When the Arabs Shuttered Al Jazeera, but Israel Couldn’t
It’s a bizarre reality that Israel can’t easily shutter hostile Arab propaganda that Arab states so easily block
The current regional crisis with Qatar has again demonstrated the bizarre position in which Israel often finds itself in the volatile Middle East.
Israel is often the victim of media slander, and even incitement. Sometimes, those media voices slander and incite against Arab governments, too.
One of the biggest differences is that the Arab governments, authoritarian as they are, quickly shut down the offending media, while Israel, the region's only true democracy, must endure the slander.
Such is the case with Al Jazeera.
Founded and largely owned by the rulers of Qatar, Al Jazeera has become a thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and other "moderate" Arab states.
Using the crisis with Qatar as an excuse, Saudi Arabia and Jordan this week shuttered the local Al Jazeera bureaus in their respective states.
Israel wishes it could do the same.
"Al-Jazeera is not media, it’s not journalism. It’s an incitement machine. It’s pure propaganda, of the worst variety, in the style of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia," said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman during a Knesset meeting on Monday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly convened the relevant government agencies to explore the option of shuttering Al Jazeera's office in Jerusalem.
But for a nation that holds to true democratic rule of law, such things aren't so simple as they are in neighboring countries.
For starters, if the government moved against Al Jazeera, the network's first move would be an appeal to Israel's Supreme Court on the basis of freedom of the press. Even if the court ultimately sided with the government, the spectacle of an Arab news network suing Israel over freedom of the press wouldn't play well on the international stage.
And that's if the court sided with the government.
Israel's Supreme Court is notoriously liberal when it comes to the right of detractors to slander the Jewish state. Losing such a case would look even worse.