The new Israeli law prohibiting what it called ‘consumption of terrorist publications’ infringes on rights to privacy and freedom of expression, according to a new position paper released today.

The position paper titled ‘Position Paper on the Law Prohibiting the Consumption of Terrorist Publications’ written by lawyer Abeer Bakr on behalf of 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Development of Social Media analyzes the law from a human rights perspective and examines its repercussions on the ground.

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, approved the draft law banning the consumption of terrorist publications with 17 members of Knesset voting in favor and 4 opposed, on November 8, 2023.

The new Israeli law criminalizes the consumption of material published by a terrorist organization. It stipulates that ‘systematic and regular’ consumption of publications that include a direct call to perpetrate an act of terror as defined by Israeli law, or publications that contain words of praise, sympathy or encouragement f
or an act of terror, under circumstances that indicate identification with a terrorist organization, is punishable by up to one year’s imprisonment.

The position paper indicates that the new Israeli law paves the way for the preemptive criminalization of people who have neither committed nor planned any crime and increases the Israeli authorities’ surveillance of Arab Palestinian citizens while infringing on their rights to privacy, freedom of expression and the right to access information.

Attempts to enact similar legislation in France were previously invalidated as the law was seen as unconstitutional due to both the violation of rights and the absence of a criminal intent to commit an act of terrorism. Even the United Kingdom’s anti-terrorism law, which enshrines a provision criminalizing the consumption of publications, does so in the context of publications that are useful to a person planning to commit a prohibited act.

The paper examines many aspects, including the law’s attempt to punish a person
based on what is on their thoughts and feelings, which conflicts with the first and fundamental principle of criminal law, that thoughts alone cannot constitute a criminal offense. Additionally, the ambiguity and vagueness of the law blur the boundaries between what is forbidden and what is permitted in a way that does not enable the individual to fully understand whether their actions are permitted or not.

In addition, the law violates citizens’ privacy by allowing the monitoring of citizens’ activity in the digital space before they have been convicted, accused or even suspected of any crime, turning them into potential criminals. It also limits journalists whose work relies entirely on consuming content and having exposure to facts, especially during emergency periods, which may not only limit journalists’ freedom but also harm the public’s right to freedom of expression and the right to seek, receive and impart information through any media.

It is worth noting that many civil society organizations in Is
rael have expressed their opposition to the law, in contrast to right-wing organizations that welcomed it. The activation of this new law, especially at a time when the country is exposed to ongoing crises and grave humanitarian violations, will amplify the pattern of criminalization. This is especially relevant during times when many are seeking a variety of news sources with no other ulterior motive but staying informed.

The law is expected to have far-reaching implications for freedoms and rights as well as contribute towards fear and intimidation, said the position paper. This law will likely have a chilling effect, discouraging political participation, freedom of expression or activities that oppose Israeli policies, particularly those related to Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip, due to its use of unclear language, and broad and vague definitions.

Source: Palestine news and Information Agency – WAFA

News Reporter