If we look away, will it go away?
Our government dislikes the image of Israel as reflected in the visual documentation of the Occupied Territories. Yet why bother to repair the reality when one can smash the camera.
This week, the Knesset passed a preliminary reading of a bill that would limit the ability of NGOs, journalists, and citizens to document soldiers’ conduct in the Territories, threatening them with 5-10 years imprisonment. The bill is expected to undergo changes before it is voted next, given that the Attorney General has concluded it is unconstitutional and a violation of freedom of speech, freedom of press, and the public’s right to know. Despite the legal opinion of the AG, the coalition nevertheless voted in favor of this unconstitutional bill.
Injustice, violence, clashes, and multiple rights violations typically characterize a military occupation. Cameras serve as a tool for human rights organizations, the media and activists to expose, document and publicize the harsh realities of the Israeli occupation. Through this bill, the government seeks to prevent disclosure of the military’s conduct in the Territories, as it is not interested in either exposing violence and abuse or ensuring accountability of soldiers and policemen.
Anyone following Israeli news in recent years can see that the new bill is one of many attempts to silence criticism of the government, and more specifically limit human rights groups. The bills that the government and coalition partners are promoting damage the foundations of our democracy and further entrench the military occupation. These attempts shrink our democratic space, limit freedom of speech and protest, violate human dignity, and delegitimize the pluralistic civil society we wish to advance.
Ronit Sela Director, Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Unit