Crackdown on Freedom of Speech of Palestinian Citizens of Israel

Adalah is following hundreds of cases of persecution by law enforcement authorities and other Israeli institutions and is providing direct legal counsel in dozens of cases.

Since Saturday, 7 October 2023, Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as some Jewish Israelis who oppose Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, have experienced a severe crackdown on freedom of speech. The crackdown is the result of a widespread and coordinated effort among government offices, official Israeli institutions, and extremist right-wing groups, and has targeted Palestinian citizens and others who voice dissent against Israel’s actions in Gaza or express any support for the Palestinian people in Gaza. 


The assault on the free speech rights of Palestinian citizens is not a new phenomenon; since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Palestinians have been subjected to political persecution and campaigns of delegitimization, rooted in the state's view of all Palestinians as enemies. The current drastic crackdown constitutes discriminatory political persecution against Palestinian citizens on the basis of their national belonging, and emanates from rampant incitement, hatred, and delegitimization throughout Israeli society.


Adalah –  The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel is publishing this briefing paper, which outlines the various forms of  severe suppression and political persecution currently faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Adalah is working with the High Follow-up Committee of Arab Citizens of Israel to provide legal advice and assistance, is following hundreds of cases of persecution by law enforcement authorities and other Israeli institutions and is providing direct legal counsel in dozens of cases.


    CLICK HERE to read Adalah’s briefing paper 


In the paper, Adalah highlights the following areas of major concern:


Expulsion/Suspension of Students by Academic Institutions


As of 22 October 2023, Adalah is monitoring 89 cases and directly representing 74 Palestinian students enrolled in 25 Israeli universities and colleges facing disciplinary actions for expression on social media platforms. There have been dozens of cases in which Israeli universities and colleges have initiated disciplinary proceedings against Palestinian students, citizens of Israel, suspending and in some cases even expelling them, solely based on posts made on their personal social media accounts. In most of these cases, students merely expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza or quoted verses from the Quran, actions that lie well within the realm of freedom of expression and religion. These draconian actions were prompted by complaints received from politically far-right students' groups that targeted Palestinian students at their academic institutions and monitored their social media accounts.


Job Terminations, Suspensions and Demotions of Workers


Adalah and many other civil society organizations received reports of Palestinian employees, citizens of Israel, who have been suspended, demoted or terminated from their workplaces due to their social media posts and other expressions. Adalah has received reports from more than 50 Palestinian citizens who have been fired, demoted or suspended from their jobs in various sectors, including retail, hospitals, high-tech, and private companies.


Unlawful Arrests and Detentions


According to official data, the number of detainees exceeds 100 statewide, as of 15 October. Adalah has documented at least 80 arrests related to social media posts and 17 arrests at demonstrations, excluding arrests carried out in the Jerusalem District. Many of these arrests are undertaken with brutal force in the middle of the night, and without proper legal justification. 


These arrests, along with the inflammatory statements voiced by officials, as documented in Adalah’s paper, indicate that there is a concerted effort to politically persecute Palestinian citizens of Israel. These acts reveal a clear intention to implement the oppressive policies promoted by Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is outspoken in his racist views towards Palestinians.


Police’s Ban on Solidarity Protests


A new directive issued by the Police Commissioner unlawfully rejects permits for demonstrations in support of the Palestinian people in Gaza. Such actions infringe the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Adalah is pursuing legal action against this order.


Suppression of Speech by Palestinian Lawyers


The Israeli Bar Association has threatened to take disciplinary action against lawyers who publish content on social media perceived as "incitement to violence". These threats aim to deter Palestinian lawyers from expressing their opposition to Israel's actions in Gaza.


Incitement against Members of Knesset, Representatives of Palestinian Political Parties


There has been a surge in incitement against Members of Knesset who represent Palestinian political parties, including statements by government officials. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has publicly announced plans to submit a proposal aimed at expelling MKs “who support terrorism.” The Knesset’s Ethics Committee also suspended MK Ofer Cassif, a Jewish Israeli representative of the Hadash/Jabha political party, for his comments in an interview.