Israels parliament is to consideringlaw banning the photographing or filming of soldiers, in what critics claim is a dangerousattempt to undermine scrutiny of theIsraeli Defence Forces (IDF).
Under the proposed legislation, entitled the Prohibition against Photocopying and DocumentingIDFSoldiers, those found photographing troops with the intention of undermining the spirit of the army can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
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, shall be liable to five years imprisonment, says the bill, proposed by RobertIlatov, a member of the Knesset and the chairman of the right-wing nationalistYisraelBeiteinuparty.
Anyone intending to harm state security will be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
The proposal was put forwardin the wake of the deadliest day in the Gaza Strip since the 2014 war. Medical officials saidleast 60 Palestinians were killed and thousands wounded on14 May when Israeli troops fired at demonstrators protestingIsraeli occupation.
Explanatory notes accompanyingMr Ilatovs bill, whichis reportedly supported byDefenceMinisterAvigdorLiberman, say: For many years now, the state of Israel has witnessed a worrying phenomenon of documentation of IDF soldiers.
This is done through video and stills and audio recordings by anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian organisations such as BTselem, MachsomWatch women, Breaking the Silence and various BDS organisations. In many cases, the organisations spend whole days near the IDF soldiers waiting impatiently for activities that can be biased and tendentious and through them they can be disgraced.
The notes continue: Documentation is usually done while interfering with IDF soldiers ongoing operational activities, sometimes even shouting accusations and insults against them. Most of these organisations are supported by associations and governments with a clear anti-Israeli agenda, which use these tendencies to harm the State of Israel and its security.
Its time to put an end to this absurdity, and its inconceivable that every leftist operative or organisation supported by foreign entities will have free access to document IDF soldiers unhindered while carrying out their duties.
We have a responsibility to provide IDF soldiers with optimal conditions for carrying out their duties, without having to worry about a leftist or organisation who might publish their picture to shame and disgrace them.
An editorial in Israeli newspaper Haaretzon Sunday condemned the bill, calling it dangerous and saying its aim was toto silence criticism of the army, and in particular to prevent human rights organisations from documenting the Israeli armys actions in the territories.
The proposed legislationnot only attempted to block reporting that underminedthe spirit of the army and Israeli residents, the editorial said,but would imposea blanket ban on recording the actions of soldiers.
The immediate result of such a prohibition is serious harm to the possibility of protecting human rights and overseeing the armys activity.
The bill does serious harm to freedom of the press and the publics right to know. The public has a right to know what the reality is and especially what the peoples army;is doing in its name and on its behalf.
The violence in Gazahas tapered off since14 May but there are still sporadic flare-ups. At least 113 Palestinians have been killed sinceborder protests began on 30 March, whichdemand the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants toland andhomes lost to Israel during its founding in a 1948 war.
Gaza has been controlled since 2007 by the Islamist group Hamas. Israel has blamed the group for provoking the violence.
Video footage and photographs showing the actions of Israeli soldiers have often become the source of high-profile investigations into their conduct.
In perhaps the most prominent among these in recent years, ElorAzaria wassentenced to a year and a half in prison for fatally shootingaPalestinianassailant in the head as he lay immobilised on the ground in 2016, only for the sentence to be cut by a third in March. He was freed earlier this month.