Adalah Demands Investigation into Shin Bet's Unlawful Interference with Baladna's Activities

On 8 June 2023, Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent a letter to Israel's Attorney General, Gali Baharav-Miara, on behalf of Baladna, a Palestinian youth organization, demanding an immediate investigation into the General Security Service (Shin Bet or Shabak) regarding their unlawful interference in Baladna’s activities and the harassment of their members. Adalah further demanded the issuance of guidelines that reinforce the prohibition on Shin Bet's intervention in the activities of civil society organizations.


Baladna, a prominent organization dedicated to advancing the rights of Palestinian youth in Israel, is engaged in organizing a wide range of social activities for Palestinian youth in the Naqab (Negev), among other areas. As reported by members of the organization, the Shin Bet has employed tactics of intimidation and issued threats that specifically target the activists of Baladna in the Naqab, which have intensified in recent months.


The letter, sent by Adalah Attorney Adi Mansour, highlights specific incidents of harassment and intimidation, including the intervention of the Shin Bet and the subsequent cancellation of a musical event by artist Kan'an Al-Ghoul, which was scheduled to take place at the Rahat Cultural Palace. The event’s cancellation came after the Shin Bet deemed the artist’s political stance "unacceptable”. Similarly, the Shin Bet prevented an event on forced displacement and the case of Masafer Yatta from taking place at the Community Center in the Bedouin town of Kuseife. Despite multiple attempts to relocate the event to private property in Kuseife, the Shin Bet persistently insisted on its cancellation.


Adalah further highlighted instances in which several Baladna activists were summoned by the Shin Bet, despite no alleged suspicion of criminal offenses, for the purposes of harassment and intimidation. The activists underwent invasive body searches and intrusive personal interrogations and were further subjected to intimidating statements such as, "We, the Shin Bet, know everything about your life, and you are under our constant surveillance everywhere."


In its letter, Adalah argued that the actions undertaken by the Shin Bet against Baladna lack legal authority. The General Security Service Law clearly outlines the powers of the Shin Bet, and in the absence of explicit authorization, it is prohibited from targeting citizens engaged in lawful and legitimate activities, especially when such activities are within the realm of political freedom of expression and association. Adalah further argued that the Shin Bet failed to inform the activists, who were summoned for "conversations", about their rights, including their right to refuse to answer questions and participate in conversations with the Shin Bet, thereby disregarding legal obligations and infringing upon their civil rights. Furthermore, Adalah argued that the Shin Bet used these “conversations” as a means of intimidating and threatening citizens, with the purpose of discouraging their political and social activities.


Adalah therefore demanded that Israel's Attorney General immediately initiate an investigation into the Shin Bet’s unlawful interference and issue comprehensive guidelines prohibiting the intervention of the Shin Bet in the activities of civil society organizations.


Adalah Attorney Adi Mansour added:


"The harassment of Palestinian activists and organizations through militarized surveillance, intimidation, and interference by the Shin Bet is a targeted tool employed to silence Palestinian voices and suppress legitimate political opposition. The Shin Bet has taken it upon itself to determine which activities and content it deems legitimate, thereby limiting the “acceptable” discourse for Palestinian citizens. This is a part of Israel's longstanding, consistent policy practiced in all areas under its control against Palestinian organizations and activists, aimed at intimidating and silencing opposition against Israel."