by Ariel Bolstein
Israeli leniency and generosity toward those who wish us harm must also have their limits.
The plan to close Al Jazeera's offices in Israel, announced Sunday by Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, is a welcome step.
But it is not enough. The time has come to shed all pretenses. Al Jazeera is not a media outlet, it is a weapon wielded by the emir of Qatar. He takes aim at anything or anyone he wishes to harm or exploit, and fires.
Qatar has and continues to invest a fortune in its broadcasting empire, simply because it understands that in this day and age this is a sophisticated, immensely powerful weapon, more potent than any battleship or tank.
Israel, a democratic society, is already on an uneven playing field in the face of the most repugnant tyrants and human rights violators. While we hold our liberties dear and work to uphold them even when our existence is threatened, the Islamist extremists do not recognize any right other than their "right" to spread destruction and murder.
From their perspective, Israel's democracy and freedoms are weaknesses that can and should be exploited for the purpose of spilling Israeli blood. Essentially, Israel is fighting its enemies with one hand tied behind its back. We avoid instituting many possibly effective measures that could hurt the enemy and curb the threat only because we do not want to infringe the rights of individuals or groups, even those that would happily wipe us off the map if they could.
But Israeli leniency and generosity toward those who wish us harm must also have their limits.
It is unfathomable to allow television networks that serve countries and bodies trying to eradicate or harm the Jewish state to continue working in Israel. Al Jazeera is no different in this than the propaganda machines working for Iran or Hezbollah. True, Al Jazeera tries to hide its venomous messages behind a veil of seemingly Western professionalism, but its content is openly hateful and unabashedly incites to violence against Israel. Its staffers in Israel are not covering news events, they are merely trying to fan the flames, and they should be treated accordingly.
Israel may have been the first and primary victim of "terror channels" disguised as legitimate media networks, but it isn't alone. Propaganda has always been the weapon of choice for evil, murderous regimes. Al Jazeera has illustrated its effectiveness as a powerful, underhanded tool of incitement, and it stands to reason that more and more dictatorships will look to obtain similar "toys" for themselves. Just think of all the magical things totalitarian regimes can do with their own networks: lie, incite, sow chaos, fan hatred, disseminate "fake news" and even cause bloodshed -- without any risk, without getting dirty, and without ever having to leave the air-conditioned studio.
An increasing number of democracies will find themselves under attack by television stations and will need to think of ways to cope. Currently, the free world is ill-equipped to defend itself from this phenomenon. Moreover, much of the free world does not even recognize the threat. Anti-Israel activists are sure to try to present our fight against Al Jazeera's lies as a violation of free speech. We need to be ready to discredit these accusations. With that, in the wake of Russian propaganda campaigns, some Western countries have recently awoken from their slumbers and have begun to understand the potential damage they too face from pseudo-media outlets.
The majority of Arab countries also understand that Israel's actions against Al Jazeera are justified and appropriate. No prominent Arab figures or bodies have sided with the station, and for good reason. Now is a propitious time to set new rules and put an end to our enemies' freedom of propaganda and incitement. Just as we would be appalled to find Islamic State's channel on our cable box, so too is there no place for Al Jazeera or other such hate networks. If the law needs to be changed, then lawmakers need to get to work so that these vile broadcasts can be taken off the air and Israeli citizens can be protected.
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