Adalah: Q & A on the Legality of Waving the Palestinian Flag

Adalah is issuing this short Q&A in response to many inquiries regarding the behavior of the Israeli police in confiscating Palestinian flags from mourners during the funeral of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh in Jerusalem last week. 


Is waving the Palestinian flag a crime?

Waving the Palestinian flag is not a crime. In 1994, the Israeli Attorney General advised the police and prosecutors not to open criminal investigations against individuals raising the Palestinian flag. Twenty years later, 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.

Is raising the Palestinian flag protected by freedom of speech?

In 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court permitted a number of Arab political parties to broadcast Knesset elections campaign ads in which images of the Palestinian flag appeared. The Court ruled that this act is a part of the freedom of speech, and thus there is no reason to prevent raising it. 

In 2009, following a petition to the Supreme Court, the police withdrew a condition included in a demonstration permit that prohibited raising the Palestinian flag. However, the police reaffirmed its authority according to article 82 of the Police Ordinance (1971), which allows the confiscation of flags as mentioned above.

Under what legal authority did the police confiscate the Palestinian flags at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh in Jerusalem?

The police may argue that article 82 of the Police Ordinance (1971) grants it the authority to remove the Palestinian flag as noted above. The Israeli Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the scope of this authority.

How did the legal situation of raising the Palestinian flag change after the signing of the Oslo Accords? 

Before 1994, Israel used the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance - 1948 as legal grounds to arrest and prosecute anyone for raising the Palestinian flag. After the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1994, the political situation changed and the Israeli Attorney General advised against the opening of criminal investigations against individuals for waving the flag. 

Have Israeli courts ruled recently on arrest cases involving the Palestinian flag?

On 25 September 2021, the Magistrates Court in Jerusalem ruled that a protester in Sheikh Jarrah 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.

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