Knesset approves contentious bill censoring "terrorist publications"

Knesset approves contentious bill censoring "terrorist publications"
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Critics object over freedom of thought concerns.

The Knesset recently approved the second and third readings of a divisive bill penalizing the consumption of content classified as "terrorist publications" by Hamas and ISIS. The legislation, backed by 14 MKs and opposed by four, has stirred controversy and met with objections over its potential implications on freedom of thought.

This tentative legislation, effective for two years, authorizes the prosecution of individuals consuming publications promoting or glorifying acts of terrorism. The bill, however, clarifies that random or good faith consumption will not attract proscription or prosecution.

The bill, set for a final vote in the Knesset next week, aims to counter "lone wolf" terrorism. In this growing concern, individuals not affiliated with any specific terrorist group are radicalized through terrorist content, prompting them to engage in acts of terrorism.

In response to constitutional concerns voiced by the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee's legal adviser, the legislation has been adjusted to apply exclusively to individuals whose consumption of such content suggests affiliation with the terrorist groups specified in the bill, namely Hamas and Islamic State.

The bill's final version, set for voting on Monday, states that those consuming terrorist content systematically and under circumstances suggesting identification with a terrorist organization could face a one-year prison sentence. However, the legislation exempts individuals from watching such content randomly, in good faith, or for legitimate reasons like public information, preventing terror attacks, or research.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel criticized the previous version of the legislation as "anti-democratic," arguing it would create a "thought police" that could sanction people based on their thoughts rather than their actions. Committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman dismissed this criticism, likening online terrorist content to a virtual Hamas training camp.

Despite the bill's modifications, its critics maintain their objections, reflecting the ongoing debate over the balance between national security and individual freedoms. The bill is scheduled for its final committee vote on Monday and could be presented for its last readings in the Knesset plenum to be passed into law by the end of next week.

*Photo: Jewish Learning