Israel’s right-wing government has apparently decided that the best way to stop global criticism of its flagrant human rights violations against the Palestinian people is not to stop committing them, but to silence and punish anyone who attempts to document its crimes.
The Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved legislation that would sentence anyone who attempts to film the actions of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers in the occupied West Bank to as much as five years in prison.
As Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy noted shortly after the measure was approved, the bill in its current form would target not just the press, but also “human rights organizations and Palestinian residents, the last witnesses for the prosecution against the occupation.”
“We will violate this law proudly. We have an obligation to violate this law, like any law with a black flag waving over it,” Levy declared. “We will not stop documenting. We will not stop photographing. We will not stop writing—with all our might. Human rights organizations will do the same too and like them, we hope, Palestinian eyewitnesses, who will of course be punished more than anyone.”
While some changes to the specific language of the bill are expected after it was deemed constitutionally “problematic” by Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, advocacy groups said it is alarming that such an extreme measure has garnered significant support amoung Israeli lawmakers.
“If the government finds the occupation too embarrassing to even be visibly documented, it should work to bring it to an end—not go after photographers,” Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, said in a statement.
As Haaretz reports, the version of the law approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation “calls for a five-year prison term for anyone filming or distributing footage on social media that documents confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, with the intent to ‘break the spirit of Israeli soldiers and inhabitants.’”
The lawmakers’ push to criminalize the filming of soldiers who are enforcing the brutal and illegal occupation of Palestinian territory comes amid growing international condemnation of Israeli soldiers’ massacre of over 100 peaceful protestors in Gaza over the past several weeks.
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