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Sep 17, 2018

Protest rights on campus

Adalah Attorney Soheir Asaad with the TAU students
Adalah Attorney Soheir Asaad with the TAU students

Dear Friends,

Greetings to you from Adalah!

The new academic year is starting next month, October, in Israel, and in anticipation of the fall semester, Adalah is thinking about Palestinian students’ rights to protest on campus.

Oftentimes, Israeli universities prohibit or greatly restrict protest by Arab students and student associations, alleging for example, that events to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day (15 April) or Nakba Day (15 May), a national day of mourning for Palestinians, or demonstrations against the killings of Palestinians in Gaza by Israeli military forces would “pose a threat to public safety.” Sometimes the universities try to pass the costs of security for the protests onto the students seeking to impose, what Adalah sees, as an illegal tax and burden on freedom of expression. Adalah represents numerous students and student organizations before the university disciplinary committees to cancel charges, uphold fair hearing/due process rules, and promote freedom of expression/opinion/assembly on campus.

Adalah recently successfully represented two students, Mr. Tariq Taha and Mr. Yousef Taha from the Jafra Student Assembly Movement, after Tel Aviv University (TAU) decided to refer them to the disciplinary committee for protesting, together with other students, against the participation of an Egyptian lecturer in a conference held on campus. The student protestors considered this lecture to be an act of normalization with Israel.

In her arguments before the disciplinary committee, Adalah Attorney Soheir Asaad contended that, “The allegations made against the students do not constitute an offense, but rather political activity undertaken by the students during a public conference, and falls within their freedoms to political expression and protest.”

Adalah emphasized at the hearing that, “Public law applies to the university as a public institution, and therefore also the principles of constitutional law, including basic rights and freedom of expression in particular. Hence the university’s disciplinary rules must be interpreted in manner that upholds the students’ rights.”

On this basis, Attorney Asaad demanded that the claims made against the students should be withdrawn.

After the hearing and submission of written arguments in May 2018, the committee gave the university ten days in which to respond. The university did not respond, and on 4 June 2018, the university withdrew its disciplinary claims against the students as a purported goodwill gesture for the holy month of Ramadan. The university, in parallel, also issued an extra-procedural warning to the students outside the framework of the disciplinary committee "for the purpose of deterring potential similar future incidents."

On 1 July 2018, the disciplinary committee issued a decision accepting the university's request to withdraw its claims against the students but nevertheless emphasized that the extra-procedural warning had no legal or disciplinary significance. The committee further noted that the withdrawal of the claims against the students should not be understood as a disciplinary measure – suspended or otherwise – so that it not have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of speech at the university.

Adalah will hold its annual Palestinian Law Students’ conference from 20-22 September 2018, and will seek to raise awareness among the participants about their rights (and duty!) to protest on campus. 

We greatly appreciate your continued support to Protect the Protest, and we would be very grateful if you would share this report with your friends and family to encourage contributions to our work.  

In solidarity and with thanks,

Rina Rosenberg (Jabareen)

Archive photo: Protest at TAU, 2010
Archive photo: Protest at TAU, 2010
Jul 3, 2018

Step-by-step: Ensuring safe access to school

Children going on the bus to preschool
Children going on the bus to preschool

Dear Friends,

Many greetings to you from Adalah. 

This update follows up our past reports concerning the lack of access to preschools, kindergartens, and schools in general for Arab Bedouin children from unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) desert region in southern Israel. Thousands of children in these communities are facing two main challenges preventing them from safely accessing school every day: the lack of school buses for preschool-aged children and the absence of safe and protected school bus stops for Bedouin children of all ages.

We are very proud to report that due to Adalah’s persistence before the Israeli courts, we have succeeded to obtain transport for preschool-aged children from three Bedouin villages to school, and a commitment by the state and the local Regional Council to build proper bus stops near 47 schools in the Naqab.

During the past year, the Israeli Education Ministry and Al-Qasoum Regional Council, the local governing authority, have twice promised the Beer Sheva District Court in legal proceedings that they would act to provide transportation for 3- and 4-year-old preschool children from unrecognized Bedouin villages. The Court approved this commitment, but the Israeli authorities violated the decision, leaving the kids with no way to get to school. The Compulsory Education Law requires free, pre-school education for all children in Israel, and thus the state is in direct violation of the law.

In response to the state's failure to provide the buses, Adalah filed a motion for contempt of court against the Education Ministry and the Regional Council in February 2018 on behalf of parents from three Bedouin villages of Al Sira, Al-Jaraf and Umm Namila.

The authorities’ violation of the court decisions constitutes a serious, ongoing violation of the most basic rights of the children and their parents:

“Due to the conduct of the respondents, the petitioners have been forced time and again to appeal to the legal system in order to obtain basic services – services which no one is disputing their right to receive, and which they have been repeatedly promised would be provided.”

At a hearing in March 2018, the court ordered that buses must be supplied to the three petitioning villages within five days, and that the state had 30 days in which to provide transport to the remaining villages’ preschool children, estimated at around 5000 children.

However, at a further hearing on 29 May 2018, the Court switched positions, refused to continue with a general remedy for all children without transport, and decided to close the case.

Adalah will consider further legal steps and continue to monitor the situation to ensure that all children in all unrecognized villages are provided with transportation to school.

Naqab Bedouin children of all ages face potentially life-threatening challenges just making their way to school every day as hundreds don’t have access to safe, standardized bus stops but are instead forced to gather on the shoulders of local desert roads and busy highways to wait for their school buses.

Following the submission of a petition and a protracted legal battle led by Adalah, Israeli authorities agreed in early May 2018 to fund the construction of school bus stops in the Neve Midbar and Al-Qasoum Regional Councils, adjacent to 47 schools – including 10 high schools, 37 elementary schools, and four planned schools that are not yet operational. This commitment exceeded Adalah’s demand before the Court, as the petition was filed on behalf of parents of children who attend schools in 6 villages, and thus marks a major achievement.

The Be'er Sheva District Court accepted the state's commitment to establish bus stations, but refrained at a hearing in June 2018 from ordering the authorities to establish a timeline for the construction, noting that 12 months from the time in which the regional council received budgets from the Education Ministry was reasonable. Adalah will continue to monitor the implementation of the state’s commitment, as the Court regrettably refused to keep the case pending, as Adalah requested.

In its ruling, Be'er Sheva District Court Judge Yael Raz-Levy noted that Adalah's petition demanding the construction of safe bus stops for Bedouin kids was important:

"The submission of this petition was important and its arguments were significant… [The petition] bore fruit." (Emphasis in original)

Thanks again for your support for Adalah. 

In solidarity,

Children walking to school in the Naqab desert
Children walking to school in the Naqab desert
May 29, 2018

Defend protesters facing extreme violence

Protest in Gaza
Protest in Gaza

Dear Friends, 

Adalah needs your help. Our legal team has been working around the clock in these terrible weeks of extreme violence against Palestinians engaging in political protests in Gaza, the West Bank, and in Israel. Your support is crucial for Adalah’s legal team to continue to respond to indiscriminate killings and to emergency calls to represent protesters.

Palestinians in Gaza have been demonstrating since 30 March in a series of weekly protests known as “The Great March of Return”, demanding the right of return for the Palestinian refugees and an end to the closure. To date, at least 117 people have been killed in Gaza - including 13 children - and over 13,000 others wounded.

During this emergency period, Adalah has worked intensively with Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza to:

  • Secure passage to the West Bank for wounded protesters. We succeeded in court to get permission for Yousef al Kronz, a young Palestinian shot by Israeli snipers during the 30 March protest, to leave Gaza for urgent medical treatment that saved one of his legs. The Israeli Supreme Court’s decision in this case opened the door for others to receive critical medical treatment.
  • Challenge the Israeli military’s use of lethal force in a Supreme Court petition demanding that the army stop using snipers and live ammunition to disperse the unarmed Gaza protesters. 94% of the fatally wounded were shot in the head and upper body. Nevertheless, in direct contradiction of United Nations bodies and the positions of international human rights organizations, the court rejected the petition and gave a green light to the Israeli military's continued use of live fire against Palestinian protesters in Gaza.
  • Document the indiscriminate killings of Gaza protesters and urge the UN to open an independent investigation into the Israeli military’s illegal actions. We simultaneously called on the EU and the U.S. Congress to support such an inquiry. On 18 May 2018, Adalah participated in the UN Human Rights Council, which voted to establish a commission of inquiry.

Demonstrations have been held around the world against the Gaza killings. In Haifa on 18 May, Israeli police used extreme violence against peaceful protesters, mostly Palestinian citizens of Israel, and arrested 21.

In response, Adalah:

  • Convened an emergency meeting of volunteer lawyers to formulate a collective legal strategy to secure the immediate release of all the detained protesters.
  • Provided legal representation to all the detainees, together with volunteer attorneys and the Human Rights Defenders’ Fund. Following a nine-hour overnight hearing, the court released all the detainees.
  • Filed police brutality complaints on behalf of protesters, including Mossawa Center Director Jafar Farah, whom Adalah represented in court. Farah was hospitalized after he was beaten by police, who broke his knee while he was in detention. Six other protesters were also hospitalized, and others were deprived of medical care by police.

Adalah needs your donation to help our lawyers defend Palestinians in court and to challenge the impunity enjoyed by Israeli military and police forces. The Adalah team thanks you for your generosity!

Protest in Haifa (Photo by Nadine Nashef)
Protest in Haifa (Photo by Nadine Nashef)
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