Court Releases 68-Year-Old Accused by Israeli Police of being a “Key Activist in Pro-Hamas Protests” Without Charge

A 68-year-old activist was arrested and later hospitalized during his detention, after police seized Palestinian flags and posters calling for release of Palestinian prisoners, which they presented as “incitement materials”. Ben-Gvir accused both the activist and the judge of being “internal enemies”

On 29 October, 2023, Israeli police arrested Yoav Bar, a 68-year-old resident of Haifa and a longtime activist advocating for Palestinians’ rights. The police spokesperson issued a public press release, published on the official Twitter Arabic account of the Israeli Police, stating that it had arrested what it described as a “key activist in protests that support and express solidarity with Hamas”. They also noted that they had “seized a significant amount of materials suspected of constituting incitement, such as posters, signs, and media related to security prisoners and terrorist organizations.” During his detention, Bar, who has a chronic medical condition, did not receive the necessary care, and his health deteriorated to the extent that he required hospitalization.


On 30 October, the police requested an extension of Bar’s arrest for five additional days. Adalah’s General Director, Attorney Dr. Hassan Jabareen, and Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany represented Mr. Bar at the Haifa Magistrates’ Court to object to the police’s extension request. 


    CLICK HERE to read the protocol of the court hearing


During the court hearing, Adalah’s legal team argued that the arrest was unlawful and requested that the court deny the extension request. They also argued that none of the materials seized during the arrest amounted to a criminal offense,  as affirmed by the Israeli Supreme Court in previous rulings. This material includes Palestinian flags and posters advocating for the release of Palestinians classified as “security prisoners” by Israel. Adalah further argued that the questions that police asked during Bar’s interrogation about his political views - such as "What are your thoughts on the war?" and "Do you support Hamas?" - were political in nature and unrelated to the alleged offense, and as such prohibited during police interrogations. These questions underscore the inherently political nature of his arrest and interrogation.


The police stated during the hearing that they sought to continue detaining Mr. Bar for potential interrogation concerning additional, unspecified, offenses. In response, Adalah argued that detaining a 68-year-old who required hospitalization for purposes of possible further interrogation was inhumane.


At the court hearing, the judge decided to release Mr. Bar  without condition and ruled that the accusations made by the police did not constitute a criminal offense, since the alleged offense pertains to conduct in a public space, while the materials in question were seized from Bar’s home. During the hearing, the judge also implied that the arrest had been conducted illegally since the officers did not have an arrest warrant, but only a search warrant, and there was no justification for his arrest in the absence of a relevant warrant. 


Later that day, far-right, openly-racist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir posted the following comments on his official Twitter account


​​In the home of the terror supporter Yoav Bar, “a central activist in the protests which support and sympathize with Hamas,” a large amount of incitement material was discovered, such as posters, signs, flags, and media related to security prisoners and terrorist organizations. The police arrested him and claimed before the court that Bar is suspected of “behavior that could endanger public peace”. However, all of this was not enough for Judge Ihsan Kanaan‎ [a Palestinian citizen of Israel], who decided to release him during wartime. This is what internal enemies look like. Shame.


Ben-Gvir, along with other government officials, has consistently labeled Palestinian citizens of Israel as “internal enemies”. This kind of rhetoric lays the groundwork for justifying the use of extreme, oppressive measures against Palestinian citizens of Israel.


The arrest, along with Ben-Gvir’s inflammatory comments, is part of a larger campaign of arrests of Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as some Jewish Israelis who oppose Israel’s war crimes in Gaza for speech-related offenses. Adalah is monitoring over 170 cases of criminal proceedings throughout the state, including arrests, interrogations, and “warning talks” by the police or Shin Bet security agency, all involving alleged speech-related offenses. These arrests constitute one aspect of a broader crackdown on the speech of Palestinian citizens, which has been in effect since 7 October, with the clear aim of suppressing any dissent to Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.


CLICK HERE to read more in Adalah’s briefing paper Crackdown on Freedom of Speech of Palestinian Citizens of Israel


Photo taken from the police’s official Twitter Arabic account