Adalah: Since the Beginning of the War, AG and State Attorney Permit Police's Violent Conduct Against Palestinian Citizens

The Attorney General’s office and the State Attorney’s office since 7 October has consistently failed to intervene in the political misuse of the police force and of the criminal procedure aimed at silencing Palestinian dissent.

Yesterday, 4 March 2024, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent a letter to Israel’s Attorney General (AG) Gali Baharav Miara and the State Attorney Amit Aisman arguing that the actions of their offices’ stifled freedom of expression and assembly for Palestinian citizens in Israel,  and demanding immediate action to amend these racist policies, Such policies include, racially-based enforcement of investigations, arrests, and prosecution for expressions on social media. Adalah also demanded the AG and the State Attorney instruct all officials in their offices and the Israel Police to act in accordance with the principle of the rule of law and equality before the law.


    CLICK HERE to read the letter [Hebrew]


In the letter, Adalah’s legal director, Dr. Suhad Bishara, and Adalah Attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi argue that since the beginning of the war, the AG and State Attorney allowed law enforcement to engage in violent and criminal conduct against Palestinian citizens of Israel, violating fundamental principles of the rule of law. This criminal conduct involves the police's severe suppression of Palestinian citizens' freedom of assembly, along with their widespread arrests and prosecutions based on Palestinians' expressions on social media platforms.


Adalah argued that since 7 October, the AG has supported and consistently failed to intervene in the police's near-complete ban on Palestinian protests, adopting their racist justifications for the suppression of protests and blatantly disregarding its office’s duty to uphold the rule of law and protect Palestinians' right to freedom of assembly. 


Adalah highlighted a series of instances illustrating the AG's policy, including its complete lack of action against the Police Commissioner's racist and inflammatory statements featured in a video posted on 17 October 2023 on the police's official Arabic TikTok account. In the video, the Police Commissioner issued an unlawful directive to deny all permits for demonstrations held in support of the Palestinian people in Gaza. Despite Adalah's urgent letter to the AG demanding the immediate cancellation of the Commissioner's illegal directive, noting that such statements could result in heightened police brutality against protesters and the use of illegitimate means to disperse them, the letter received no response. Moreover, Adalah emphasized the AG's endorsement of the police's racially-based justifications for denying requests to hold protests in Palestinian towns and villages. Several expert opinions by the police label entire Palestinian cities as “potentially inciting and identifying with terrorist acts” or unmistakably convey that all Palestinian citizens are considered enemies. Such opinions have been fully endorsed by the AG in legal proceedings. Adalah emphasized various instances where the AG and the State Attorney's office refrained from intervening in the police's decisions, asserting that these matters fall within the police's discretion. This lack of intervention effectively grants the police unchecked authority to violate the rights of Palestinian citizens to freedom of expression and assembly. Adalah argues that this implicates both the AG's office and the State Attorney's office, not only in disregarding the law, but also in endorsing the police's discriminatory and racist policies against Palestinian citizens.


Adalah further argued that AG’s office and the State Attorney’s office granted the police absolute discretion in investigating and prosecuting individuals for expression-related offenses. On a letter from 19 October, the Deputy State Attorney wrote, 

According to the directive of the State Attorney, an investigation should be initiated, indictments should be filed, and detention should be requested until the conclusion of all legal proceedings for anyone publishing statements expressing identification with a terrorist organization or publishing words of praise, support, or endorsement, or expressing solidarity with the heinous acts carried out against Israeli civilians and soldiers starting from 7 October, even if it involves a single publication…

This directive has resulted in a surge of arbitrary arrests targeting Palestinians – both citizens of Israel and residents of East Jerusalem – solely based on their expressions on social media platforms. In numerous cases, arrests were carried out on the grounds of erroneous translations or interpretations of posts, while in other instances, individuals were arrested for expressions that are well within the boundaries of speech protected by the freedom of expression and fall well below the threshold of a criminal offense. During arrests, many individuals were subject to various forms of brutality, including blindfolding, violent arrest raids carried out in the middle of the night, and humiliation. Suspected of expression-related offenses under the Counter-Terrorism law, they are classified as "security prisoners" and placed in security wings with extremely harsh conditions, including the confiscation of personal items, inadequate food provisions, and verbal and physical abuse.


According to Adalah, the State Attorney's directive and the police's policies are sweeping and unlawful, contradicting basic principles of criminal procedure that require the examination of each case based on its specific circumstances.


Furthermore, Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who holds direct authority over the police and Israeli prison services, has publicly expressed inciting and racist rhetoric against Palestinian citizens. Yet, there has been no adequate intervention by either the AG's office or the State Attorney's office. The minister shared pictures of Palestinian detainees at police stations against the backdrop of the Israeli flag, with the clear intention of humiliating them – including the disclosure of their names and personal details. Furthermore, he publicly labeled judges who released Palestinian detainees as “enemies from within”.


In light of the above, Adalah concluded that the actions of the AG's office and the State Attorney's office result in a policy of violations to the political rights of Palestinian citizens in Israel. This policy is compounded by their failure to address instances of incitement to violence against Palestinians and explicitly calls for genocide in Gaza. Such actions contradict international norms that mandate Israel to safeguard these rights and ensure the equal and non-discriminatory application of the rule of law.


Adalah’s Legal Director, Dr Suhad Bishara commented:


“Since 7 October, we have witnessed a deliberate policy led by the heads of law enforcement bodies, intended to serve a political goal -the suppression of any legitimate protest by Palestinian citizens within the context of the war in Gaza. This policy is based on racist assertions by the police acting on behalf of Minister Ben Gvir, and is characterized by labeling any identification with the Palestinian people in Gaza as support for terrorism. This politicization of the entire system has led to the illegal and unlawful use of the criminal procedure, which involves extreme violations of human and civil rights, while creating two distinct legal systems based on national identity. The Attorney General and State Attorney must unequivocally enforce the principles of the rule of law and equality before it.”



Photo: Shir Torem/Flash 90