Communications Minister Gilad Erdan wrote on Tuesday to the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council to take Al Jazeera off the air, at least until the end of Operation Protective Edge, accusing the cable channel of incitement against the state.
Erdan said he valued free speech, but, in light of the Gaza war, Al Jazeera’s “constant” airing of incitement programming against Israel and programming “enthusiastically supporting Hamas, its actions and terrorists” had crossed the line.
The Justice Ministry said Erdan had not consulted it regarding the letter and whether Al Jazeera’s programming had risen to the legal definition of incitement.
Instead, the communications minister referenced a legal opinion from a state lawyer in charge of public broadcasts issues in support of his demand.
Erdan’s examples included presenting all IDF actions as “war crimes” and purposely “brutal” attacks directed at civilians “in a one-sided manner,” ignoring the context and what he said was Hamas war crimes.
Meanwhile, the IDF spokesman on Tuesday denied there was any direct attack on Al Jazeera’s office or any other press offices in Gaza.
The spokesman also said there had not even been any warning shots, but could not, at this early stage, confirm or deny whether there had been indirect damage to the building from firing at nearby military targets.
Tuesday morning brought numerous reports of attacks, with Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker tweeting “two warning shots straight into Al Jazeera office in #gaza.. We are evacuating,” adding “AP also has office there and evacuated.”
Despite the tweet, AP said its offices were not hit. Pressed on why Al Jazeera said it was hit, AP said Al Jazeera could report what it wanted to report, but its office was definitely not hit. There were indications though that AP evacuated its office to stay on the safe side.
During Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, there were numerous disputed reports about IDF attacks or indirect damage to media buildings in Gaza.
Many of these disputes are still ongoing.
In the current operation, there are already numerous disputes over alleged attacks or damage to hospitals, mosques and civilian residences, with human rights groups calling for investigations and the IDF defending its tactics and blaming Hamas for using human shields.