As Saudi Arabia Prepares to Execute 14 demonstrators Israel Supports the Saudis in their war against free expression
As Israel's Government Press Office prepares to remove the press credentials of Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, Elias Karram, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, there is something quite touching about Israel’s claim to be the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ as it consummates its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Al Jazeera is quite unique in the Arab world for being a relatively free and independent TV station. It has produced some excellent documentaries, not least The Lobby which exposed the efforts of the Israeli Embassy, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn and create a bogus campaign of accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
Netanyahu has claimed that Al Jazeera is just a front for ISIS, Iran, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. It was a classic tactic of Nazi propagandists to make the Jews seem responsible for all the ills of society. They were communists, capitalists, predators etc. A moments thought would tell you that Isis and Hamas are enemies. Iran being Shi’ite is likewise opposed to ISIS. The Muslim Brotherhood also comes from a different tradition to that of the Salafists. But combining your enemy into one is the oldest tactic of the demagogue.
|Theresa May and her good friend, King Salman of Saudia Arabia - no mention has been made by the Government of this attack on press freedom|
Ayoob Kara, the Communications Minister is spearheading the attack on Al Jazeera which is accused of inciting the violence at Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Nothing to do with the security gates, or the attempts of Jewish settlers to encroach on the area or the attacks of Israeli soldiers on worshippers.
What this should also do is open peoples’ eyes as to the nature of the Israeli state. All wings of the Zionist movement from Labour to Likud support the attacks on Al Jazeera. From the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel in this country to supporters of Likud, Zionism is opposed to free speech for its opponents. In fact Israel has amongst the most restrictive censorship laws in the world. It is no surprise that the Israeli government thinks it is quite legitimate to close down a recognised and established broadcaster.
Ironically Al Jazeera pioneered in the Arab world the use of Israeli spokespersons. Arab stations have ritually barred access to Israelis as they purport to oppose the Zionist regime. In practice, as we see with the attempted closure of Al Jazeera, there is a very close alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Both have an interest in closing down all avenues to freedom in the Middle East. Qatar is no oasis of democracy, far from it, but when sanctions are imposed upon it by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, with the intention of closing down one of the few relatively free broadcasters in the Middle East we should understand why it is that Israel and the Saudi butchers are singing from the same hymn sheet.
Despite its claims to be the Middle East's 'only democracy' Israel constantly allies itself with the most entrenched and bitter opponents of freedom in the region. From Egypt under Sisi to King Salmon's Saudi Arabia, not forgetting Bahrain of course.
Below is, as always, an excellent article from the Independent’s Robert Fisk and two other articles, one from Al Jazeera and the other from the Jerusalem Post.
There are still honourable Israelis who demand a state for the Palestinians; there are well-educated Saudis who object to the crazed Wahabism upon which their kingdom is founded; there are millions of Americans, from sea to shining sea, who do not believe that Iran is their enemy nor Saudi Arabia their friend. But the problem today in both East and West is that our governments are not our friends
Theresa May has already suppressed a report so it wouldn’t upset the Saudis. And we wonder why we go to war with the Middle East AFP
When Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite channel has both the Saudis and the Israelis demanding its closure, it must be doing something right. To bring Saudi head-choppers and Israeli occupiers into alliance is, after all, something of an achievement.
But don’t get too romantic about this. When the wealthiest Saudis fall ill, they have been known to fly into Tel Aviv on their private jets for treatment in Israel’s finest hospitals. And when Saudi and Israeli fighter-bombers take to the air, you can be sure they’re going to bomb Shiites – in Yemen or Syria respectively – rather than Sunnis.
And when King Salman – or rather Saudi Arabia’s whizz-kid Crown Prince Mohammad – points the finger at Iran as the greatest threat to Gulf security, you can be sure that Bibi Netanyahu will be doing exactly and precisely the same thing, replacing “Gulf security”, of course, with “Israeli security”. But it’s an odd business when the Saudis set the pace of media suppression only to be supported by that beacon of freedom, democracy, human rights and liberty known in song and legend as Israel, or the State of Israel or, as Bibi and his cabinet chums would have it, the Jewish State of Israel.
So let’s run briefly through the latest demonstration of Israeli tolerance towards the freedom of expression that all of us support, nurture, love, adore, regard as a cornerstone of our democracy, and so on, and so on, and so on. For this week, Ayoob Kara, the Israeli communications minister, revealed plans to take away the credentials of Al Jazeera’s Israeli-based journalists, close its Jerusalem bureau and take the station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers.
This, announced Ayoob Kara – an Israeli Druze (and thus an Arab Likud minister) who is a lifelong supporter of the colonisation by Jews of Israeli-occupied Arab land in the West Bank – would “bring a situation that channels based in Israel will report objectively”. In other words, threaten them. Bring them into line.
Bibi Netanyahu long ago accused Al Jazeera of inciting violence in Jerusalem, especially in its reporting of the recent Jerusalem killings – but since just about every foreign journalist in and outside Israel who has dared to be critical of the state has at one time or another been accused of incitement as well as anti-Semitism and other lies, this is just par for the course.
Personally, I have found Al Jazeera’s reporting from Israel pretty pathetic, its fawning reverence for the state all too painfully illustrated when its Qatar anchorwoman expressed to an Israeli government spokesman live on air her channel’s condolences on the death of Ariel Sharon, the monstrous Israeli ex-defence minister who was held responsible for the massacre of up to 1,700 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacres of 1982.
Ayoob Kara, however, has actually taken his cue from his fellow Arabs. And he admits it. Israel had to take steps, he said, against “media, which has been determined by almost all Arab countries to actually be a supporter of terror, and we know this for certain”. So the Israelis, it appears, now receive lessons on media freedoms from “Arab countries”. Not just the Saudis, of course, but from “almost all Arab countries” whose unfettered media – one thinks at once of the untrammelled liberal press of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Algeria and yes, “almost” the entire media of the Gulf – are bastions of truth-telling, hard-hitting opponents of authoritarian regimes, constitutionally protected from dictatorial abuse. Forgive the hollow laughter. But is this really how Israel wants to define itself?
Well, yes it is, I suppose. For if an unwritten alliance really exists between Saudi Arabia and Israel, then all options – as US presidents and secretary Hillary Clinton used to say – are “on the table”.
Imprisonment without trial, extrajudicial executions, human rights abuses, corruption, military rule – let’s say this at once: all these characteristics belong to “almost all” Sunni Muslim Arab nations – and to Israel in the lands it occupies. And as for being a “supporter of terror” (I quote Israeli minister Kara again), one must first ask why Sunni Gulf Arabs have exported their fighters – and their money – to the most vicious Sunni Islamists in the Middle East. And then ask why Israel has never bombed these same vile creatures – indeed, ask why Israel has given hospital treatment to wounded fighters from the Sunni al-Nusra – in other words, al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11 – while attacking Shiite Hezbollah and Alawite (Shiite) led-Syria, and threatened to bombard Shiite Iran itself which is a project, I should add, of which Kara himself is all in favour.
Nor must we forget that America’s insane President and his weird regime is also part of the Saudi-Israeli anti-Shiite confederation. Trump’s obscene $350bn arms sales to the Saudis, his fingering of Iran and his hatred of the world’s press and television channels makes him an intimate part of the same alliance. Indeed, when you look at one of Trump’s saner predecessors – George W Bush, who also hated Iran, kowtowed to the Saudis and actually talked to Tony Blair of bombing Al Jazeera’s own headquarters in Qatar, he who made sure the wealthy bin Laden family were flown out of the States after 9/11 – this American-Saudi-Israeli covenant has a comparatively long history.
Being an irrational optimist, there’s an innocent side of my scratched journalistic hide that still believes in education and wisdom and compassion. There are still honourable Israelis who demand a state for the Palestinians; there are well-educated Saudis who object to the crazed Wahhabism upon which their kingdom is founded; there are millions of Americans, from sea to shining sea, who do not believe that Iran is their enemy nor Saudi Arabia their friend. But the problem today in both East and West is that our governments are not our friends. They are our oppressors or masters, suppressors of the truth and allies of the unjust.
Netanyahu wants to close down Al Jazeera’s office in Jerusalem. Crown Prince Mohammad wants to close down Al Jazeera’s office in Qatar. Bush actually did bomb Al Jazeera’s offices in Kabul and Baghdad. Theresa May decided to hide a government report on funding “terrorism”, lest it upset the Saudis – which is precisely the same reason Blair closed down a UK police enquiry into alleged BAE-Saudi bribery 10 years earlier.
And we wonder why we go to war in the Middle East. And we wonder why Sunni Isis exists, un-bombed by Israel, funded by Sunni Gulf Arabs, its fellow Sunni Salafists cosseted by our wretched presidents and prime ministers. I guess we better keep an eye on Al Jazeera – while it’s still around.
Israel moves to close Al Jazeera, ban its journalists
Doha-based network denounces the decision to revoke credentials of its journalists and close its offices in Jerusalem.
It was unclear when Israeli government will act on the request [File: Reuters]
Israel plans to revoke media credentials of Al Jazeera journalists and close the network's office in Jerusalem, the country's communication minister has announced.
Ayoub Kara made the announcement on Sunday during a press conference in Jerusalem, where Al Jazeera was barred from attending.
"We have based our decision on the move by Sunni Arab states to close the Al Jazeera offices and prohibiting their work," Kara said, adding that the channel is being used by groups to "incite" violence - an accusation the network has denied.
Kara said he expects Israel's parliament, the Knesset, to consider his request in the next session.
"I will go through the [legislatorial] mechanism to create the authority in which I can act freely. We will try to end it as quickly as possible."
Kara accused Al Jazeera of inciting violence - an accusation the network has denied [Dusan Vranic/AP]
Al Jazeera denounces measures
In a statement, the Doha-based media network denounced the measures from a country it says claims to be "the only democracy in the Middle East".
"Al Jazeera stresses that it will closely watch the developments that may result from the Israeli decision and will take the necessary legal measures towards it," the statement read.
Al Jazeera also denied the charges its coverage of al-Aqsa Mosque unrest was unprofessional.
"Al Jazeera will continue to cover the events of the occupied Palestinian territories professionally and accurately, according to the standards set by international agencies, such as the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom)."
The pan-Arab network's offices in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah would not be affected by the current Israeli move.
The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, also known as Adalah, challenged the plan, saying it would be subject to scrutiny before the Supreme Court, adding that "it would fail the test of legality".
Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler, reporting from Jerusalem on Sunday, said that the request to revoke the credentials cover all the network's journalists in both the Arabic and English channels.
It was unclear when the government will act on the request.
Our correspondent reported that Israel is also seeking to shut down Al Jazeera's cable and satellite transmissions in the country.
During the press conference, Kara also said that the interior ministry will also be involved in shutting down Al Jazeera's office in Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to shut Al Jazeera's operations in the country, accusing the network of inciting violence against Israel. His most recent attack on July 27 accused the network of "inciting violence".
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera senior political analyst, said the latest move by Israel shows a "synergy" of "dictatorships" in the Arab world and "dictatorship of military occupation in Palestine".
"It is as if closing down a network will diminish violence, when everyone knows that repression and military occupation and aggression is the reason for violence in the region. Not reporting it," he said.
Attack on press freedom
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Rami Khouri of the American University in Beirut, denounced the plan saying it is "very typical of regimes" in the region.
"Regimes that want to control power will almost always go after two targets - the media and the foreigners. Everybody goes after the media."
Aidan White, director of the London-based Ethical Journalism Network, called Israel's decision "a full frontal attack" on press freedom.
"It is a shocking statement, and it completely undermines Israel's claims to be the only democracy in the region, because it gets to the heart of one of the most important institutions of democracy.
"This attack on Al Jazeera is really an attack on all critical independent journalism."
The Committee to Protect Journalists has also criticised the Israeli move.
"Censoring Al Jazeera or closing its offices will not bring stability to the region, but it would put Israel firmly in the camp of some of the region's worst enemies of press freedom," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Programme Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement.
"Israel should abandon these undemocratic plans and allow Al Jazeera and all journalists to report freely from the country and areas it occupies," it said.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia and Jordan both shut down Al Jazeera bureaus as part of a coordinated diplomatic and economic campaign against Qatar, where the headquarters of Al Jazeera Media Network is located.
Al Jazeera's signal has also been blocked in the United Arab Emirates.
Egypt, which is also part of the blocking group, banned Al Jazeera several years ago.
Communications Minister Ayoub Kara starts working on Al-Jazeera shutdown
JERUSALEM POST BY LAHAV HARKOV
AUGUST 6, 2017 17:53
Following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Israel aims to revoke press credentials of Qatari-based news organization.
An employee walks inside an office of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem June 13, 2017. . (photo credit:REUTERS)
Security comes before freedom of expression, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said at a press conference on Sunday, as he laid out a fivepoint plan backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to shut down Qatari cable network Al Jazeera.
Netanyahu congratulated Kara on Twitter, writing: “Following my instructions, he took several practical steps today to stop the actions of incitement by Al Jazeera in Israel.”
Kara said Al Jazeera should be banned from broadcasting from Israel on grounds of incitement.
“I want to make clear: Our citizens’ security and welfare overcomes freedom of expression in times of terror, period. Freedom of expression is not freedom to incite,” Kara said. “Democracy has limits. When we ask what overcomes what, I have no doubt at all. I prefer our citizens and soldiers alive.”
Kara asked the Government Press Office to revoke Al Jazeera reporters’ press cards. He also spoke to the cable and satellite television companies in Israel, which he said expressed willingness to stop broadcasting Al Jazeera.
In addition, Kara asked Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to use his authority to close the network’s Israeli offices and asked for the channel’s broadcasts on open satellites – used by many Israeli Arabs – to be blocked.
Finally, Kara announced plans to promote legislation that would give the government the ability, in exceptional cases, to put security before freedom of expression.
Last week, Kara put his plan to shutter Al Jazeera in a broader Middle Eastern context, saying Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries have called to shut down Al Jazeera entirely as part of their pressure on the Qatari regime. The countries campaigning against Qatar are not democracies that purport to have a free press.
“We identify with the moderates in the Arab world who are fighting terrorism and religious extremism,” Kara said. “Here in Israel, there is no place for a channel that backs terrorism either.”
The Foreign Press Association, of which Al Jazeera journalists in Israel are members, said most of them have identification cards issued by the Government Press Office, which means they are government- vetted. They called Kara’s actions a “slippery slope.”
When reports first surfaced last month that the channel might be taken off the air, Al Jazeera stressed it would take “all necessary legal measures [if Israel] acts on its threat.”
See Israel moves to close Al Jazeera, ban its journalists
See Israel moves to close Al Jazeera, ban its journalists