Credit: Shai Kendler
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.