Late last month, Israel’s government proposed a bill that would prohibit the recording of the country’s military forces while on duty. Israelis argue that recordings of its military personnel being made public have damaged the country’s reputation and its foreign relations.
Despite outrage from Palestinian journalists regarding the bill, the motion has recently been passed.
If the bill is ratified by Israel’s parliament, it will be put into effect immediately.
Several human rights groups who want to record the forces’ interactions with the Palestinian people have now been threatened with criminal charges.
Human rights groups not only see their ability to record Israeli military forces as a right, but also as an opportunity to expose the abuses that the army inflicts upon Palestinians.
The bill was proposed by the Yisrael Beitenu party, which is known for its nationalist approach to politics.
Under this legislation, citizens “with intent to harm the morale of Israel’s soldiers or its inhabitants” would be charged with five years in prison, and in some rare cases up to a decade.
The law was passed by a department which overlooks new legislation, and it will now go to the parliament to be ratified.
Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party and Israeli Defence Minister, has defended the legislation by framing Israeli soldiers as victims of social pressure and abuse.
Liberman stated: “Israeli soldiers are under constant attack by Israel haters and supporters of terrorism who look constantly to degrade and sully them. We will put an end to this.”
Other arguments in favor of the bill state that many videos end up being utilized by governments which are anti-Israel, and that this poses a threat to national security. A human rights group recorded a video in 2016 wherein a soldier shot to death an incapacitated Palestinian assailant. This caused a tremendous amount of international backlash and led to the man’s imprisonment.
The backlash from websites and printed media was almost immediate after the announcement of the bill.
Liberal news website Israeli Haaretz Daily published an opinion piece which calls the bill an obstruction of Palestinian citizens’ “right to know.” The op-ed claims that “Israeli democracy must protect itself from the human rights organization’s future crimes.” The author of the article also states that the bill is intended to silence any criticism of the Israeli army. The author claims that the footage could be used when analyzing illegal activities and violations of the laws of war.
One of the op-ed’s most striking moments states:
“The main protection against indicting Israeli soldiers and commanders in international tribunals for violating the law of war is the assumption that Israel investigates complaints against its soldiers itself, and deals with them fairly. The more Israel acts to cover up its soldiers’ actions, the more the opposite assumption is substantiated — laying the ground for the indictment of Israeli soldiers and commanders in such criminal proceedings … A country and army that have nothing to hide, that act to seek out and punish those who violate their code of combat, don’t need legislation in this spirit and must oppose it.”
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate is said to have reached out to the United Nations and international press freedom institutions, requesting for them to pressure the Israel government to “comply with international laws and conventions,” in order to protect the freedom of the press to hold the Israeli government accountable for its army’s actions.
Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons
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