Amid worldwide condemnation of Israel’s use of lethal force against Palestinian protesters in Gaza, officials in Israel's parliament have proposed a bill, which would effectively ban the collection of evidence relating to the human rights and other abuses committed by members of the army.
The move comes at the same time Israeli government officials announced thousands of new settlement units in the West Bank and mere days after the killing of more than 60 protesters on May 14, the same day the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Overall Israel Defense Force (IDF) have killed at least 116 Palestinians and injured over 12,000 using live ammunition on unarmed protesters, who have participated since March 30 in the “Great March of Return” protests according to newly-released figures from health officials.
The Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, convened Thursday to discuss a bill that would prohibit taking pictures or recording Israeli soldiers on duty.
The bill proposes a five-year prison term for anyone “anyone who filmed, photographed, and/or recorded soldiers in the course of their duties, with the intention of undermining the spirit of IDF soldiers and residents of Israel,” and ten-year prison terms for anyone “intending to harm state security.”
The bill would also penalize the distribution of photo or video content on social networks or in the media, effectively hampering journalistic work and limiting the freedom of the press.
According to Robert Ilatov, a member of the Knesset and the bill's sponsor, the legislation was proposed “in response to harassment by left-wing operatives of Israeli soldiers while dispersing violent demonstrations by Hamas on the Gaza Strip border.”
The introductory note of the bill reads: “For many years the State of Israel has witnessed a worrying phenomenon of documentation of Israeli soldiers. This is done through video, stills, and audio recordings by anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian organizations such as B'Tselem, Machsom Watch Women, Breaking the Silence.”
The bill, according to observers, would serve as a useful tool in targeting Israeli and Jewish organizations that oppose the occupation and the mistreatment of Palestinians by members of Israeli state security forces.
B'Tselem a human rights organizations that works in Israel, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to end the occupation and raise awareness within Israeli society, Machsom Watch a group of mostly elderly women who accompany Palestinians in their daily crossing of Israeli military checkpoints, and Breaking the Silence an organization of former soldiers, who work to expose the truth of military service in the occupied territory, could all be affected by the legislation.
Israeli soldiers have a long history of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings, and the bill some fear would consolidate impunity.
The bill is supported by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who announced Thursday he would seek the approval for the construction of approximately 2,500 new illegal Jewish-only settlement units in the West Bank.
“We committed to building in Judea and Samaria (the occupied West Bank), and we are fulfilling that commitment. In the coming months, we will seek approval for thousands of additional housing units. We will promote building in all of Judea and Samaria, from the north to the south, in small communities and large ones,” Lieberman said.
Palestine recently called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch an investigation into what it describes as “insurmountable” evidence that Israeli has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity on Palestinian territory.