File Photo- A general view of the Knesset.AFP
The law amends Article 24 to include a new offense, specified as the “systematic and continuous consumption of publications of a terrorist organization under circumstances that indicate identification with the terrorist organization,” Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – revealed.
The “specific publications” referred to in the law encompass expressions of praise, support, or encouragement of terrorist acts, direct calls to commit an act of terrorism, and documentation of an act of terrorism. The bill designates Hamas and ISIS (the Islamic State) as the terrorist organizations to which this offense applies.
The amendment, passed by a 13-4 majority, also grants the Israeli justice minister the authority to declare additional terrorist organizations for the purpose of this article, with the concurrence of the defense minister and the approval of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee.
The law was passed as a temporary order valid for two years.
Adalah considered the law “one of the most intrusive and draconian legislative measures ever passed by the Israeli Knesset since it makes thoughts subject to criminal punishment.”
“At a time when Israeli authorities are ramping up their campaign to stifle the freedom of expression of Palestinian citizens of Israel, conducting extensive surveillance of their online communications, and making unprecedented arrests for alleged speech-related offenses, the Israeli Knesset has enacted legislation that criminalizes even passive social media use,” Adalah added.
“This legislation encroaches upon the sacred realm of an individual’s personal thoughts and beliefs and significantly amplifies state surveillance of social media use,” Adalah noted, announcing that it will petition the Israeli Supreme Court to challenge this law.
Before the passage of the law, Adalah sent an urgent letter on 25 October to relevant Knesset committees and to the Israeli attorney general calling them to halt advancing the bill as it introduces an overly broad and arbitrary criminal offense that violates fundamental principles of criminal law, according to which individuals must not be penalized for thoughts or intentions.
Since its enactment in 2016, the counter-terrorism law has been used to persecute and oppress Palestinian citizens of Israel. With every new amendment of this law, the Knesset introduces yet more oppressive policies that indicate a clear intention to target Palestinian citizens in particular, the Palestinian news agency WAFA commented.