Israel adopts measures of collective punishment against Palestinians amid recent escalation

Since the deadly raid on the Jenin refugee camp and the escalation that followed, the newly formed govt. swiftly advances multiple racist and illegal policies.

Over the past week, the state of Israel and its armed forces have escalated their violent tactics against Palestinians through various forms of collective punishment, including arbitrary arrests, home demolitions, and attempts to revoke citizenship and residency, all of which are illegal under both domestic and international law. These express policies are coupled with several recent killings by Israeli security forces, tallying over 30 Palestinians killed thus far in 2023. The recent escalation in violence began on Thursday, 26 January 2023, when Israeli security forces raided the Jenin refugee camp and killed nine people. In the aftermath of a subsequent shooting the following days, the government has officially adopted new retaliatory measures and expressed its clear intent to pursue further similar steps.


Since the new government was sworn in in late December 2022, it has kept to the pledges that it made in coalition agreements and its foundational guiding principles, which are based on increased state securitization, the severe repression of expressions of Palestinian identity, and confiscation of Palestinian land – including the legalization of illegal settlements in the West Bank (which has been reemphasized in recent days), in the name of the expansion and consolidation of Jewish supremacy. 


Read more about the coalition agreements and the dangers they present in Adalah’s recently issued position paper here


Home demolitions in Jerusalem


Starting on Saturday, 28 January 2023, a new wave of home demolitions, through several means, began in Jerusalem as a form of the government’s collective punishment against Palestinians. When the government cabinet met in the aftermath of the shooting, they agreed to move forward with numerous retaliatory steps, aimed at the entire Palestinian public. These included the expediting of a bill regarding the demolition of Palestinian assailants’ homes. Israeli security forces have since sealed off the home of a Palestinian assailant in East Jerusalem and set it for demolition. The government also agreed to expand the practice of sealing off and demolishing the homes of Palestinian assailants to include also an attack that ended with solely injuries. Though the change was only agreed to as a one-time expansion of the practice, this is emblematic of a descent into more draconian demolition policies against the families of those accused of “terror offenses”.


Israeli occupation forces have also begun demolishing additional homes in occupied East Jerusalem as of Sunday morning. Though the Israeli government asserts that these demolitions are occurring as a result of buildings not having permits, this is a clear punitive measure against the Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem and attempt to instill fear. Furthermore, the fact that some of the buildings lack permits is a direct result of Israel’s restrictive land and planning policies, which make legal building impossible for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Such punitive home demolitions violate the Fourth Geneva Convention’s Article 53’s express prohibition against the destruction of private property by an occupying power. This recent wave of demolitions follow both a historic pattern of Palestinian home demolitions by the state of Israel as a means of dispossessing and displacing Palestinians, as well as efforts to escalate the expansion of Jewish settlement into Palestinian homes and neighborhoods, as stated in the presiding government’s coalition agreements. On 29 Sunday January, Adalah sent a letter demanding the government immediately cease the demolitions, as the order was given without authority and in violation of law. Demolitions have proceeded still throughout this week. 


40+ arbitrary arrests in Jerusalem


Since Friday, 27 January 2023, Israeli security forces have arbitrarily arrested more than 40 people in East Jerusalem. The Israeli police carried out the arrests under the pretext of a shooting that occurred in East Jerusalem on Friday. They arrested more than 40 people, including supposed neighbors and relatives of the shooter, though there was no apparent connection between the people arrested and the attack that had been carried out. The vast majority of these arrests were largely not met with any judicial review (only five of the arrests were extended), and – according to several media reports – the Cabinet discussed arresting family members as a planned retaliatory policy. 


Bill to revoke citizenship moving forward in the Knesset


On Monday, 30 January, the Knesset passed, by a majority of 89 to 8, the first reading of a proposed bill, which lays out an additional route for Israel to revoke the citizenship or residency of Palestinians, after the bill was approved for an expedited legislative process. 


In July 2022, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the existing route to revoke citizenship for ‘breach of loyalty’ – which itself clearly targets Palestinians – in a judgment from July 2022 (read more here). This proposed bill gives even broader unfettered discretion to the Interior Minister to revoke the Israeli citizenship or permanent residency of an individual who was convicted of an offense that constitutes an “act of terrorism” and “received funds paid by the Palestinian Authority in connection with terrorism”  The proposed bill would therefore enable Israel to expel Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of East Jerusalem from their homes and deported to the territory of the Palestinian Authority. The use of “acts of terror” – as laid out in the 2016 Counterterror Law – has been used by the government of Israel to racially differentiate criminal offenses and effectively create a separate system of criminal enforcement against Palestinians. The expansive use of what constitutes a terror offense under the law is also overbroad, vague, and abstract.  


Read more here, in Adalah’s position paper analyzing the 2016 Counterterror Law, about the government’s overbroad definition of terrorist acts and why the law is so dangerous.


This bill’s introduction follows promises that were made in the coalition agreements, in which the new government committed to advance legislation to revoke the residency and citizenship of terrorists and their accomplices, and expel ‘terrorists’. 


Following the bill’s introduction on 29 January, Adalah sent a letter to several government officials, calling on them to act immediately to prevent the advancement of the proposed bill. Read more here


Palestinian flag and attacks on political protestors


On Friday, 27 January 2023, six protestors – demonstrating in response to the previous day’s killings by Israeli security forces in Jenin refugee camp – were violently arrested in Haifa for waving the Palestinian flag. Among those arrested was an Adalah attorney, who was present at the protest in order to advise protesters as to their right to wave the Palestinian flag and ensure that the police would not violate protesters’ rights. He repeatedly demanded that police officers stop instructing protesters to put down the flag, as such is illegal under Israeli law. Though the protestors were ultimately released (in the early hours of Saturday morning), this is part of an ongoing initiative by the Israeli police to prevent any waving of the Palestinian flag in public whatsoever, per a directive of the new National Security Minister, MK Itamar Ben Gvir. In response to these letters, Adalah sent multiple letters to the National Security Minister demanding that the directive be rescinded, as it violates domestic law. You can read more about Friday’s illegal arrests here, as well as previous recent arrests by the Haifa police against protestors waving the Palestinian flag here.  


New Cabinet decisions 


On 29 January 2023, PM Netanyahu and members of his cabinet met and published a list of actions in response to Friday’s shootings.Their list of retaliatory actions include:


  1. Requesting that the Shin Bet (Shabak/GSS) prepare a memorandum regarding how to put in place additional “deterrent measures” against family members of alleged “terrorists” who expressed support of terrorism. 

  2. To submit a governmental bill to the Knesset to deny residency and citizenship from “terrorists” and deport them to the territory of the Palestinian Authority

  3. For the Labor Minister and the legal advisor to the government to prepare a legal memorandum allowing for the “immediate dismissal of employees who support terrorism”, without  any hearing 

  4. Fast-tracking of any bill that deals with issues related to “strengthening deterrence” by punishing “relatives of terrorists” who have expressed support for their actions

  5. Approval of a one-time policy expansion to seal the homes of “terrorists” to include also the home of the 13-year-old boy who carried out an attack on Friday, which resulted in injuries, not killings, as the previous policy stated.

These expansive policies follow a clear pattern of collective punishment, designed to penalize and harm Palestinians. As with the other measures outlined above, these policies and actions have been put forward under the pretext of two recent shootings, but the reality is that these actions follow long-term, systemic efforts by the state to enact repressive and violent measures against the Palestinian public that inhibit their fundamental rights.