Al-Jazeera slams Israeli move to ban network

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 08.08.2017 00:02

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera television vowed to continue its coverage of developments in the occupied Palestinian territories despite Israeli attempts to close its offices in Jerusalem.

Israel's move follows in the footsteps of four Arab countries that are aligned against Qatar as part of a months-long political dispute. The channel and its affiliate sites have been blocked in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain. Israel has long accused the network of bias against it and incitement to violence.

On Sunday, Israel's communication minister Ayoob Kara said that he had requested the Government Press Office revoke press credentials of Al Jazeera's journalists. He compared the decision to ban the network to moves by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries in the wake of a diplomatic crisis with Qatar.

"Al Jazeera denounces this decision made by a state that claims to be ‘the only democratic state in the Middle East'," Al Jazeera said in a statement on Monday.

The pan-Arab television described the Israeli move "as odd and biased", saying the Israeli minister "could not substantiate his comments by referring to a single news bulletin or situation that proved Al Jazeera had not been professional nor objective during its coverage in Jerusalem."

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for closing Al Jazeera offices, accusing it of inflaming tensions around Al-Aqsa mosque, the Jerusalem holy site where Palestinians staged an almost two-week protest last month against Israeli security measures installed after a deadly shootout.

Any move is expected to be contested in Israel's courts but Netanyahu said he will work to change the law in order to enforce the ban Al Jazeera said it will take all necessary legal measures toward any Israeli decision to close its offices in Jerusalem.

Al Jazeera "will continue covering news and events in the occupied Palestinian territories in a professional and objective manner in accordance with the common journalistic standards set by the relevant international organizations," the Doha-based television said.

Last week, Al Jazeera's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walid Omary wrote in Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that such a move would be "a massive step backwards." "What difference then is there between Israel, as a perceived democracy, and these dictatorships?" he wrote.

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