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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, and 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). Censorship with regard to security and military issues is in 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 without review by the censor). 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]

Before the Oslo Accords and subsequent 1994 Israeli withdrawal, Israeli police and government controlled much of the Palestinian territories,[citation needed] and with this, Israel censored the books and information Palestinians can read and output. By 1991, some 10,000 books had been banned, fax machines had been banned, and a number of phone lines had been cut. In addition, publications of anything with content considered "political significance" in the West Bank, Palestinian territory, had been prohibited, and Arab publications had been be "completely stopped"[dubious ].[5][better source needed] Following the withdrawal, the government of Israel has no enforcement in non-Israeli controlled areas of Palestine.[citation needed]

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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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 outlaws hate speech and "expressing support for illegal or terrorist organizations".[7] Section 173 of the legal code makes it a crime to publish any "publication that is liable to crudely offend the religious faith or sentiment of others."[9]

Every journalist working within Israel is required to be accredited by the Israeli Government Press Office. Most applications are simply a formality, though the office is allowed to deny applications based on political or security considerations.[7]

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.[10][11]

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.

Following the 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis Israel took steps to ban Qatar-based Al Jazeera by closing its Jerusalem office, revoking press cards, and asking cable and satellite broadcasters not to broadcast al-Jazeera. Defence minister Avigdor Lieberman had described some of al-Jazeera reports as "Nazi Germany–style" propaganda. It was not clear if the measures covered Al Jazeera English, considered less strident.[12]

According to information provided by the military censor in response to a Freedom of Information request, in 2017 the censor banned the publication of 271 articles outright, and fully or partially redacted 21% of the articles submitted to it.[13]


  • 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.
  • 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.[7] A BBC reporter was barred from the country after publishing an interview with him without handing it over to the censors first.[3]
  • 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".[14]
  • 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 in early 2013.
  • Early in 2016, the Military Censor wrote to at least 30 Israeli bloggers and Facebook page owners, demanding that any postings with military or security-related content be submitted for review before publication.[15] The request has the force of law.[15]

Banned filmsEdit

Israel banned all films produced in Germany from 1956 until 1967.[16]

  • 1957: The Girl in the Kremlin was banned because it may have harmed Israel's diplomatic relations with Moscow.[17]
  • 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".[18]
  • 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.[19] However the ban was lifted once a Jewish family publicly thanked him for hiding two German Jews from the Gestapo during World War II.
  • 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.[20]
  • 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.[21] The Supreme Court of Israel later overturned the decision.[22]
  • 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.[23]

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ D'Souza, Frances (1991). Information Freedom and Censorship: World Report 1991. Chicago, Illinois: American Library Association. ISBN 0838921566.
  6. ^ Reporters Without Borders - Middle East Section Archived February 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b c d "Israel and the occupied territories - 2006". Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. US Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. March 6, 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  8. ^ Editor & Publisher: AP Reveals Israeli Censorship, Says It Will Abide By Rules Archived July 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Make fun of God, but leave his believers alone", Haaretz, 27 August 2003
  10. ^ Aluf Benn (July–August 2001). "Israel: Censoring the past". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. University of Maryland. Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Chulov, Martin (6 August 2017). "Israeli government moves to impose ban on al-Jazeera news network". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  13. ^ Alyssa Fisher (July 4, 2018). "Israel Censored a News Story every 4 Hours Last Year". The Forward.
  14. ^ "Israel bans "catastrophe" term from Arab schools". Reuters. 2009-07-22.
  15. ^ a b Gili Cohen (February 4, 2016). "Israel's Military Censor Takes on Dozens of Bloggers, Facebook Pages". Haaretz.
  16. ^ Israel lifts total ban on German films. Canadian Jewish Chronicle Review. 14 April 1967.
  17. ^ Israel Bans US Film. The Milwaukee Journal. 17 August 1957.
  18. ^ Israel Bans Film Depicting Reds as 'Monsters'. The Modesto Bee. 2 October 1957.
  19. ^ Israel Bans 'Goldfinger' for Nazi Past. St. Petersburg Times. 15 December 1965.
  20. ^ Israel Bans Hitler Film. Reading Eagle. 25 July 1973.
  21. ^ Israel Bans 'Last Temptation' The Lewiston Journal. 19 October 1988.
  22. ^ "Israel Lifts 'Last Temptation' Ban". Los Angeles Times. June 15, 1989. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  23. ^ Israel court lifts Jenin film ban, BBC News, 11 November 2003.