Apr 19, 2021

Palestinian Prisoners' Day: Shield prisoners from threats of COVID-19

Gilboa prison. Photo: Google Maps
Gilboa prison. Photo: Google Maps

Dear Friends,

Many greetings to you from Adalah. We hope that you are healthy and well and safe.

With this update, we wish to provide some information on Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons and detention centers and COVID-19, and Adalah’s work on their behalf.

There are currently 4,450 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons, of whom 440 are administrative detainees (held without charge or trial); 140 are children; and 37 are women. Further, 300 are East Jerusalem residents; 250 are residents of Gaza; and 70 are Palestinian citizens of Israel (data from Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, April 2021).

It is an opportune time, as every year, Adalah marks Palestinian Prisoners’ Day (17 April) to raise awareness of the Palestinian political prisoners and to the human rights violations to which are they subjected.

From the outbreak of COVID-19 in mid-March last year, Palestinian political prisoners, who are classified by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) as “security prisoners”, suffered and continue to suffer from grave health risks, as well as other extremely harsh measures of confinement imposed by the IPS and other Israeli authorities. With prisons being closed and over-crowded places, they are high-risk areas for corona outbreaks. Palestinian political prisoners constitute the most vulnerable group of prisoners, and especially so during the COVID-19 emergency. As detailed below, it was easy for the IPS and other authorities, including the courts, to violate their rights, and to justify these infringements, as the scope of external supervision was severely restricted.

Isolating prisoners, closing prisons

Over the past year, Adalah brought numerous cases before the Israeli courts and state authorities to defend the rights of Palestinian prisoners. At the early stages, the IPS took drastic steps to isolate Palestinian prisoners, completely shutting the prisons and cutting them off from the outside world. In March 2020, Adalah, on behalf of lawyers, prisoners and their families, filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) demanding the cancellation of Emergency Regulations prohibiting family members and lawyers’ visits. Many months later, the Israeli authorities eased restrictions on lawyers’ visits – while instituting many conditions which continue to impose a severe burden - and allowed some telephone calls in a very limited number of cases. The SCT refused to intervene in the discretion of the IPS and allowed these cases – which challenged the severest practices - to remain pending for most of the year, even in the face of fundamental violations of the right to counsel and the right of family visits.

Further, in light of the exclusive control over prisons and prisoners by the IPS, and to enable some monitoring of prisoners’ conditions during the pandemic, Adalah also requested an additional hearing in its case on behalf of Member of Knesset Yosef Jabareen (Joint List), asking the SCT to reconsider its decision and to rule against the sweeping ban on visitations by MKs to Palestinian prisoners. This case remains pending.

Adalah also challenged a pre-bill (in advance of a law) that permitted the holding of criminal proceedings and detention hearings in courts in the absence of detainees or prisoners, replacing their presence by real time audio or video telecommunications. Clearly, these arrangements disproportionately infringe on fundamental constitutional rights of prisoners, as they prevent the court and attorneys from being able to get a full impression of the prisoners’ conditions during detention and to ensure that prisoners were not ill-treated or tortured.

Health and safety measures

Adalah also demanded that the IPS take immediate preventive health measures, conduct COVID-19 tests, and permit prisoners' families from the OPT to deposit money in prison canteens to allow their purchase of food and sanitary products in order to cope with the spread of the virus. These demands were infrequently met. In May 2020, Adalah filed a petition to the SCT demanding the implementation of Health Ministry guidelines to maintain social distancing in crowded cells in Gilboa Prison, months before COVID-19 infection rates spiked. Despite the high-risk posed of spreading the virus in the overcrowded cells, the SCT rejected this request, ruling incredulously that these rules are not relevant for prisoners.

Vaccinating prisoners

At the end of 2020, Israel started administrating COVID-19 vaccinations to the Israeli public, mostly elderly people, healthcare workers and other very high-risk groups. However, the Israeli Public Security Minister ordered the IPS not to vaccinate prisoners, contrary to the Health Ministry’s directive. Only after five human rights groups, including Adalah, petitioned the Israeli SCT challenging the Minister’s decision, did the IPS begin to vaccinate prisoners.

Current challenges

Among the main COVID-related challenges now facing the Palestinian prisoners is the severe overcrowding in prison cells and the lack of access to immediate and appropriate healthcare services, risks that are aggravated as the prisoners continue to be largely cut off from the outside world. The conduct of the Israeli authorities, especially the executive and the judiciary, during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate the ease with which prisoners’ rights can be violated.

Under these exceptional circumstances, Adalah calls on the Israeli authorities, including the IPS, to allow full access of lawyers and family visits to prisons; to increase health protection measures for prisoners; and to release the most vulnerable, especially older prisoners and those with serious health conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19.

Thank you again for all of your support for Adalah’s critical work. We would be grateful if you would consider a further donation. Your contributions to Adalah are vital to making a difference!


In solidarity,

Ranna Khalil

Feb 11, 2021

Challenging the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law

Credit: screenshot of Israeli SCT live broadcast
Credit: screenshot of Israeli SCT live broadcast

Dear Friends of Adalah,

We hope that you are healthy and well in these very trying times.

In this update, we wish to inform about the progress of one of the important strategic litigation cases on Adalah’s agenda: our case against the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law (“the JNS Law”).

In July 2018, the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) passed the JNS Law – a law which has implications on the legal status of all Arabs living under the Israeli constitutional regime: Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, and Syrians residing in the Golan Heights. The law constitutionally enshrines the ethnic-religious superiority of one group only in Israel – the Jewish people – and the identity of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people (only). At the same time, the law anchors racial discrimination and legitimizes domination, exclusion, segregation, and systemic inequality.

Shortly after the law’s enactment, Adalah, representing all of the Palestinian leadership in Israel - The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, the National Committee of Arab Mayors, and the Joint List parliamentary faction - filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) demanding its cancellation.

Almost two and a half years later, on 22 December 2020, an expanded panel of 11 justices of the Supreme Court held its first hearing on the case, as well as 14 other petitions filed against the law. The hearing was broadcast live, with tens of thousands of viewers

Attorney Dr. Hassan Jabareen, Adalah’s General Director, argued before the court that the JNS Law excludes the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel, a homeland national group. He stressed that Article 1 of the Basic Law determines that the Palestinian people, citizens of Israel or residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), have no right to national self-determination in their homeland, and that the Jewish people have the sole collective right to govern and control the territory and its inhabitants. Under international law, the majority group has the right for self-determination, however, Jabareen argued, international law also prohibits the exclusion of other groups. He stressed that the Basic Law completely fails to meet the norms of international human rights law, and that no country in the world today is defined as a democratic state where the constitutional identity – the “We, the People” - is determined by ethnic affiliation that overrides the principle of equal citizenship.

In his response to the petition, the Israeli attorney general did not address any of the international law violations raised in Adalah’s petition.

A main purpose of the law’s enactment was to give constitutional justification for Israeli settlements in the OPT, and accordingly, Article 7 may grant the state the constitutional tools to further dispossess Palestinians from their land and to expand the illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. Article 7 may also legitimize racial segregation in housing in Israel and justify the exclusion of Palestinian citizens from state land allocations and budgets for development. Adalah stressed the unconstitutionality of this provision under international law, as well as Israeli law, during the hearing.

The law also discriminates against Palestinians in culture and language rights, abolishing the official status of Arabic, and leaving Hebrew as the state’s sole official language. This, Jabareen argued, violates the law which was maintained for decades, the only collective right of the indigenous Palestinian minority – over 20 percent of Israel’s population - in its homeland.

In advance of the hearing, Adalah provided updated information to the Court concerning the most recent critical observations and calls to cancel the law by UN human rights bodies and experts. For example, four UN Special Rapporteurs wrote to the Israeli authorities expressing their deep concerns about the discriminatory aspects of the law, provision by provision; however, the State of Israel never responded to this communication.

Adalah’s petition, and the 14 others, remains pending before the Supreme Court. It is likely that the Court will issue its decision in 2021.

To read more about the Supreme Court hearing:

Adalah’s special webpage on the case

An article by Sawsan Zaher, deputy general director of Adalah, entitled “Nation-State Law Essentially Establishes Apartheid Regime,” published in the Haaretz newspaper on 22 December 2020

The Nation-State Law had its day in court, as did the farce of Israeli democracy, by Orly Noy, +972 Magazine, 24 December 2020

Watching a Show at Israel's High Court, by Samah Salaime, Haaretz, 3 January 2021


Thank-you for your continued support to Adalah and our critical litigation.

Jan 7, 2021

Year in Review 2020: Protest & COVID-19, Online Censorship, and Accountability for October 2000

Photo by Mati Milstein
Photo by Mati Milstein

Dear Friends,

Many greetings to you from Adalah and a very happy, healthy New Year.

In this update, we review Adalah’s work in protecting freedom of expression (FOE) rights in 2020, an extraordinary year, which introduced many new challenges for those who protest and dissent.

Protecting Rights of Protestors during COVID-19 Emergency: Throughout the year, Adalah worked to ease restrictions on FOE and freedom of assembly (FOA), and particularly freedom of protest. We provided legal advice to individual Palestinian activists who were targeted by the police and the Shin Bet (Shabak), as well as to groups seeking information on organizing a protest in order to increase their awareness and knowledge of their rights. Activists turned to Adalah for advice on the “state of play” in light of new Israeli government restrictions on FOA and protest due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Adalah produced and widely disseminated posters in Arabic explaining the new rights regime under the newly-emerging regulations. Additionally, in April 2020, Adalah hosted a webinar in Arabic, in cooperation with NGO partners, entitled “The Right to Protest in Corona Times”, which was broadcast live on Adalah’s Facebook page, and was viewed by 2,531 people. The webinar provided information on the rights of protestors during the COVID-19 crisis, focusing on ways to use the internet as a tool for FOE under Emergency Regulations.

Adalah also maintained an up-to-date database of cases and incidents of infringements on freedom of protest, including arrests and indictments, from which information can be extracted to challenge restrictions on FOE. We also worked in cooperation with other human rights organizations, following up on violations on freedom of protest, and pooling resources to ensure effective legal representation, and other work and results.

Fighting Online Censorship: In August 2020, the Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) held a hearing on a petition filed by Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) against the Israeli “Cyber Unit”. The Cyber Unit is part of the State Attorney’s Office. This Unit flags and submits requests to remove user posts or entire accounts of users, without any legal proceedings or due process to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. The SCT found a strong legal basis for the case and mandated state authorities to explain under which legal authority the state operates its “Cyber Unit” to conduct censorship of online speech.

Demanding accountability for police killing and injury of Palestinian protestors during the October 2000 Uprising: October 2020 marked 20 years since the killing of 13 Palestinians, 12 citizens of Israel and one resident of Gaza by Israeli police, in what is known as the October 2000 Uprising. In October 2000, demonstrators took to the streets throughout the country to protest against the scores of killings in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, following the start of the second Intifada. Adalah represented the families of the 13 young men who were killed before the Or Commission of Inquiry into these events, and demanded that the state hold those responsible for the killings to account. However, the State Attorney’s Office and later the Attorney General closed all of the files, and 20 years on, still not one police officer, commander or politician was criminally charged. Marking these events in 2020, Adalah undertook a wide public and media campaign demanding that the state re-open the investigations into the killings, drawing similarities between recent police killing cases of Palestinians in Israel, and the 2020 murder of George Floyd and other Black Americans by the police in the US. Click here for more information on the October 2000 Uprising.

Thank you again for all of your support to Adalah. All of this work to Protect the Protest would not be possible without your commitment and generosity! We sincerely appreciate it.

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