IDF soldiers during activities in the West Bank.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
A bill that would make it illegal to distribute video or audio footage of IDF soldiers advanced in Sunday’s meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, but it will be rewritten before it is brought to a vote in Knesset committees after the Attorney- General’s Office ruled it illegal.
In its present form, the controversial bill proposed by Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Robert Ilatov, would subject violators to up to five years in prison, and 10 years if national security was harmed. The bill will be brought to a vote in a preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday and will pass with the coalition’s support.
But then it will be rewritten completely in Knesset committees in order to make it legal and able to withstand challenges in court. The maximum jail sentence will be decreased to three years, and instead of referring to distributing footage of the IDF, the legislation will instead refer to preventing the military from carrying out its duties, which is already illegal regarding police.
The legislation has been called “the Elor Azaria bill,” after the IDF soldier who killed a subdued Palestinian terrorist and was convicted after a video of the incident was circulated by the leftwing organization B’Tselem. But when the legislation changes, the distributors of the Azaria video will not be violators of the bill.
“The time has come to end this practice of left-wing organizations and activists, backed by foreign entities, having a free hand to videotape IDF soldiers while they fulfill their duty,” Ilatov said. “We have a responsibility to give our soldiers the optimal conditions for fulfilling their mission without having to worry that some leftwing organization will try to shame him.”
His party leader, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, tweeted praise for the bill following Sunday’s vote, saying: “IDF soldiers are subjected to attacks from troublemakers and terror supporters who try to humiliate, shame and harm them.” He vowed to solve the problem.
But Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg called the legislation delusional and said the IDF has a problem that needs to be fixed, not hidden.
B’Tselem said it would continue documenting the actions of soldiers and “no stupid law could stop it.” The New Israel Fund, which funds B’Tselem, said the legislation was aimed at muzzling watchdog groups, which use video footage to document the actions of the Israeli military.
“In Israel, as elsewhere in the world, video footage of police and military activity has become an important tool for human rights groups and the media,” said NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch. “It’s part of how citizens can blow the whistle on wrongdoing by authorities. We’ve seen that from Abu Ghraib to the case of Philando Castile. Tyrants restrict the rights of people to record what happens around them; democracies don’t.”
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