Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

‘hamlet; Israel Law Book Confiscated from Palestinian Security Prisoners

October 17, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

“Hamlet” is unsuitable reading matter for Palestinian security prisoners at the Ketziot detention camp in the Negev, according to the military censors.

So is “The Constitutional Law of the State of Israel,” written by a distinguished jurist and Knesset member, Amnon Rubinstein.

They are among the books sent to prisoners which have been confiscated, Hadashot reported Monday. Others include “The Cancer Ward,” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and “Lord of the Rings,” by J.R.R. Tolkien.

However, a book of Picasso’s paintings was deemed acceptable.

Books could be banned if they incite to violence or might be deemed subversive. In Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy, “To be or not to be,” he ponders whether to take up arms or suffer in silence.

But the camp commander, Col. David Tsemah, has denied personal responsibility for the censorship, telling Hadashot the books were seized last week without his knowledge by a representative of the military censor.

The books were brought to the prison camp by Tamar Peleg, a lawyer representing the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

About three months ago, Peleg sent a book to a prisoner being held under administrative detention, meaning that no formal charges were ever lodged against him.

It was “Here and There in Israel,” by Amos Oz, an internationally known Israeli author. The book was returned to Peleg with a note saying the camp security officer found it unsuitable.

When the story appeared in newspapers, the military censor’s office said it does not judge letters and books sent to military prisons. That is the job of the Defense Ministry mail censor, the military censor said.

When Peleg visited Ketziot last Wednesday, two parcels of books she had sent in July and September were returned to her.

Col. Tsemah explained that the military censor visits the camp every three weeks to check on books sent to prisoners.

Meir Tsaban, a Mapam Knesset member, has asked Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin to clarify which office is responsible for confiscating books.

Recommended from JTA