A bill before the Knesset would outlaw photographing confrontations between soldiers and Palestinians.
The core right-wing parties in Netanyahu’s coalition have waged a long, public and legislative campaign against groups whose original and primary aim is to inform Israelis about what their government is doing in the occupied territories. . . . The goal is to protect policies and politicians by limiting or distorting what voters know.
For 10 years or so, I regularly gave lectures to Israeli army units on the need for a free press in a democracy. It was my army reserve duty, in the army’s Education Corps. The qualifications for such duty, as a graduate school professor said when he told me to apply, were “higher education and a low medical profile.”
So I spoke before officers and mechanics, tank crews and pilots, and often to infantrymen serving in the West Bank. As soldiers they feel uncomfortable with journalists watching them, I explained, but as citizens they needed the media to shine light on the government’s actions — including its military operations. A subtext was that it was a dumb idea to stick your hand over a photographer’s lens. I don’t know if my civics lessons had any effect, but I was impressed that the army wanted them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, on the other hand, thinks it’s a great idea to put the heavy hand of the law over every lens pointed at Israeli soldiers. On Sunday, a committee of cabinet ministers (half from Netanyahu’s Likud party) voted to support a bill that would outlaw photographing confrontations between soldiers and Palestinians.
The bill explicitly says it’s aimed at Israeli groups such as Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem that report human rights violations in the occupied territories. In the West Bank, foreign television networks have provided cameras to locals for years to gain more footage and improve reporting. B’Tselem has equipped and trained 200 Palestinians to use cameras to boost monitoring of rights violations.