Rafah bloodbath: Now we know why Israel banned Al Jazeera

Israel banned Al Jazeera so it can have free rein in Rafah. The media coverage of the tent massacre proves it
5 min read

Farrah Koutteineh

28 May, 2024
Israel shut down Al Jazeera to accelerate its genocide in Gaza in the dark, writes Farrah Koutteineh. But Palestinian journalists refuse to be silenced.

For every news outlet Israel bans, Palestinians will find another way to report their story, writes Farrah Koutteineh [photo credit: Getty Images]

On May 6, Israel's cabinet fulfilled another twisted fantasy by voting to ban Al Jazeera, shut down its offices in East and West Jerusalem, and confiscate the channel’s equipment.

Many of us saw it coming. For the past 7 months, Israel has scrambled to control the images coming out of Gaza and stem the tide of condemnation from governments and human rights organisations. 

Al Jazeera, alongside other Arab news channels like Al Araby, has been a much-needed thorn in Israel’s side ever since the outlet’s establishment 28 years ago. 

Al Jazeera keeps an eye on Gaza

By having reporters based in Gaza, placing events in their proper context, and using the right dictionary to describe Israel’s assault, Al Jazeera’s coverage of Palestine has shown a mirror to Israel’s brutal and illegal 76-year occupation and settler-colonial enterprise.

Deep down, Israel knows this. That’s why, for decades, they’ve systematically targeted any journalist — international or Palestinian — who fail to parrot their fictitious and malicious narrative.

Israel killed Italian AP journalist Simone Camilli in 2014, killed British photojournalist James Miller in 2003, and killed Turkish news correspondent Cevdet Kılıçlar in 2010, all without facing consequence or justice. 


Now Gaza is the deadliest place in the world to be a journalist. At least 122 Palestinian journalists in Gaza have been murdered by Israeli forces since October, one in 10 of all journalists reporting from the Strip.

For their part, Al Jazeera staff — and their families — have been targeted, maimed, and killed. But this isn’t new, Israel’s vendetta against Al Jazeera stretches back years.

In 2021, in the aftermath of the Sheikh Jarrah expulsions, Israel bombed the Al-Jalaa media tower in Gaza which housed the offices of both Associated Press and Al Jazeera. In 2022, Israeli soldiers murdered Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akhleh, the female voice of Palestinian journalism, who had been instrumental in Al Jazeera’s reporting of the 2nd Intifada.

Israel has killed more journalists in Gaza than any other war or conflict in the last 30 years [Getty Images]

Today we only need to look at the tragedy befallen Al Jazeera’s Wael Al Dahdouh to see Israel’s sadistic strategy in its current guise.

On October 26, Wael’s wife, son, daughter, and grandson were killed by an Israeli airstrike. Shortly after, on December 15, Wael and his cameraman, Samer Abudaqqa, were targeted in another airstrike, injuring Wael and killing Samer. On January 7, Wael’s son Hamza, also a journalist, was murdered by an Israeli airstrike.

Israel knew what it was doing, make no mistake about it. The targeting of Wael Al Dahdouh was planned, calculated, and executed with extreme precision. This was a message to all Palestinian journalists: dare to report the truth and you will suffer.  

Remember, Israel also banned all foreign journalists' access to Gaza, Palestinian journalists are the sole voice on the ground, and Al Jazeera is one of the only news organisations that has local Palestinian reporters and correspondents.

By banning Al Jazeera, Israel deliberately strangles those voices and carries out unimaginable brutality with media silence and, given regular electricity blackouts, absolute darkness.

This sinister attack on freedom of the press is a textbook example of how to carry out a genocide and continue unabated. In fact, Israel’s killing of journalists, stringent censorship measures and regular communication blackouts enforced by Israel formed part of the base of South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

Israel’s strategy has history. During the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, news and media — or lack of — played a crucial role in facilitating genocide. Hutu militias banished foreign journalists, and local Hutu-aligned media fuelled further massacres by dehumanising Tutsi victims. Meanwhile, the international media either ignored or misconstrued what was happening.


Israel can't handle the truth

As this weekend’s 'tent massacre' in Tel al-Sultan refugee camp in Rafah shows, it’s one rule for Palestinians and another for Israelis — the burden of proof is disproportionately, and seemingly perpetually, skewed.

On October 7, unverified claims — that Al Jazeera would go on to expose as disinformation — that Hamas had beheaded babies were plastered over major news outlets.

The Times ran with “Hamas ‘cut the throats of babies’ in massacre” whilst the UK-based Daily Mail went one further: “This was a Holocaust pure and simple".

Those same outlets were, unsurprisingly, mute when real, verified videos of lifeless, limbless, and headless children emerged on our social media feeds on Monday 27 May. Like the Hutus, these outlets, in cahoots with the Israeli military press office, have remained either silent or ambivalent throughout. 

This is what Israel wants, a press corp allergic to journalism: unable and unwilling to question power; the murder of 45 Palestinian civilians described as a "tragic mistake" instead of calculated slaughter. 

In contrast, Al Jazeera has reported around the clock the daily massacres in Gaza. Journalists and cameramen put their lives on the line to reveal the horrors on the ground and expose Israel's lies, with Al Jazeera's documentary “October 7” a watershed moment in war reporting. Perhaps this was the catalyst for Israel’s banning of the channel — the straw that finally broke the bully's back. 

With Israel unrelenting in Rafah, it’s clear that Israel’s ban of Al Jazeera is a flagrant attempt to hide the ongoing genocide in Gaza. The systematic killing of Palestinian journalists is their way of killing the truth and stopping the truth from being reported.

But for every news outlet Israel bans, Palestinians will find another way to report their story. For every Palestinian targeted, hundreds more pick up a press vest and a camera. And for every Palestinian journalist killed, every story they’ve ever reported becomes immortalised.

Farrah Koutteineh is founder of KEY48 - a voluntary collective calling for the immediate right of return of over 7.4 million Palestinian refugees. Koutteineh is also a political activist focusing on intersectional activism including, the Decolonise Palestine movement, indigenous people's rights, anti-establishment movement, women's rights and climate justice.

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @key48return

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@newarab.com

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.