Israel's Police Commissioner Threatens Palestinian Citizens Protesting Against Israel's Atrocities in Gaza

In a video distributed by the Israeli Police on social media, the commissioner stated that he would personally take part in the transfer of Palestinians who "identify with Gaza" to the Gaza Strip. Adalah: the Police Commissioner's statements aim to legitimize the use of unlawful and violent means to disperse protests, which could result in injuries or even loss of life.

On the evening of 17 October 2023, against the backdrop of relentless military attacks on Gaza, the official Arabic TikTok account of the Israeli Police shared a video featuring Yaakov Shabtai, the Commissioner of the Israel Police, in which he made a number of racist and inflammatory statements, and issued an unlawful directive to reject all permits for demonstrations in support of the Palestinian people in Gaza. 


In response, on 18 October, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to the Police Commissioner and to Israel's Attorney General to demand the immediate cancellation of the Commissioner's illegal directive.


    CLICK HERE to read the letter 

    See the video on Israel's police TikTok and Twitter accounts.


In the video, the Police Commissioner said the following: 

"We are in a state of war. From our perspective, the orders are unequivocal. Zero tolerance for any event, no incitement, whether it's from a nurse, doctor, or singer. There will be no approvals for protests, and the district [police] here has proven it is handling this decisively. We are not in a situation now to start allowing these individuals to mess with us. In other words, the threshold for dealing with zero tolerance is at the highest level. I also gave instructions to attack everyone who is caught ... meaning financial attacks. Anyone like that, that is caught like, we will use all government ministries [against them], just as we use them against criminals."

"Anyone who wants to identify with Gaza is welcome, I will put them on buses now that are headed there and I will help him get there [to Gaza]”


In the letter, Adalah's Legal Director, Dr. Suhad Bishara, argued that the directive severely violates the constitutional rights of freedom of expression of Palestinian citizens who seek to protest. Moreover, Adalah emphasized, the Police Commissioner lacks any authority to issue such a directive, as he does not have the legal authority to prohibit demonstrations in such an arbitrary and sweeping manner.


Adalah further argued that the Commissioner's statements are intended to intimidate and deter Palestinian citizens who wish to protest by making threats of initiating "economic sanctions", and other sanctions, against them. Adalah stressed that the commissioner's statements, which use racist and provocative language, establish that the Israeli Police consider protests against Israel’s attacks on Gaza to be illegitimate, and imply that the appropriate response to such protests is the transfer of Palestinian citizen -protestors, and others who express solidarity with the people in Gaza,  by bus to Gaza.


The Commissioner's statements seek to delegitimize any protest in solidarity with the the Palestinian people in Gaza and thus, they can be used to justify the use of illegal and dangerous means to disperse protests, which could lead to heightened police brutality against protesters, and potentially to injuries and even loss of life, Adalah argued.


Adalah commented:


"The Police Commissioner’s illegal directive, along with his racist and inflammatory comments, reaffirm the Israeli Police’s perception of Palestinian citizens of Israel as enemies. The directive is part of a wider and unlawful crackdown on the freedom of speech of Palestinian citizens that accompanied the start of the war, the repercussions of which include widespread arrests, expulsions from Israeli universities, and job terminations. The Commissioner’s statements as made  in the video, and intended specifically for an Arabic-speaking audience, aim to deter legitimate political protest against Israel’s war crimes in Gaza. They may also serve to justify the use of brutal force against protesters by police officers and armed civilians, which may in turn result in casualties. Even during wartime, Palestinian citizens of Israel have the right to express solidarity with the people of Gaza and to express their national identity.”

Photo taken from a video posted on the official Arabic Twitter account of the Israel Police.