Rights groups frequently film Israeli soldiers on duty, documenting abuse, so the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition has decided to put an end to the practice, Reuters news agency reports.
“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.”
The proposed law would make filming or publishing footage of Israeli troops’ interactions with Palestinians punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The timing of Beiteneu’s effort is, at the very least, indicative, considering Israeli troops recently shot and killed Razan Najjar, 21, a volunteer paramedic, prompting outrage in Gaza, as Deutsche Welle reported. Shooting medical personnel is, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society said, a war crime under Geneva conventions.
Ms. Najjar was the 119th Palestinian killed since the protests began in March, the New York Times noted. Shortly after Najjar’s murder, a group of United Nations agencies issued a statement expressing outrage, citing the World Health Organization which has repeatedly called for the protection of health workers and patients at all times.
As Reuters noted, rights groups often film Israeli troops. One such video, a video filmed by Israeli rights group B’Tselem in 2016 showing an Israeli soldier shoot dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant, caused major international outrage.
Palestinian officials have condemned the law which predicts up to 10 years of prison for filming or publishing footage of Israeli soldiers as a decision meant to “cover up crimes committed by Israeli soldiers.”
The broad language of the bill itself, Reuters noted, clearly indicates that this effort is meant to put an end to any and all filming of Israeli troops, since it is aimed at organizations that 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.”
The ubiquitous ban would cover, not only conventional news media, but also social networking websites.
Liberal Israeli paper, Haaretz, reacted, announcing “we won’t stop filming, we won’t stop writing.” Haaretz, they wrote, will violate the law proudly, continue filming, documenting, photographing, writing about what is happening in Palestine.
According to Amnesty International, approximately 2 million Palestinians have been subjected to collective punishment, and Israeli forces have, apart from severely restricting the freedom of movement of Palestinians, unlawfully killed civilians, held hundreds in detention without charge or trial, tortured and mistreated children, demolished Palestinian homes, and forcibly evicted residents.
Israel’s military, according to Politico, receives $3.1 billion from the United States annually, more than any other nation in the world. More recently, according to the same outlet, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, emailed State Department colleagues with the following message: Don’t second-guess the Israeli military.