Israel has decided officially to boycott the Qatari-based al-Jazeera news station, because of what it perceives as biased coverage, a government official said Wednesday.
"The Foreign Ministry has held discussions on the matter, and decided to embargo the station," Deputy Foreign Minister Majali Wahabe told Army Radio, adding: "These reports are untrustworthy and they hurt us, and they arouse people to terrorist activities."
The foreign ministry intends to send a letter to Qatar in the coming days, explaining that the decision was made following an examination of coverage of recent Israeli military DF operations in the Gaza Strip.
The boycott will include a general refusal by Israeli officials to be interviewed by the station, and a ban on Al-Jazeera correspondents from entering government offices in Jerusalem.
According to Israeli officials, the station is heavily biased in favour of the Islamic Hamas movement, which administers the Gaza Strip. The officials also accuse al-Jazeera of staging a candlelight protest that that followed an Israeli government decision last month to reduce electric and gas supplies to the salient in response to continued Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel.
Officials of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' secular Fatah party also accuse al-Jazeera of being biased in favour of Hamas, with which it is at political loggerheads, and prominent Fatah official and former Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan has organized a law suit against the broadcaster.
Some Israeli officials, however disagreed with the boycott, which they said was counter-productive.
Former government spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said the Israeli decision "stems from frustration."
"Will they stop broadcasting if we boycott? At the end of the day, we satisfied the urge to get revenge and 'got them back' as it were.
In actuality, we left the stage open to only one opinion," he said.
Former Israeli ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel said that "while it is clear they are not okay," he did not think a boycott would help.
"There are other things that can be done. For example, showing how radical they are; shattering the liberal neutral facade that is attached to (the network). It is advisable to send serious, tough officials to their broadcasts in order to present Israel's positions more vigorously."
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