Israeli Police Impose Sweeping Ban on Demonstrations Against Offensive on Gaza

Police carried out illegal arrests following protests against Israel’s war crimes against civilians in Gaza. Adalah: Directive by Israeli Police Commissioner to prohibit protests is illegal and incites against the Palestinian Citizens of Israel.

Demonstrations against Israel’s offensive on Gaza were dispersed with brutal force by Israeli police in Haifa and in the Palestinian town Umm al-Fahm over the past two days. The police so far arrested 17 people, including minors. These events followed a directive by the Israeli Police Commissioner to reject all permits for demonstrations in support of the Palestinian people in Gaza. This policy was detailed in a statement Commissioner Yaacov Shabtai made on 17 October 2023, during a briefing in the northern district of the Police, where he also stated "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]”. A video of the Commissioner's briefing was  posted by the Israeli Police on its social media platforms in Arabic, emphasizing the aforementioned comment. In response, 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 more about the video and Adalah’s letter


This directive materialized in a demonstration in Haifa against Israel’s war crimes in Gaza on the following day (18 October 2023). Hours before the planned protest, the police issued a clarification to the media, clarifying that the demonstration did not have a permit, and that the police "will not allow any demonstration of support or identification with the Hamas terrorist organization, or on matters of foreign and security policy, and will take a firm hand, subject to the law, to disperse the demonstration, including using mass dispersal measures as required." Adalah sent an urgent letter to Haifa police, arguing that this decision is illegal and that, according to Israeli law, the protest does not require a permit.


However, before the protest was set to begin dozens of officers arrived at the scene, declared the protest unlawful and used brutal force to arrest five demonstrators who refused to leave the site. At the Police station, Adalah attorneys were told that the detainees will be held overnight in accordance with direct orders from the commissioner. Adalah represented these protesters, and ultimately, the Haifa court ordered their release a day later. In light of these developments, Adalah sent a follow-up letter to the Deputy Attorney General, Gil Limon, demanding immediate intervention and cancellation of the commissioner's directive.


CLICK HERE to read Adalah’s letter of 18 October 2023 to the Haifa Police [Hebrew]

CLICK HERE to read the protocol of the court hearing [Hebrew]


Yesterday (19 October 2023), Israeli police spokesperson, Eli Levy further stated in a radio interview, that  "Anyone who dares, in their extreme audacity, to seek approval for holding a demonstration in support of Gaza or a Nazi terrorist organization that committed a Holocaust here – we will arrive and will not allow it. Those who dare to protest without permission – we will reach and deal with the demonstration by all means... Anyone who dares to step out and utter a single word in praise of Gaza will be behind bars."


The Commissioner and spokesperson’s statements seek to delegitimize any protest in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and thus, they can be used to justify the use of illegal and dangerous means to disperse protests. This, in turn, could lead to increased police brutality against protesters, resulting in potential injuries and even loss of life. Adalah is currently pursuing legal action against this order. 


Also on 19 October 2023, residents of Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian city in the Wadi Ara region in Israel, were attacked during a protest against Israel’s ruthless attack on Gaza that has caused thousands of civilian casualties. Israeli police violently dispersed the protest, chased after the protesters to arrest them, used violent and dangerous means to disperse the legitimate and non-violent protest, including the reported use of rubber bullets and stun grenades, and arrested 12 protesters. Today, on October 20, the Israeli Police sought the extension of the detention for 11 demonstrators, including 4 minors. Adalah, along with volunteer lawyers, represented the protesters before the Haifa Magistrates Court. The hearing was delayed for several hours, as the police did not bring the detainees to the court and failed to facilitate a video conference, which is required by the emergency regulations that are now in effect. Finally, the court abruptly ended the hearing of the detainees who were of age, due to the beginning of Shabbat, and did not hold any hearing for the minors. Nevertheless, the Court approved the extension of all 11 detainees until Saturday night in clear violation of their due process and fair trial rights. Adalah filed an appeal to the District Court, which was rejected, and filed a request to appeal to the Supreme Court. 


Adalah’s legal director, Dr. Hassan Jabareen:


The arrests the police carried out in the past two days were unequivocally illegal, and are a direct result of the Commissioner's illegitimate order to ban lawful protests and his inflammatory and racist statements. The arguments of the Police in court reaffirm that the basis for these arrests is a false accusation of "supporting of terrorism,” which the police associate with any criticism of the Israeli offensive or any expression of solidarity with the civilian population in Gaza. The entire police force is currently being mobilized for the supremacist objectives of National Security Minister Ben-Gvir, to whom the police is subservient, with the goal of labeling all Palestinian citizens as enemies. The court in Haifa has also played its part in this effort by approving the extension of this unlawful detention, while denying the detainees their freedom and the opportunity to defend themselves and address the accusations.