CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - A controversial bill sponsored by the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, requiring Internet providers to block Web sites featuring pornography, extreme violence and gambling, passed its first reading in the Knesset (parliament).
Sponsored by Member of Knesset (MK) Amnon Cohen (Shas) and backed by his party, the bill requires a person to request access to an Internet Web site posting pornographic material.
"Instead of parents having to actively block their children from viewing hard-core pornography and violence, pornography enthusiasts will have to be active and make a single phone call," Cohen said.
A ministerial committee would decide which sites should be blacklisted. The members would be chosen from the education, justice and communications ministries.
Communications Minister Ariel Attias (Shas) endorsed the bill, as did Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Other MKs say the bill is tantamount to censorship.
"The law will transform us into a type of Iran by giving the minister the authority to decide that the Shas Council of Torah Sages will determine the sites to be rejected and blocked," said MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), pointing out that the committee's decisions will not be monitored by the Knesset.
In an interview with Army Radio, Attias defended the bill.
"We live in a democracy," he said. "Anyone who wants full Internet access can get it. We are just trying to protect our children from the sex and violence available on the Internet," Attias said.
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, head of the National Council for Children, opposes the bill.
"I warned Minister Attias that the present wording of the bill would scare liberal-minded Israelis who don't want the State to tell them what to do," Kadman said.
"I propose that Internet providers be obligated to provide parents with a variety of Internet filters free of charge. And if the parents choose to block content, they can do so in accordance with their sensibilities. But I oppose a centrally controlled censorship of the Internet," he said.
Shas is also working to pass a bill that would give rabbinic courts expanded power in divorce and monetary cases. And they're pushing for expanded child allowances to benefit the ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews, who traditionally have large families.
Source: YNet news service