JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) said it will let a Jerusalem-based Al Jazeera reporter keep his press card for the time being.
The government had threatened to revoke Elias Karram’s credentials after he identified himself as a part of the Palestinian “resistance” in an interview with a television station.
Revoking Karram’s press card was seen as the first step toward shuttering the Al Jazeera offices in Israel – a threat made by Communications Minister Ayoub Kara and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both of the Likud party.
In Wednesday’s announcement, the GPO said it would defer the suspension of Karram’s press card for six months, during which time his reports will be “monitored.” At an Aug. 21 hearing, Karram said “I had no intention of supporting or expressing sympathy for armed resistance,” the GPO said in a statement.
Karram, an Israeli citizen from Nazareth, has carried a GPO card on behalf of Al Jazeera, the Qatari-based network that Israel regards as biased against it, since 2011.
Earlier this month, the GPO had threatened to revoke Karram’s press card, citing a May 2016 interview with the Turkey-based television network Dar al-Iman in which Karram reportedly referred to his “media work [as] an integral part of the resistance and its educational political activity.” The press office says the network is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Palestinians often use the term resistance to describe a range of actions in opposition to Israel or its control of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including violent and nonviolent activities.
Karram said during the hearing that he does not mix opinion with reporting and does not see his role as a journalist in taking any position either for or against any particular kind of resistance. He said that when he used the term resistance in the interview, it meant “only media exposure to the reality of the Palestinian people living under occupation. I did not adopt, call for or incite to resistance of any kind.”
GPO Director Nitzan Chen said in a statement: “Freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of the Government Press Office, but we will not accept a situation in which an official certification issued by the State of Israel will serve as a tool for those who exploit it for public struggle against the country. Unfortunately, there have been reports lately, on Al Jazeera television network, which do not meet factual, public and professional standards. In the coming months, the GPO will monitor the network’s reports in Israel, in Arabic and in English, and will not hesitate, after consultation with legal and security agencies, to draw necessary conclusions.”