Israeli Municipalities Block Access of Palestinians to Beaches by Illegally Imposing Local COVID-19 Restrictions

Adalah takes urgent legal action in response to new measures enforced in three cities, and as new checkpoints and barriers are erected; Mayors and city councils explicitly proclaim that they aim to prevent entrance of Palestinians; Disturbing video footage reveals municipal inspectors illegally expelling Palestinians from the northern city Akka (Acre); Adalah: “Racist measures are being illegally taken without authority”.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter on Thursday 5 August  2021 to Israeli Attorney General (AG) Avichai Mandelblit, demanding to clarify that the measures undertaken by the municipalities of Netanya, Akka (Acre), and Hadera blocking the access of non-residents to beaches within their respective jurisdictions are illegal.


The letter, sent by Adalah Attorney Rabea Eghbariah, was accompanied by Adalah’s inquiries to the Israeli municipalities of Akka and Netanya, after they took action to prevent Palestinians from reaching the shores under the guise of dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. Adalah argues that all of these measures were illegally taken without any authority.


CLICK HERE to read Adalah’s letter to the Attorney General - 5 August 2021 [Hebrew]


Adalah’s demand of the AG follows the decision taken by the Israeli city council of Akka on 4 August to erect a fence around Argaman Beach and to allow entrance only to holders of “Green Pass” certificates (proof of vaccination or immunity to coronavirus). By law, COVID-19 regulations in Israel are determined solely by the Israeli government through its Corona Cabinet, and currently do not include any restrictions on movement in public, open spaces.


Adalah argues that not only were these measures taken by the city council illegally, but also were intended to prevent Palestinian visitors from the West Bank from accessing the shores of Akka under the pretext of public health. During the council meeting, Mayor Shimon Lankri said: “In the last month, we have had a failure in this city – I’m not just saying this – it’s a serious health failure like no other, of buses coming from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] from Nablus, Jenin, Hebron, and others”. Lankri stated that it is the municipality’s duty to prevent their entrance to the beaches.

CLICK HERE to watch a video from the city council meeting [Hebrew]

Source: Acre (Akka) Municipality Facebook Page


The municipality also imposed other measures to block access to the coast, including preventing private buses from entering roads leading to the Argaman Beach. In an earlier letter to the municipality following the council’s decision of 14 July, to allocate a special budget for the fence, Adalah demanded that the municipality immediately cease all such restrictions.


CLICK HERE to read Adalah’s letter to the Akka Municipality – 4 August 2021 [Hebrew]


A day after the council’s decision (5 August) journalist Rafat Aker, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, documented municipal inspectors forcing Palestinians from the West Bank city of Jenin, back into their vehicles and accompanying them out of the city. This measure was taken despite the fact that some Palestinians stated that they are vaccinated and have legal entry and stay permits.


CLICK HERE To watch the video shot by Rafat Aker

Source: Rafat Aker’s Facebook Page


Shortly after these events, Adalah also learned that similar instructions were given by Hadera Mayor Zvi Gendelman. Adalah subsequently sent a letter to Gendelman demanding that the city immediately cease such unlawful actions.


CLICK HERE to read the letter to the Hadera Municipality – 5 August 2021 [Hebrew]


These incidents come after previous measures were taken by the Netanya Municipality during the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha in July. Then the municipality set up checkpoints with municipal inspectors at the entrances to the city and turned back buses with Arab passengers arriving in the city. Adalah contacted the Mayor of Netanya following these unlawful measures in a letter on 22 July. To date, Adalah has not received an answer from the mayor or her office.  Netanya mayor, Miriam Feirberg Ikar, previously commented in a radio interview in May, that she would not allow Palestinians to enter the city during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.


CLICK HERE to read Adalah's letter to the Mayor of Netanya – 22 July 2021 [Hebrew]


In 2019, Adalah challenged a ban imposed by the Afula municipality on the entrance of non-residents to its park. In this case, the Nazareth district court determined that local authorities are prohibited by law to restrict access to public, open spaces like beaches or parks. The AG then, in rare move, filed his position on the case to the court, supporting Adalah’s demand.

CLICK HERE for more details


Adalah Attorney Rabea Eghbariah commented:

“The images seen in Akka leave no room for the imagination: municipal inspectors forcibly expelled Palestinians outside city limits solely because they are Palestinian. The municipality is acting without any authority whatsoever in all its steps, from setting up fences and preventing the passage of private buses, to inventing new corona regulations and enforcing them. The use of arguments related to the increase in COVID-19 to justify illegal measures of imposing restrictions on freedom of movement, and denying access to public spaces under racist motivations is emerging as a phenomenon. Ironically, these local apartheid initiatives that express a goal of achieving racial segregation, also seemingly might violate the rights of other publics as well. The Attorney General must state unequivocally that these measures are being undertaken by the municipalities in clear violation of the law.”


Related Press Releases 


Afula's public park will be open to all visitors - including non-residents - following Adalah's petition, 24 July 2019


Israeli Supreme Court rejects Adalah, ACRI petitions against Major Coronavirus Law, 6 April 2021

Image: Rafat Aker’s Facebook Page