeera, which has offices in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and has also bombed the broadcaster’s buildings in the enclave.

In 2017, Israel vowed to expel all Al Jazeera journalists, shut down its offices, and prevent the channel from broadcasting. In 2022, Israeli forces killed correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh while she was reporting in Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

The ban on Al Jazeera would only confirm that Israel is sliding into full-fledged authoritarianism.

*The author is chair of Centre for Palestine Studies (SOAS).

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Agencia Anadolu

Agencia Anadolu

La agencia Anadolu (en turco : Anadolu Ajansi, sigla AA) es una agencia de prensa del gobierno turco. Fue fundada el 6 de abril de 1920, tras el fin de la Guerra de Independencia turca y el nacimiento de la República de Turquía, el período conocido como Milli Mücadele o lucha nacional turca, con el «fin de hacer oír la voz de Anatolia en el mundo». Es una de las principales agencias de prensa de Turquía, junto a la Doğan Haber Ajansı
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