Censorship in Israel

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Laws on censorship in Israel are based on British emergency regulations from 1945 that apply to domestic media, foreign newspapers and wire service transmissions from or through Israel.

The Israeli Film Ratings board rates, limits or bans films deemed obscene, racist, or containing incitement to violence.[1] Only a handful of films or plays have been banned outright (plays have not been censored since 1989). News censorship is the responsibility of the Israeli Military Censor. Regulations do not require all articles to be submitted for censorship prior to publication, but only those on a known list of sensitive subjects, such as nuclear weapons in Israel (for example, articles on the subjects of politics or economics may be published un-submitted). Failing to do so may cause the reporter to be cut off[2] or, in the case of foreign reporters, be barred from the country.[3]

The list of sensitive subjects, articles on which have to be submitted to censorship prior to publication, is determined within the framework of a censorship agreement between Israeli authorities and the 'Editor's Committee', which is a body of representatives from the Israeli media. "There will be no censorship on political issues, on expressions of opinion or assessments, unless they hint on classified information." [4]

Reporters Without Borders 2007 report on Israel states: "The country's journalists enjoy a freedom not found elsewhere in the region, but though 2006 was one of the safest years for them since the start of the second Intifada in 2000, many problems remain", mainly referring to the physical risks endured by reporters covering the conflict areas between Israel, the Palestinians and the Hizbullah in Lebanon.[5]

The Israeli Military Censor has the power to prevent publication of certain news items. The censorship rules largely concern military issues such as not reporting if a missile hit or missed its target, troop movements, etc. but it is also empowered to control information about the oil industry and water supply.[6] Journalists who bypass the military censor or publish items that were censored may be subject to criminal prosecution and jail time; the censor also has the authority to close newspapers. However, these extreme measures have been rarely used.[7] One notable instance where a newspaper was closed temporarily was in the case of the Kav 300 affair where it was eventually discovered that the censor was used by the Shin Bet to cover up internal wrongdoings in the agency and led to one of the biggest public scandals in Israel during the 1980s. Following the incident the two main papers, HaAretz and Yediot Ahronot stopped participating in the "Editor's committee".

In 1996 a new agreement was reached and the editor's committee resumed operation. The new agreement allowed military censorship only of articles clearly harmful to national security and allowed the supreme court to override military decisions.

Israeli laws also outlaw hate speech and "expressing support for illegal or terrorist organizations".[6]

Mordechai Vanunu who served 18 years in prison for treason and espionage was released in 2004, but is still under restrictions on speech and movement.[6] A BBC reporter was barred from the country after publishing an interview with him without handing it over to the censors first.[3]

Every journalist working within Israel is required to be accredited by the Israeli Government Press Office. Most applications are just formal, but the office is allowed to deny applications based on political or security considerations.[6]

One very commonly used way for Israeli media to circumvent censorship rules is to leak items to foreign news sources, which by virtue of being located outside of Israel are not subject to Israeli censorship. Once published, the Israeli media can simply quote the story.[8] [9]

In 1960 two science fiction stories were published that circumvented censorship. The first was about Rudolf Teichmann and told the story of Eichmann's kidnapping. Uri Avnery's HaOlam Hazeh magazine published a story about the Lavon Affair.

In addition to media censorship, Israeli cinemas are subject to regulation regarding the exhibition of pornography and television stations face restrictions on early broadcasting of programs that are unsuitable for children.

Israel has banned the use of the word Nakba in Israeli Arab schools and textbooks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified the ban by saying that the term was "propaganda against Israel".[10]

The death of Ben Zygier in 2010, an Australian-Israeli citizen who was allegedly recruited by Mossad, was censored until Australian news media broke the story early 2013.

Banned films[edit]

Israel banned all films produced in Germany from 1956 until 1967.[11]

  • 1957: The Girl in the Kremlin was banned because it may have harmed Israel's diplomatic relations with Moscow.[12]
  • 1957: China Gate was banned in Israel for indulging in excessive cruelty. The Israeli film censorship board indicated the film depicted Chinese and Russian soldiers as "monsters".[13]
  • 1965: Goldfinger played for six weeks before the Nazi past of Gert Fröbe, who played the title villain, was disclosed, despite him leaving the party in 1937.[14] However the ban was lifted once a Jewish Family publicly thanked him for hiding two German Jews from the Gestapo in World War Two.
  • 1973: Hitler: The Last Ten Days was banned in a unanimous decision by the censorship board that Alec Guinness's Hitler was represented in too human a light.[15]
  • 1988: Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ was banned on the grounds that it could hurt the feelings of Christian believers in the Holy Land.[16] The Supreme Court of Israel later overturned the decision.[17]
  • 2002: Jenin, Jenin was banned by the Israeli Film Ratings Board on the premise that it was libelous and might offend the public. The Supreme Court of Israel later overturned the decision.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Israeli Theater Gets A Censor-Free Run
  2. ^ New York Times: Censorship by Israel: How It's Carried Out
  3. ^ a b The Guardian: BBC says sorry to Israel
  4. ^ The Censorship Agreement
  5. ^ Reporters Without Borders - Middle East Section
  6. ^ a b c d [US Department of State: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006]
  7. ^ Editor & Publisher: AP Reveals Israeli Censorship, Says It Will Abide By Rules
  8. ^ Aluf Benn (July–August 2001). "Israel: Censoring the past". Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. University of Maryland. Retrieved 31 December 2009. 
  9. ^ P.R. Kumaraswamy (September 1998). "India and Israel: Evolving Strategic Partnership". Mideast Security and Policy Studies. Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Retrieved 31 December 2009. 
  10. ^ "Israel bans "catastrophe" term from Arab schools". Reuters. 2009-07-22. 
  11. ^ Israel lifts total ban on German films. Canadian Jewish Chronicle Review. 14 April 1967.
  12. ^ Israel Bans US Film. The Milwaukee Journal. 17 August 1957.
  13. ^ Israel Bans Film Depicting Reds as 'Monsters'. The Modesto Bee. 2 October 1957.
  14. ^ Israel Bans 'Goldfinger' for Nazi Past. St. Petersburg Times. 15 December 1965.
  15. ^ Israel Bans Hitler Film. Reading Eagle. 25 July 1973.
  16. ^ Israel Bans 'Last Temptation' The Lewiston Journal. 19 October 1988.
  17. ^ "Israel Lifts 'Last Temptation' Ban". Los Angeles Times. June 15, 1989. Retrieved September 12, 2012. 
  18. ^ Israel court lifts Jenin film ban, BBC News, 11 November 2003.