Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel

by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
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Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Protect the Protest in Palestine & Israel
Photo credit: Eye On Palestine / Instagram
Photo credit: Eye On Palestine / Instagram

Dear Friends,

Warm regards from Adalah. We hope that you are healthy and safe.

During the past month, the use of violence by the Israeli police has escalated against Palestiniansin Jerusalem, including in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Protests took place throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, following the police forces’ construction of barricades at the Damascus Gate, a main entrance to the Old City and one of its most iconic spots, where worshippers gathered after prayers at Al Aqsa. Tensions further intensified at demonstrations against the possible forced evictions of refugee Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem for the purpose of settling extreme Israeli Jewish residents, who have made pre-1948 land claims in this area.

Throughout Ramadan, the Old City of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the three holiest sites in Islam which is located at the heart of the old city, are crowded with worshippers. In response to protests, Israeli police have repeatedly raided Al-Aqsa compound over the past days, deploying extreme, excessive force and wounding hundreds of Palestinians. Additionally, Israeli forces blocked the main road leading to Jerusalem, preventing Palestinians from accessing Al-Aqsa compound on the Muslim holy night of Laylat al-Qadr, this past weekend.

Following these events, Adalah sent an urgent letter on 8 May 2021 to the Israeli Attorney General and Police Commissioner, demanding to end the police's violent incursions into Al-Aqsa compound,and to refrain from the use of excessive force against worshippers and medical staff at the site. The police used extreme measures to disperse them, firing rubber bullets, and stun and tear gas grenades, including against women and children.

Adalah stressed that the use of these deadly weapons at Al-Aqsa compound endangers the lives of Palestinians, is illegal and constitutes a violation of their right to freedom of worship. Adalah also demanded that the police reopen the road to Jerusalem in order to allow worshippers access to Al-Aqsa mosque to mark Laylat al-Qadr on that same night.

Adalah called on the police not to aid the extremist Israeli settlers in their attacks on Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, particularly in Sheikh Jarrah, and warned that if the police do not reconsider its violent practices against Palestinians, it would lead to bloodshed and further harm to innocent people.

In response to these recent violent events, on 9 May 2021 Arab citizens of Israel held protests in solidarity with the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Once again, police forces resorted to extreme violence against demonstrators, refusing to transfer injured detainees for medical care in Haifa, and denying lawyers access to a police station in Nazareth to provide legal counsel to the detainees. Adalah sent a letter to the police headquarters in Haifa demanding to provide injured detainees with immediate medical care. Adalah also sent a letter to the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner demanding to allow lawyers access to the Nazareth police station.

Read: Adalah to Israeli attorney general, national police chief: End violent police incursions into Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound immediately, 8 May 2021

Read more: Possible Israel War Crimes In East Jerusalem Land Right Case: UN, Agence France Presse (AFP), 7 May 2021

Read more on forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah: "Dispossession & Eviction in Jerusalem", a 2010 report by The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem and Adalah.

Follow the hashtag: #SaveSheikhJarrah

Thank you again for your support for Adalah’s critical work. Please consider a further donation to our project. We sincerely appreciate it.

In solidarity,

Ranna Khalil

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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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Photo: Israeli Cyber Unit website
Photo: Israeli Cyber Unit website

Dear Friends,

Warm regards.  We hope you are keeping safe and healthy through these challenging times.

In early August 2020, the Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) held a hearing on our “Cyber Unit” case filed by Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). Following the hearing, the SCT issued an “order to show cause” – meaning that it found a strong legal basis for the case – and mandated state authorities to explain under which legal authority the state operates its “Cyber Unit”, which conducts censorship of online speech.

The Israeli Cyber Unit, which is part of the State Attorney’s Office, flags and submits content removal requests– without any formal legal proceedings– to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, and asks these platforms to “voluntarily” remove user-generated content according to the platforms’ own terms of service.

Adalah and ACRI filed the petition in November 2019 demanding to put an end to Israeli  censorship of freedom of expression on social media platforms. The case followed two years of complaints by Adalah that the Israeli Cyber Unit has been unlawfully issuing content removal requests to major social media providers.

Israeli authorities have long attempted to silence Palestinian free speech online, cracking down on Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians living under Occupation in the OPT for publishing content critical of the state’s policies. The right for free speech on the internet has become even more crucial since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020. Palestinian and Israeli activists alike have utilized the internet as a main platform for voicing their dissent with the government’s discriminatory practices.

During the course of litigating the petition, state authorities have failed to respond to the Court’s repeated inquiries regarding the legal authority by which the Cyber Unit acts, emphasizing that the social networks themselves, rather than the State, are the bodies that actually remove user content from their platforms. In fact and ironically, the state is arguing before the Court that there is “no state action” in this case!

In this interim ruling in August, the Supreme Court also ordered the state to present similar mechanisms of internet referral units used in other countries, and to clarify the mechanisms’ respective legal authorities.

Censorship of internet-based activism not only deprives activists from practicing their right to express their views, but also violates the right of other users to access to the censored content.

Adalah will continue, via legal interventions, to challenge Israel’s use of online suppressive means in order to ensure Palestinians’ freedom of speech.

Thank-you for your support.

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Adalah webinar- right to protest in Corona times
Adalah webinar- right to protest in Corona times

Dear Friends,

We hope you are well and staying safe

The Israeli government introduced emergency regulations in March 2020 at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, which severely restricted the freedom of movement, however, it still allowed the right to protest, although limited in scope. The new regulations stipulated that protesting in public places will be permitted, with conditions on the number of participants and the distance between them. As the crisis evolved, regulations changed, and along with it the restrictions on gatherings in public places.

Despite the coronavirus and the strict restrictions, there still seemed to be a sense of urgency among many members of the public to express their discontent, and a high number of outdoor protests demanding change took place during the past two months. Examples include the "Black Flag" demonstrations to protest the continuing rule of Israeli PM and the government’s anti-democratic, invasive measures to combat the virus, including approval of Shin Bet phone tracking of citizens; protests against the economic crisis and the lack of sufficient state assistance to small businesses and self-employed people; a strike and protests by Arab local councils against the government's failure to allocate enough and equitable funds to compensate for their losses due to the coronavirus crisis, among others.

Adalah issued material in Arabic explaining the right and rules of protest in light of the new regulations, including a poster published on social media to raise awareness among Palestinian citizens of Israel. There has been a certain degree of confusion among citizens and residents in fully understanding and implementing the new government directives, as many regulations often banned travel more than 100 meters from home other than for essential employment or to buy groceries or medicines, but continued to permit protest, to some degree.

Adalah staff received direct queries from Palestinian citizens wishing to participate in protests under the emergency situation. As protest was never completely banned by authorities, Adalah sought to inform them that they could legally practice this basic right, explaining the new directives, as well as suggesting virtual alternatives.

While demonstrations continued to be held in public places, many protests moved online, with activists at times  garnering even greater support than what they had during their street protests. People confined to their homes and eager for a change allowed for vast ‘attendance’ at online protests that in usual times would not have been possible. This year also Palestinians in Israel commemorated Land Day (30 March) and the March of Return (29 April), two major annual protests, online.

In addition to issuing materials in Arabic and providing legal advice to protest organizers, Adalah hosted a webinar in Arabic on the right to protest, which was broadcast live via Adalah’s Facebook page, in cooperation with partner NGOs. The webinar included information on human rights violations in light of the emergency regulations, focusing on online protest during the coronavirus emergency, and how users can utilize the internet as a tool for legitimate protest to express their opinion while protecting their privacy and online safety.

The history of Palestinian protest in Israel has been marred by violence, as well as mistrust and fear towards law enforcement authorities. Israeli police forces were always viewed as oppressors and in this period, things were not that different. The Israeli authorities have consistently censored Palestinian cyber activism, using social media providers to remove content and block Palestinian sites.

The freedom to dissent is fundamental, even during a public health emergency, and citizens have the right to hold protests if they adhere to social distancing rules in place to protect public health. During this pandemic, crowds went to the streets and held online protests demanding political reforms or to demand that the government improve their social and economic conditions, which had deteriorated due to the coronavirus situation.

Adalah’s work on the right to protest during this crisis has built on years of experience during which we gained trust of Palestinian activists and Adalah became the place they turned to for answers on rights violations.

We continue to be committed to protecting civil liberties, even during these most trying times.

Please support Adalah in continuing to “protect the protest”.

Thank you.

Poster for Adalah's webinar on right to protest
Poster for Adalah's webinar on right to protest
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Photo: powtac/Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: powtac/Flickr Creative Commons

Dear Friends,

Happy new year 2020 from Adalah!  

2019 will be remembered as a year of popular global protest – from Hong Kong, to India, to France, to Iran, to Lebanon and more. Social media is a key organizing tool for protesters, and governments seeking to prevent protests and to quell dissent use a range of tactics, including censoring users’ social media content.

Over the past two years, Adalah filed a series of legal complaints to the Israeli authorities charging that the Cyber Unit, operating in the State Attorney's Office since 2015, is unlawfully asking social media platforms to censor user content. Israel’s state attorney finally responded this past November 2019, claiming that these requests "do not constitute an exercise of governmental authority.” In other words, they claim, the Cyber Unit only issues “voluntary” requests, while the decisions and actual removal of content are ultimately made by the social media providers themselves.

Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court in late November 2019 seeking an order that the Cyber Unit halt its practices. Adalah Attorneys Fady Khoury and Rabea Eghbariah argued that the unit is violating the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and due process, and that it lacks legal authority. Further, there is reason to suspect that the victims of these violations are, first and foremost, Palestinians. 

According to a 2018 report by Israel’s state attorney, the number of Cyber Unit requests to censor content leaped from 2,241 in 2016, to 12,351 in 2017, to 14,283 in 2018 – an increase of over 600%. Further, social media providers accepted the overwhelming majority of requests to remove user content: about 90% of the targeted content was completely or partially removed.

There are legal procedures or no transparency in the process, and no framework for users to defend themselves against allegations that their posts warranted removal.

Our case in the Israeli Supreme Court remains pending.  

We need your continued support for our work protecting protest and defending dissent – on the street and on the web. You are key to this struggle.

“While 2019 already qualifies for a place in the annals of street protest,” Gideon Rachman, the Financial Times’s chief foreign affairs columnist wrote as 2019 drew to a close, “it is possible that the really world-shaking year may turn out to be 2020.”


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Photo: Michael Schreifels/Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: Michael Schreifels/Flickr Creative Commons
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