Internet Censorship Bill Passes First Reading in Knesset Plenum

Shas-sponsored bill will block all pornography and gambling sites unless customer requests access.

The Knesset plenum on Wednesday passed in its first reading a bill that will censor internet sites in Israel, blocking sites that show pornography, violence, and gambling.

According to the bill, presented by MK Amnon Cohen of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, any customer who does not explicitly ask to be allowed visit said sites will be automatically blocked from accessing them.

The bill was passed by a vote of 46 to 20, after a concerted effort was made to enlist coalition MKs to take part in the vote. In order to become law, the bill will have to pass a second and third reading.

The vote is seen as an attempt to placate Shas, which in recent weeks has threatened to leave the coalition.

The Finance Committee legal advisor said that the bill would have trouble withstanding Supreme Court scrutiny, in that Communication Minister Ariel Atias (Shas) has refused to present a list of websites to be banned.

Last week, Shas MK Shlomo Benizri blamed gays for the earthquakes that have shaken the region in recent months, telling a Knesset plenum debate on local authorities' earthquake preparedness that government action on homosexuality would do much to prevent the tremors.

Benizri said the government should not make do with reinforcing buildings, but should instead pass less legislation that encourages homosexuality and other "perversions like adoptions by lesbian couples."