Israeli ministers have backed a bill making it illegal for rights groups to film its troops’ interactions with Palestinians in a move critics say paves the way for military abuses.
The proposed law, put forward by the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, was approved by the ministerial committee on legislation on Sunday and will now face a series of parliamentary debates.
What does the bill say?
The bill makes filming or publishing footage “with intent to harm the morale of Israel’s soldiers or its inhabitants” punishable by up to five years in prison, and by up to 10 years if the intention was to damage “national security”.
The bill argues that “anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian organisations” spend “entire days near Israeli soldiers waiting breathlessly for actions that can be documented in a slanted and one-sided way so that soldiers can be smeared”.
Yisrael Beitenu leader and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman celebrated the progress with the bill, saying Israeli soldiers are “under constant attack by Israel haters and supporters of terrorism who look constantly to degrade and sully them.”
How have rights groups reacted?
Critics of the bill argue that video documentation of Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank is necessary to expose military abuses.
“There are clear cases captured on film that have led to the prosecutions of Israeli soldiers. We can only imagine how often these cases happen out of the view of camera,” Eric Goldstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division, told Euronews.
Goldstein added that without transparency “getting accountability becomes much more difficult.”
He said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) frequently film and disseminate footage “when it is in their own interest”, and noted that the bill comes in an atmosphere of “increasing intolerance for the reporting of human rights organisations” and amid prosecutions as a result of video footage.
The IDF did not respond to a request for comment.
Local human rights group B'Tselem shrugged off the bill, which it said would not affect its work.
“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,” spokesman Amit Gilutz told Euronews.
“Either way, the documentation of this reality will continue, regardless of this or other draconian pieces of legislation.”
Here are five times when footage has provoked condemnation or convictions on both sides of the conflict. You can watch the footage in the player above.
1. Protesters grab IDF man trying to detain boy | Nabi Saleh, West Bank, 2015
Palestinian women and children hit an IDF soldier while he tried to detain a 12-year-old boy at a protest
The IDF said the boy threw rocks at soldiers and they decided not to detain the boy because of the violent altercation.
2. IDF soldier shoots unarmed Palestinian in the head | Hebron, West Bank, 2016
A wounded Palestinian man was shot dead by an IDF soldier in March 2016.
The man was wounded after a knife attack on a soldier was foiled, and he was seen lying motionless on the ground. An IDF soldier then raised his gun and shot him in the head.
Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter and released in May 2018 after serving nine months in prison.
3. Teen killed during Nakba demonstrations | West Bank, 2014
Seventeen-year-old Nadeem Siam Nuwara was shot dead in 2014 during Nakba demonstrations. The incident was captured on CCTV.
A former Israeli police officer in April 2018 was sentenced to nine months in prison and ordered to pay Nuwara's family 50,000 Israeli shekels (€11,865) under a plea agreement.
4. Deadly protests along Gaza-Israel border | March-June 2018
Since March, footage has captured protests along the Gaza-Israel border, where soldiers were deployed as demonstrators set tires alight and throw rocks.
One video shows the moment a Palestinian protester was shot in the leg.
5. Teen slaps IDF soldier | 2017
Teen activist Ahed Tamimi was sentenced to eight months in prison after a video went viral of her slapping and hitting an IDF soldier.