Legislation criminalizing the visual documenting of Israeli soldiers engaged in repression in the occupied Palestinian territories cleared its first hurdle in the Knesset on Wednesday, June 20. The bill, which passed its first reading by a vote of 45-42, would outlaw the recording of “soldiers carrying out their duties with the aim of demoralizing them or harming Israel’s security.” The draft legislation will now head to committee before coming up for the second and third plenum readings that it must clear to become law.

Far-right Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov, who proposed the bill with backing from Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, said before Wednesday’s vote that the legislation is necessary to prevent “hostile elements” from seeking to interfere with soldiers’ duties and disgrace them. “Freedom of speech isn’t anarchy,” Ilatov said.

The passage of the legislation in its first reading was hailed by right-wing lawmakers and fascists organizations, such as the Im Tirzu organization. In contrast, lawmakers from the Joint List, Meretz and other parties criticized the bill as an effort to hide alleged abuses.

Joint List leader, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) said, “This law is first and foremost an attempt to legitimize the injustices of the occupation, but no less than this it is part of the attempt to dismantle democracy and harm freedom of the press.” Odeh added that “Based on the submission of the bill, the coalition also understands that the reality is problematic, except instead of changing it they want to shut the blinds and hope that no one will notice.”

Related: Government Plans to Jail Anyone Documenting Soldiers in Occupied West Bank or along Gaza Border


Communist Party of Israel