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Israeli Policies Would Allow Arrests of Civilians Who “Harm National Morale”

Under the proposed regulation, Israeli citizens would face arrest for posting pro-Palestine content.

Israeli Knesset (Israeli parliament) member Itamar Ben-Gvir, right, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, speaks with the Likud party's Shlomo Karhi during a session to elect the new speaker of the assembly at its Plenum Hall in Jerusalem on December 13, 2022.

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi is promoting emergency regulations that would allow him to direct police to arrest civilians, remove them from their homes, or seize their property if he believes they have spread information that could “harm national morale” during Israel’s ongoing war against Palestinians in Gaza.

These emergency regulations, titled “Limiting Aid to the Enemy through Communication,” would apply to the general public as well as local and foreign media reporters. The regulations would empower Karhi to order police to arrest journalists, halt media broadcasts, and confiscate a media outlet’s output if he views it as “enemy propaganda” or harmful to national security and public order. These regulations would apply to both inaccurate and factual reporting.

The drafted regulations have been submitted to the Attorney General’s Office and the cabinet for approval. While the regulations have already been approved by the National Security Council, the Defense Ministry, and others, the regulations are unlikely to be approved by the government’s legal counsel in their current form. The regulations are currently being examined to see if they are legally within Israel’s emergency law powers.

The proposed regulations appear to be aimed at shutting down reporting by Al Jazeera on the atrocities Israel is committing in Gaza. While the regulations do not explicitly call out Al Jazeera, Karhi recently accused Al Jazeera’s factual reporting of being inflammatory in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio.

“This is a station that incites, this is a station that films troops in assembly areas (outside Gaza) … that incites against the citizens of Israel — a propaganda mouthpiece,” Karhi claimed.

Al Jazeera recently reported that Israeli air raids in southern Gaza have killed dozens of Palestinians who fled northern Gaza after Israel ordered them to evacuate, and that Israel’s relocation order may be in breach of international law.

The Gaza health ministry estimates that Israeli strikes on Gaza over the past 10 days have killed at least 2,750 Palestinians and wounded 9,700. On Tuesday, an Israeli air strike on a hospital killed hundreds of people, and an Israeli air strike targeting a school that had been functioning as a shelter for displaced people killed at least another six people, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said.

At least 15 journalists, many of whom were Palestinian, have been killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP). Press freedom watchdog groups, including CJP, have alleged that Israel may be targeting journalists.

“Just by looking at the names [of the deceased journalists], it appears that all except two were Arab, one being Israeli (missing) and the other being foreign (injured),” Matthew Sparks, an anthropologist and historian of Sinai and the Naqab, told Truthout. “I am seriously concerned that one of my friends who is a journalist is dead.”

The Israeli government is also cracking down on people who have posted pro-Palestinian content on social media. On Monday, Dalal Abu Amneh, a Palestinian singer, was arrested by Israeli police for “incitement” after posting a Palestinian flag with the caption “there is no victor but God” in support of Gaza.

“Israel is technologically superior in terms of monitoring and surveillance of citizens,” Sparks told Truthout. “[The country’s] strength is in tech, and that is the direction they are going with regard to their national security, and monitoring communications.”

Israelis have been demonstrating against the government in recent days. Dozens of Israelis protested outside of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Saturday, calling for Netanyahu to resign. Protesters raised banners that read: “Bibi (Netanyahu), your hands are stained with blood”, “We have been abandoned”, and “There is no trust, resign.”

“When the war against Hamas is ‘over’ it will be the people against the government [and] the people will be more united against the government,” Sparks told Truthout.