Adalah appeals decision not to open investigation into violent police dispersal of Umm al-Fahem protest in Feb. 2021; dozens injured, including former MK Dr. Yousef Jabareen and Mayor Dr. Samir Subhi Mahamid

Investigatory material confirms that police planned to use life-threatening measures and arrest demonstrators before the protest even began; “Mahash” failed to take basic investigatory steps, despite video footage showing police violence against demonstrators without justification.

On 13 June 2022, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed an appeal with the State Attorney's Office against the decision of the Israeli Police Investigations Department (PID or “Mahash”) not to open an investigation into the conduct of Israeli police in a demonstration in Umm al-Fahem on 26 February 2021. During the demonstration, Israeli police officers used excessive force, assaulting and wounding demonstrators, including former Knesset Member Dr. Yousef Jabareen and Umm al-Fahem’s Mayor Dr. Samir Subhi Mahamid.


The appeal, filed by Adalah Attorney Adi Mansour on behalf of Dr. Yousef Jabareen, Dr. Samir Subhi Mahamid and three other demonstrators injured by police, requested that the State Attorney's Office order the immediate initiation of a criminal investigation into the incident, to prosecute the police officers involved in the attack and order the publication of updated police guidelines including the use of undercover police units during demonstrations.


              CLICK HERE to read Adalah’s appeal


The demonstration in question concerned violence within Arab society, and it took place on 26 February, after Friday prayers. Demonstrators marched from the city center towards the main entrance to the city, carrying 21 mock “coffins” symbolizing the number of Palestinian citizens of Israel killed thus far in 2021. Between the main road (65) and the square at the entrance to the city, police forces waited for the demonstrators, and violently dispersed the demonstration.


On 30 March 2021, Adalah filed a formal complaint to the PID, presenting a series of eyewitness testimonies and videos that indicate serious suspicions of illegal conduct by Israeli police forces. The police action resulted in the wounding of dozens of protesters, including one man who suffered serious wounds and required head surgery. The sequence of events documented in dozens of videos taken by protesters both on the ground level as well as from aerial drones appears to indicate that police commanders issued orders to forcefully disperse the demonstration before it even began.


CLICK HERE for additional information and video footage


CLICK HERE to read Adalah's formal complaint and affidavits [Hebrew] 


Despite the unequivocal evidence presented in the complaint, on 23 November 2021, the PID announced, with the approval of the State Attorney and the Deputy State Attorney for Criminal Affairs, that it decided that there was no need to open a criminal investigation into police conduct during the demonstration. The PID claimed that the demonstration was illegal, as it lacked the required permits, and that the demonstrators acted violently towards police officers, who were then compelled to employ force that was "reasonable under the circumstances." At the same time, PID announced that it decided to transfer the investigation materials to the senior command levels of the Israeli Police, for the purpose of examining the overall conduct of the police during the demonstration.


              CLICK HERE to read PID's letter of 23 November 2021  [Hebrew]


After reviewing the investigation materials, which confirm the allegations in the original complaint and establish concrete suspicions of a violation of the law and police guidelines, and make clear that the PID failed to undertake basic investigatory steps, Adalah filed the appeal on behalf of the complainants.


The main arguments raised by Adalah in the appeal are:


  • Conflict of interest – first off, Adalah and the appellants argued that the entity competent to review the appeal has a conflict of interest. According to law, the appeal will be reviewed by the State Attorney’s office despite the fact that the State Attorney approved the closure of the initial PID complaint. This violates basic principles of natural law and the rule of law.


  • There is no legal basis to determine that the demonstration was illegal – According to the law and established precedent, there is no justification to claim that the demonstrators should have obtained permission to hold the protest, Adalah stressed that even if such a determination had been substantiated by the police, it does not mean that the violent dispersal of the protest was justified, under the law.


  • Indiscriminate use of life-threatening measures – The investigatory material reveals that police used water cannons, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and teasers to disperse the demonstration, in violation of the law. The conditions permitting police to use such measures were not met in the demonstration at hand, and the manner in which such measures were used is illegal.


  • The police decided to disperse the demonstration ahead of time– Police reports confirm that the stone-throwing and demonstrators’ resistance started only after the police began violently dispersing the demonstration.


  • The police operated an undercover unit ("Mista'arivim") – The investigatory materials indicate that the decision that the Mista'arivim unit would arrest demonstrators was reached even before the demonstration began. These arrests were aimed at "key demonstrators", even if these protestors did not raise any suspicion of committing a criminal offense. Adalah emphasized that the use of the undercover units to shut down demonstrations is illegal and that the police lack the legal authority to do so.


  • Failure to investigate – The PID failed to examine the arguments raised in Adalah’s complaint, and failed to undertake basic investigatory steps. It did not investigate those involved in the incidents other than two police officers who gave statements; did not collect witness testimonies adequately and did not carry out independent steps to investigate the incident, including examination into the compliance of police’s use of water cannons, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and teasers with guidelines and procedures.  The decision to close the case was made in the absence of sufficient data or reliable evidence, while at the same time disregarding the appellants' allegations, in a manner that indicates serious investigative failures.


In light of the grave suspicions arising from the evidence in the investigation file and in light of the PID’s decision to settle for a superficial probe that disregards blatant violations of the law, Adalah demanded that the State Attorney's Appeals Department order the PID to immediately open a criminal investigation and prosecute the police officers involved. Adalah also demanded that the State Attorney's Office order the immediate publication of all relevant police procedures, including the use of undercover units in demonstrations.


Umm al-Fahm’s Mayor Dr. Samir Subhi Mahamid commented:


“The PID’s decision not to open an investigation is most puzzling. We demand that justice will be done.”


Adalah Attorney Adi Mansour added:


“The police aggression in this incident not only reflects their attitude towards Palestinian citizens of the state as an enemy but also shows the operation of two separate legal systems based on ethnic and national identity. Closing a PID complaint, such as this one, against the violent repression of a legitimate demonstration without prosecution, and without an adequate investigation, has been the norm for years. It is the same culture of whitewashing and impunity that was criticized in the 2003 Or Commission of Inquiry’s report and its recommendations that Israel failed to implement, and that is clearly seen in the killings of dozens of Palestinian citizens of the state by the Israeli police where no police officer is ever prosecuted."


Former Knesset Member Dr. Yousef Jabareen added:


“The police officers’ reports confirm our arguments as presented in our complaint, namely that the police planned in advance to violently disperse the demonstration and arrest demonstrators using an undercover unit, without any legal basis. The fact that dozens of demonstrators were injured by police proves that it planned to take revenge on the demonstrators, who protested against the police for several weeks because of its inability to deal with crime in Arab society. We will continue our fight against the rising crime in the Arab society and against dangerous police violence. The police are forceful towards demonstrators and weak in the face of criminal entities."


Previous Press Releases:


Israeli Police Investigation Dept. dismisses complaint against police assault of demonstrators in Umm al-Fahm, including MK Dr. Yousef Jabareen and Mayor Dr. Samir Subhi Mahamid 24 November 2021


Eyewitnesses, videos appear to indicate illegal and violent Israeli police conduct at Umm al-Fahm protest 4 April 2021