While Jerusalem boils with escalating tensions between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directs the blame away from his own policies and onto journalists.
Like many news agencies, Al Jazeera has been covering the fierce Palestinian campaign over a holy site shared by Muslims and Jews. On Wednesday, Netanyahu announced on Facebook that he would work to remove Qatar-based news organization Al Jazeera from Jerusalem entirely, accusing them of inciting the recent violence with their reporting.
"The al-Jazeera network continues to stir violence around the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu wrote in Hebrew, translated by Reuters. “I have spoken several times to law-enforcement authorities demanding the closure of al-Jazeera’s offices in Jerusalem. If this does not happen because of legal interpretation, I will work to enact the required legislation to expel al-Jazeera from Israel.”
The threat comes amid the backlash of Netanyahu's decision to increase the security surrounding the sacred space, known to Muslims as Haram esh-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount.
On July 14 two Israeli police officers were shot just outside the compound by three Palestinians. In response, Netanyahu cracked down on security and installed metal detectors, leading to outrage from not only Palestinians, but Israeli allies.
It was seen as grossly miscalculated, as Netanyahu failed to discuss the decision with the Waqf, Muslim authorities responsible for maintaining the site. It was also seen by some as a strategy to establish Israeli sovereignty over what is, by law, a prayer site for Muslims only.
The prime minister was forced to remove the added security measures after a heated diplomatic exchange with Jordan, who is a crucial regional ally and funds the Waqf.
Netanyahu appears unwilling to take responsibility for the violence however, which led to the deaths of three Israelis and three Palestinians on Friday. Instead, he has found a scapegoat in a long-time enemy: the free press.
In return, Al Jazeera has said that it will take legal action if their Jerusalem offices truly do come under threat by the prime minister, but in the meantime will "continue to cover events in the Palestinian territories professionally and objectively."
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters photographer Ronen Zvulun