Why did the Israeli Parliament pass a law to shut down Al Jazeera?

Netanyahu: "It is time to remove the bullhorn of Hamas from our country."

The Israeli Parliament (Knesset) approved the Al Jazeera Law, promoted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, to close foreign channels, in an attempt to ban the Qatari platform's broadcasts after it was accused of publishing fake news to demonize the Jewish state and even employing journalists involved in terrorist activities.

According to the legislation, if the head of state considers that a media outlet is causing damage to the country, the minister of communications can take action against said platform after receiving at least one evaluation by security officials that determines the harm it causes to the nation. The measures must be approved by the government.

The minister of communications can decide, among other things, to close a channel's offices in Israel, confiscate equipment, ban broadcasts of reports, eliminate the station with cable and satellite companies and block its websites.

Netanyahu: 'It is time to remove the bullhorn of Hamas from our country'

Minister Karhi welcomed the approval of the law. "Hamas mouthpieces won't have any freedom of expression in Israel. Al Jazeera will be shut down in the coming days," he said.

"We received an effective and rapid tool for action against those who use freedom of the press to harm the security of Israel and IDF soldiers and incite terrorism in time of war," reads a statement signed by Karhi.

Netanyahu also expressed his satisfaction with the approval of the law. "Al Jazeera harmed Israel’s security, actively participated in the Oct. 7 massacre, and incited against Israeli soldiers. It is time to remove the bullhorn of Hamas from our country." He added: “The terrorist channel Al Jazeera will no longer broadcast from Israel. I intend to act immediately in accordance with the new law to stop the channel’s activity.”

Criticism of the law in Israel and the United States

The law was criticized in Israel, including by members of Likud, the political party led by Netanyahu.

In statements to the Israeli outlet Ynet, Likud member Amit Halevi said: "The bill ... is useless and will cause more harm." He added: "It is strange that our coalition voted in favor ... This mainly reflects an extreme lack of judgment and only has the objective of obtaining a headline for the masses.”

Criticism also came from the United States, where White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that this is a "concerning” step.

"The United States supports the critically important work journalists around the world do.  And so — and that includes those who are reporting in — in the conflict in Gaza," Jean-Pierre said.

Al Jazeera's response: 'Dangerous' and 'ludicrous' lies

After the approval of the law and Netanyahu's harsh statements, the Qatari channel issued a statement to respond to criticism from the Israeli government. “Al Jazeera reiterates that such slanderous accusations will not deter us from continuing our bold and professional coverage, and reserves the right to pursue every legal step,” it said. Likewise, it maintained that the Israeli prime minister is "responsible for the safety of its staff and premises around the world.”

The Qatari-owned outlet also described Netanyahu's accusations as “'dangerous' and 'ludicrous' lies,” and accused his government of trying to silence the channel.

Al Jazeera under fire for publishing fake news and participating in terrorist activity

Recently, the Qatari news network decided to retract and eliminate a series of articles that accused the Israel Defense Forces of committing sexual abuse at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

The controversy reached wide circulation Sunday after Al Jazeera published the testimony of a woman who claimed to have witnessed rapes of Palestinian women inside the Gazan hospital.

The Qatari outlet deleted the publication shortly after without adding many more details. The report was, however, picked up by many other media channels.

Furthermore, throughout the war between Israel and Hamas, after the Oct. 7 massacre, the Jewish state has accused some Al Jazeera journalists of having participated in terrorist activities against Israel and of being part of Hamas.