A proposed law seeking to prohibit photography and filming of IDF soldiers engaged in some military activities in Judea and Samaria has been blocked by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on the grounds it is unconstitutional as currently written.
The measure, sponsored by the Yisrael Beytenu party, was approved earlier in the day on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. It would criminalize photography and filming of clashes between soldiers and citizens of the Palestinian Authority, which many times involves terrorist violence.
Several far-left NGOs liberally financed by European sources publish such footage — cleverly and provocatively edited — on a regular basis; sometimes those wielding the cameras also deliberately create difficulties for the IDF soldiers trying to carry out their duties in the area.
If the measure were to be passed by the full Knesset plenum, anyone caught filming or publishing footage of IDF soldiers for the purpose of harming “soldiers’ morale” could face up to five years in prison. Publishing such footage for the purpose of “harming state security” could carry a penalty of up to 10 years behind bars.
“For many years, the State of Israel bore witness to the troubling phenomenon of filming of IDF soldiers by organizations that are anti-Israel and Pro-Palestinian, such as B’tzelem, Machsom Watch, Breaking the Silence, and various BDS groups. The proposed legislation’s objective is, for Israel’s security, to immediately ban the filming of IDF soldiers,” wrote MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beiteinu), who tabled the bill.
Despite the Attorney General’s objection to the law, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised its approval, tweeting that “IDF soldiers are subjected to an attack from home by haters of Israel and supporters of terrorism who seek to humiliate and harm them. We will put an end to this!”
Following the Attorney General’s objections, the Committee announced that the bill’s wording will need to be changed before it can be brought to a vote. Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri proposed that the legislation be changed to ban obstructing IDF soldiers while on active duty, parallel to an existing law banning obstructing police officers.
“Banning the photography and filming of soldiers and calling it criminal activity does not hold up to legal scrutiny,” Nizri said, “There is the possibility of going for a more measured proposal, comparable with the police [law],” he added.
While Nizri proposed tweaking the wording of the bill, Likud MK Yehuda Glick said the legislation was unnecessary. “Do we have anything to be ashamed of? Does anyone doubt the loyal work done by our soldiers?” Glick asked, accusing Yisrael Beiteinu of merely “wanting to show how patriotic they are.”
MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint Arab List said, “Those who are afraid of documenting the truth are well aware of the depths of cruelty they have reached. This law proposal embodies a clear confession by Israel’s government that what it is doing in the occupied territories constitute severe crimes.”
Yona Schnitzer and TPS contributed content to this report.