Many greetings to you from Adalah.
In December 2022, the most extreme far-right government in the history of Israel was sworn in. The new governing coalition immediately published its fundamental guiding principles, detailing how it will begin to realize and advance its racist agenda to entrench Jewish supremacy and Palestinian repression throughout Israel and the OPT.
The government plans to achieve its goals through provisions of the coalition agreements and guiding principles, which pose grave threats to the rights of Palestinians, including deepened political control over law enforcement and policing. On 28 December 2022, the Knesset passed a law that grants the newly appointed National Security Minister, the ultra-nationalist leader of the Jewish Power Party, full and direct control over law enforcement authorities. Before the law was enacted, Adalah sent letters challenging the bill, arguing that the law substantially expands the powers of the Minister, including in setting the police's policy, and will result in increased police violence against Palestinians.
The recent escalation in violence in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and in Israel is a continuation of the Israeli policies of repression, aided by recent intensified racial policing against Palestinians, which has resulted in more violent crackdown on protestors.
The National Security Minister has already started to exploit his expanded powers by issuing a sweeping directive that bans the raising of Palestinian flags and ordering the police to remove them in public spaces. In response, Adalah sent letters to the Ministry and the Attorney General demanding that they direct law enforcement authorities that the waving of the Palestinian flag, in itself, is not illegal under Israeli law. Adalah argued that the Minister's description of the Palestinian flag as a symbol of support of “terrorism" indicates that his directive illegally bans the waving of the Palestinian flag, in a sweeping manner and under all circumstances. Under the preexisting Police Ordinance (1971), the police have the authority to confiscate a flag only if it results in “disruption of public order or breach of peace”, but the ordinance does not grant authority to impose a sweeping ban on waving the Palestinian flag. Adalah noted in the letters that the directive is also contrary to previous Supreme Court decisions and the Deputy Attorney General's legal opinion.
On 26 January 2023, the police violently arrested six protestors for raising the Palestinian flag during a protest in the city of Haifa, Israel against the military's killing of nine Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. Among the detainees was an Adalah lawyer who was present at the protest to ensure that the police would not violate protesters’ rights and to provide counsel to protesters as to their right to wave the Palestinian flag. Following the protest, the police issued a statement explicitly stating that the arrests were made because the protestors refused to put down the Palestinian flags.
The police acted illegally by violating the legitimate rights of the demonstrators to protest and violently prevented them from realizing their rights to legal representation. The police's actions are yet another in a series of attempts to deprive Palestinians from expressing their national identity and to terrorize them through violence in order to deter them from protesting.
Adalah will continue to challenge the racist policies and laws of the new government and to stand against the onslaught of the National Security Minister’s actions against Palestinians' right to protest.
Warm greeting to you from Adalah.
This month Adalah marks the 22nd anniversary of the October 2000 killings, remembering the 13 unarmed Palestinians, 12 citizens of Israel and one resident of Gaza, killed by Israeli police forces at the beginning of the Second Intifada. In October 2000, as Palestinian citizens of Israel went out in mass protests in solidarity with Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the wider West Bank, Israeli police opened fire at protestors, shooting 13 dead and injuring hundreds of others.
Adalah represented the families of the 13 Palestinians killed by police before the Or Commission of Inquiry, and later before the Police Investigations Department (PID or “Mahash”) and the Attorney General, who sought justice, demanding that the police, police commanders, and political leaders be held accountable for the loss of their loved ones. But persisting in its long-standing policy of granting almost sweeping impunity to its police and other armed forces, and exempting them from criminal prosecution, the state failed to hold accountable those responsible for the killings.
More than two decades later, in May 2021, protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel were again met with mass arbitrary arrests and extreme violence by police forces, causing injuries to demonstrators. Despite many complaints against police brutality, excessive force and even torture of detained protestors, no police forces were held accountable for their actions. Adalah, on behalf of Palestinian citizens of Israel, filed several complaints to the Police Investigation Department (PID) against police brutality during the May 2021 events, but the cases were either closed, or are still pending investigation over a year later. In several cases, Adalah filed appeals.
Adalah continues to monitor protest and police brutality in the aftermath of the May 2021 events.
In January 2022, afforestation work by Israel Lands Authority (ILA) and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the Naqab sparked protests by Bedouin residents and human rights activists. Demonstrators here too were violently dispersed by the police, and subjected to mass arrests and detention. In response, Adalah sent an urgent letter to the police commissioner, the commander of the Southern District Police, the police commander of the Negev region, and the Attorney General (AG) demanding that they immediately order Israeli police forces to halt the use of violent, illegal and life-threatening means to disperse protests and to allow protests to continue.
More recently, the police demolished a protest tent set up by residents in the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Naqab to demonstrate against the discriminatory policies of the Bedouin Authority and the ILA in planning and building processes in the town, and their refusal to market plots for housing for local residents. Despite initially approving the protest tent following a request by the protest’s organizers, a few days later, on 22 September 2022, the police destroyed the tent. The forces also arrested and questioned many activists in relation to the protest tent. On the same day, Adalah sent a letter to police officials and the Attorney General requesting to permit the protest tent in Rahat and to refrain from taking any action intended to infringe on the residents' right to demonstrate.
Adalah will continue to represent Palestinian demonstrators in order to ensure their right for freedom of protest and expression – to Protect the Protest - and will continue to advocate for justice and accountability.
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Warms regards from Adalah. In this update, we examine some of the protest cases one year after the May 2021 events, and recent issues surrounding the waiving of the Palestinian flag.
In May 2021, the police violently dispersed peaceful protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel (PCI) without justification, clamping down on freedoms of expression and assembly. Police arrested and detained hundreds of Palestinian citizen protestors, and used brutal, excessive force against many of them. Adalah’s lawyers, together with dozens of volunteer lawyers, represented arrested and detained Palestinian protesters. Adalah additionally filed numerous complaints to the Police Investigation Department (PID) (“Mahash”) concerning these events, most of which were either closed after an initial probe, resulting in no action against the police, or are still pending one year later, seriously undermining the possibility of an effective criminal investigation.
o M.A.E., a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was severely injured by a stun grenade fired by police while she was filming the events during a protest in Haifa against the violence, held on 9 May 2021. The injury caused excessive bleeding and scarring, and for 30 minutes the police blocked an ambulance from accessing the location, endangering her life. Adalah filed a complaint on behalf of M.A.E. against the police, however, the Police Investigation Department (“Mahash”) decided to close the case. In May 2022, Adalah sent a letter demanding the investigation material from the police in order file an appeal.
o On 13 May 2021, M.O., a resident of the Arab village of Tuba-Zangariyya, was dragged from his home by police forces. He was led to the grounds of the local council and left there, with his hands and feet cuffed, for several hours. When he asked to be released, police officers cursed at him and kicked him. He was brought to a police station in the middle of the night for questioning, and was denied access to a lawyer. Adalah filed a complaint to the PID in the case on 6 September 2021. The PID closed the case in December 2021, and Adalah filed an appeal against the closure.
o Four people, including three minors (T.A.Z., aged 17, and Y.M. and A.A., both 12 years old), were injured in Jaffa-Tel Aviv by rubber bullets fired by police in May 2021, and one of them was hospitalized in an intensive care unit for sustaining severe wounds. The police fired randomly, and the injured minors were not participating in the protests but merely passing by. Adalah filed a complaint to the PID on 6 September 2021. The PID closed the case.
The PID’s refusal to initiate criminal investigations in cases of well-documented police brutality, and its lack of promptness in conducting initial probes, entrench Israel’s policy of near blanket impunity for its police for injuring and killing Palestinians, in the complete absence of accountability.
Police brutality recently made headlines again, particularly after the police beat mourners at the funeral of Palestinian Al-Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, and prevented them from waving the Palestinian flag. The police attacked mourners who were holding Abu Akleh’s casket at the funeral procession, and even stormed the hospital where the body was held, firing tear gas and stun grenades, all in order to prevent participants from raising the Palestinian flag. In response to many inquiries regarding the police conduct during Abu Akleh’s funeral, Adalah published a Q&A about the legality of raising the Palestinian flag.
Waiving the Palestinian flag is not a crime under Israeli law, and after the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1994, the Israeli Attorney General advised against the opening of criminal investigations against individuals for waving the flag. However, in 2014, the Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Matters clarified that although raising the Palestinian flag is not criminalized, there is still no “absolute immunity” for raising the flag. Article 82 of the Police Ordinance (1971) grants the police the authority to confiscate a flag if it results in disruption of public order or breach of peace, and in these cases, an individual may be arrested or prosecuted.
The Israeli Supreme Court has not ruled on the scope of this authority by the police and several lower court rulings have permitted waving the flag as an act that is a part of the freedom of speech. In September 2021, the Magistrates Court in Jerusalem ruled that a protester in Jerusalem who was arrested for waving the Palestinian flag must be released from detention. The judge clarified that raising the Palestinian flag is not a criminal offense and that the police provided no explanation as to how raising the flag, in this instance, disrupted public order and safety.
A bill banning displaying the Palestinian flag at state funded institutions was approved by the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in a preliminary reading on 1 June 2022. The amendment to the Penal Law proposes that a gathering of people in entities supported by the state, such as universities, during which flags of enemy states or Palestinian flags are displayed publicly, will be defined as a prohibited assembly, and will be treated as a riot that can be dispersed (source: The Knesset official website).
This new bill followed a series of demonstrations held by students, Palestinian citizens of Israel, at Israeli universities during which they raised Palestinian flags in solidarity against recent aggressions by the police and military in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Read more about where we stand one year after the May 2021 events, in Adalah’s newsletter:
Adalah’s News: One Year On for the May 2021 Events
Thank you for your continued support for Adalah’s work. We sincerely appreciate it.
PROTECT THE BEDOUIN IN THE NAQAB: STOP FORCED DISPLACEMENT
Afforestation work in the Naqab sparks protests and police violence
Last month mass protests broke out throughout the Naqab (Negev) in response to the planting of trees on land belonging to the Al-Atrash tribe in the Bedouin village of Sa'wa. The plantings – by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) – were carried out under a heavily militarized police operation. Protestors were violently dispersed by the police, and subjected to mass arrest and detention.
The ILA decided to carry out the plantings, together with the JNF, on the land in Sa'wa for the purpose of “preserving” the land from Bedouin “trespassers”. The Al-Atrash tribe registered ownership claims for its ancestral land and has used it for agriculture for decades.
The Israeli government plants forests on Bedouin land in the Naqab through the JNF, as a way of expropriating the land and preventing Bedouin residents from living on it and using it for their livelihoods. Afforestation and the creation of nature reserves on Palestinian land have been used by the government both in Israel and in the OPT in order to restrict Palestinian land use and the development of towns and villages.
SEE PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE NAQAB
On 27 June 2022, Adalah sent a letter to the ILA, the Minister of Housing and Construction and to the Attorney General demanding that all afforestation work in the northern Naqab be stopped immediately, as it is illegal. Adalah argued that the ILA lacks the authority to carry out the plantings, which are often done on disputed land.
Following the protests, Adalah demanded that Israeli police stop using violent, life-threatening means, including live ammunition and tear gas dropped from drones, to disperse the demonstrations and allow the protests to continue. Adalah also demanded that the police remove roadblocks set up to prevent vehicles from entering Sa'wa, which severely restricted residents’ access to their homes and children’s ability to attend school, and allow a protest-tent, torn down by the police, to be rebuilt.
Marwan Abu Frieh, Adalah’s field researcher in the Naqab, told media outlets Ha’aretz (18 January 2022) and Middle East Eye (13 January 2022) that the police arrested many residents, including minors, during the protests, and the courts repeatedly extended their detention. "There is a mass arrest campaign being launched here, just like after the events in May , in order to scare people from protesting,” he emphasized. The police have arrested around 150 protesters, 40 percent of whom are minors; 38 protestors remain in detention.
Adalah also submitted urgent legal interventions to restore vital services to the Bedouin community during and after the protests. Adalah demanded that the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) restore power following prolonged blackouts in Bedouin towns, after the IEC claimed that it lacked permission from the police to enter the towns. Following Adalah’s intervention, bus services to Bedouin villages were resumed after being cut under the pretext of the demonstrations.
Read media coverage of the Naqab events and Adalah's work:
TOURS TO BEDOUIN COMMUNITIES IN THE NAQAB FOR AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AND AMNESTY-USA
On 25 and 29 January 2022, Adalah, the Negev Coexistence Forum and the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab held tours for members of Amnesty International (AI) and Amnesty-USA to Bedouin communities in the Naqab at risk of displacement.
Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of AI, and her colleagues visited Sa'wa and surrounding villages and met activists and protestors. They also toured Ras Jaraba, which is threatened with evacuation. Paul O’Brien, Director of Amnesty USA, and his colleagues visited Al-Araqeeb, which has been destroyed 197 times. Both delegations met with community leaders in the unrecognized village of A-Zarnuq.
Click here to see Adalah's News, 31 January 2022: Afforestation work in the Naqab by ILA and JNF threatens to displace Bedouin residents
Adalah: The Jewish National Fund, together with the Israel Lands Authority, plants forests in the Naqab to displace Bedouins, viewed as ‘trespassers’, from their lands. This is racial discrimination, par excellence.
Last week, in the wake of Israeli police assaults on Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel and human rights activists demonstrating against the afforestation activities of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the Bedouin village of Sa'wa in the Naqab (Negev) in the south, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to the police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai, the commander of the Southern District Police, Peretz Amar, the police commander of the Negev region, Nachshon Nagler, and the Attorney General (AG) Avichai Mandelblit demanding that they immediately order Israeli police forces to halt the use of violent, illegal and life-threatening means to disperse protests and to allow protests to continue.
In the letter sent by Adalah Attorneys Adi Mansour and Rabea Eghbariah, Adalah argued that police forces dispersed the protest, which was authorized by the police and peaceful at that time, and began using excessive force, injuring many protesters some severely. Adalah further argued that the police exceeded its authority and endangered the lives of the demonstrators by using rubber bullets, rubber-coated steel bullets and drones that dropped tear gas grenades. Adalah stressed that the use of drones dropping tear gas grenades, which was not used previously against citizens of Israel, is extremely dangerous, disproportionate and unlawful.
CLICK HERE to view video footage of the drone dropping tear gas grenades
The police used an array of violent and disproportionate means to muzzle the protesters since the Jewish National Fund (JNF) restarted its tree plantings (afforestation) on the lands of the Al-Atrash Bedouin tribe near Sa'wa on 10 January 2022. The Israel Lands Authority (ILA) allocated the lands to the JNF for purposes of afforestation, for the purpose of “preserving” the land, despite registered claims of ownership over this land and use for agriculture by Bedouin residents. The plan's sole purpose is political: to stop the recognition and development of Bedouin villages and to displace Bedouin families while taking over disputed land. Environmental groups, such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel objected to the policy, arguing that tree planting in the Naqab has negative consequences on the natural habitat of the area.
The JNF holds 13% of all the land in Israel (the vast majority of JNF lands were transferred by the State of Israel to the JNF). The JNF’s aim, as stipulated in its Memorandum of Association, is the acquisition of land in any area within the jurisdiction of the Government of Israel “for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands and properties”. The petitioners in the 2004 Adalah v. The Israel Lands Administration, et al. case, argued that: “[the] JNF is not and cannot be loyal to the entire Israeli public. The JNF’s loyalty is reserved for the Jewish people alone - for whom it was established and for whom it acts.” The JNF expanded its land ownership in the Naqab in a 2009 agreement with Israel where Israel outsourced land in the Galilee and in the Naqab, where many Palestinian citizens of Israel reside, to the JNF.
In renewing the plantings in Sa’wa, JNF workers were guarded by hundreds of heavily militarized police. Bedouin residents immediately started protesting the JNF's activity; a protest tent was set up and demonstrations were held on Al-Atrash lands. The police employed violent and disproportionate measures to disperse the protests and arrested many protesters. At the end of last week, approximately 85 people were arrested, including many minors. As of today, around 50 people were still being held in detention.
On 10 January 2022, Israeli police forces set up roadblocks preventing vehicles in all three entrances to the village and therefore restricted residents’ access, including schoolchildren, to their homes. Similar restrictions were placed for three consecutive days during the previous week as well.
In response, on 11 January 2022, Adalah sent a letter to the police commissioner, the commander of the Southern District Police and the AG demanding that the roadblocks be immediately removed. In the letter, sent by Adalah Attorney Rabea Eghbariah, Adalah argued that the police lack the authority to impose sweeping restrictions on the freedom of movement of the residents of the entire village; those are drastic, disproportionate and unreasonable restrictions that infringe not only on freedom of movement but also severely infringe on the right to education, as children could not attend school, and right to health, especially during this new, serious wave of COVID-19.
As roadblocks in the entrances to Sa'wa were set on the following day as well (12 January). Adalah sent a follow-up letter and has yet to receive an answer.
On 12 January 2022, Adalah also sent a letter to the Police commissioner and AG concerning the demolition of a protest tent in the early morning of 11 January. The tent was set up on 10 January. In the letter sent by Adalah Attorney Adi Mansour, Adalah argued that the demolition of a protest tent severely infringes Bedouin citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of expression and protest. The destruction of the protest tent by a bulldozer without warning is an unreasonable and manifestly disproportionate measure. According to eyewitnesses and documentation from the scene, it is apparent that the demolition was executed by a JNF bulldozer. Adalah stressed in its letter that this type of enforcement, especially by the JNF that has no competence to act in this manner, is illegal.
Related Press Releases on the JNF:
Adalah & NCF: Israel’s replies to UN body deny Bedouin indigeneity in Naqab, ignore discriminatory effects of policies 2 October 2019
Israeli Supreme Court rejects petition against JNF membership in ILA land council 22 June 2018
National Committee of Arab Local Authorities, human rights organizations petition High Court of Justice to annul JNF representation on Israel Land Council 28 June 2016
Without Making Principal Changes, Israel Allows Arab Citizens to Bid for Jewish National Fund-Controlled Land 1 February 2016
Adalah and ACRI call to cancel discriminatory land swap agreement between Israeli government and the JNF 7 January 2016
Cancel the Yatir Forest Plan in the Naqab 30 December 2011
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