Israel’s Shutdown of Al Jazeera Highlights Long-Running Tensions

When Israel ordered Al Jazeera on Sunday to shut down operations there, the network had a reporter covering a government meeting in West Jerusalem, another in an East Jerusalem hotel room, a third in northern Israel to cover clashes on the border with Lebanon and a fourth in Tel Aviv.

But the cameras stopped rolling when Walid al-Omari, the network’s bureau chief in Ramallah, in the West Bank, ordered all of them to go home. Israeli authorities descended on a room used by Al Jazeera in the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem, confiscating broadcast equipment. Israeli television and internet providers cut off its channels and blocked its websites, though people were still able to find it online.

Al Jazeera, the influential Arab news network, says it will continue reporting and broadcasting from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But its departure from Israel marks a new low in its long-strained history with a country that much of Al Jazeera’s audience in the Arab world and beyond sees as an aggressor and an occupier.

The shutdown order, which lasts 45 days and can be renewed, was a break long in the making. Mr. al-Omari said that soon after the Israel-Hamas war began in October, the network stopped using an office in West Jerusalem, saying that far-right Israelis had used intimidation tactics against the staff there.

The network has played a major role in amplifying stories of the killing and suffering of Palestinians in Gaza, heightening worldwide outrage at Israel’s conduct. Many defenders of Al Jazeera argue that its work is so strong that Israel wants to intimidate and censor it.

But its focus on bloodshed in Gaza has also generated controversy, with some Arab analysts saying it cheerleads for what it portrays as legitimate armed resistance to Israel, and presents commentary from Hamas officials and fighters with little critical pushback. The network is partially funded and controlled by the government of Qatar, which allows Hamas political leaders to live and operate in its country.

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