Yesterday, Israel’s Knesset passed a law allowing for the temporary license suspension of media organizations that are found to materially aid a wartime enemy outside of their practice of journalism. The bill is clearly aimed at Al Jazeera, the Qatari state propaganda mouthpiece. It is not, however, a reaction to the propaganda itself.

That may sound confusing. In fact, this issue provides a good example of how to spot a good-faith critique of Israeli policy among the mounds of bad-faith straw men you’ll encounter online.

A large segment of the media and academia filter their commentary according to whether it abides by a specific narrative of the conflict: Israel=bad. The saga of Al Jazeera highlights this tendency.

Israel is not considering banning Al Jazeera because of “bias” or misinformation. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a different explanation among the commentariat.

CNN claims the bill stems from the fact that “Netanyahu’s government has also long complained about Al Jazeera’s operations, alleging anti-Israeli bias.”

Now, CNN can very easily fact-check the suggestion that Netanyahu is shutting down media with anti-Israel biases. Has CNN been shut down? The CNN reporters should very quickly get an answer to that question.

Is it because, as former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt claims, Israel is an authoritarian state and “that’s what authoritarian regimes often do”? Bildt’s objections are interesting, in that he has been a European Union supporter and official throughout his public career, and the European Union, as Bildt surely knows, banned Russia Today and Sputnik two years ago.

This offers us a clue as to why Bildt feels the way he does: He’s experiencing psychological projection. After all, as an EU spokesman spelled out: “The Kremlin regime transformed state-controlled media into instruments of information manipulation and information warfare. That is why the European Union banned [a] number of them, including Russia Today and Sputnik from EU media space.”

It could be, then, that Bildt sees in Israel’s actions echoes of his beloved EU’s “authoritarianism,” though to Bildt that’s the good kind of authoritarianism. It’s only bad when Israel does it.

Bildt will be happy to know that this isn’t why Israel has considered temporarily suspending al Jazeera.

What about White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s contention that the move is “concerning” because it threatens “freedom of the press”? Or Ian Bremmer’s suggestion that this is “not a sign of a healthy democracy”?

The “good” news, if we can use that word, is that the White House and the ChatGPT-programmed think tankers of the Twittersphere are simply spreading misinformation. Having nothing to do with the EU’s explicitly speech-based ban on Russian networks, Al Jazeera has crossed two non-journalism-related lines.

The first is that Israel intelligence agencies claim to have caught Al Jazeera passing along Israeli troop locations to its Hamas allies, which are funded by the same regime as Al Jazeera. That is, Qatar is simply coordinating between its military wing and its propaganda wing.

The second is that Al Jazeera has been found giving press credentials to multiple people who turned out to be soldiers in Hamas’s war on Israel. That would be indisputable grounds for suspending an agency’s credentials.

In the course of its Gaza operations, the IDF has found troves of documents that identify a great many of the Strip-based terrorists, some of whom work for Al Jazeera. Ismail Abu Omar was wounded in an IDF strike in Rafah. Al Jazeera claimed him as their own, flew him back to Qatar for treatment, and expressed deep outrage. Israel responded that Abu Omar was indeed an employee of Al Jazeera—while spending much of his time as a deputy company commander in Hamas’s East Khan Younis Battalion. Abu Omar appears to have participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 invasion. As Jonathan Schanzer wrote here in March, “In a bizarre twist, Abu Omar actually signed his name to a Telegram photo of a murdered IDF soldier whose body was taken by Hamas into Gaza.”

There’s Mohamed Washah, whom one could find on Al Jazeera video reports and who also, according to numerous documents and photographs, serves as a prominent Hamas tank commander. Two Al Jazeera “journalists” were killed in a strike in January; one of them turned out to have been a rocket-specialist for Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the other a drone operator with Hamas.

How “journalisty” this all sounds to you probably depends heavily on whether you think a reporter’s first obligation is to kill Jews. I received my journalism degree without taking a single class on joining a foreign terrorist army, so it is not recognizable as the journalism I personally was trained to do—but your mileage may vary.

Now, a good-faith critique of Israel’s proposed ban might engage with this fact—that the Qatari-funded Al Jazeera appears to have been an organizational arm of the Qatari-funded Hamas terrorists who butchered 1,200 innocent Israelis on Oct. 7. Perhaps the law is still too vague, or you worry it gives Israel too much leeway to ban actual journalistic outfits under the same rules. Or you fret that the 45-day suspension is too easily extended. Even a passing familiarity with Israel’s Supreme Court would cure you of such worries, but not everyone possesses that passing familiarity. At the same time, an argument made out of ignorance can still be one of good faith.

What isn’t good faith, however, is any one of the above-mentioned arguments made by prominent political figures and supposed experts in the field of foreign affairs.

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