Adalah & JLAC: Order to close Palestinian businesses following stabbing attack is vengeful collective punishment

Israeli police shuttered Arab-owned businesses in East Jerusalem following stabbing attack, despite not having warrants or other legal authorization.

Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) sent a letter on 22 September 2016 to Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, and Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, calling on them to halt further implementation of policies of vengeful collective punishment forcing the closure of Arab-owned businesses in East Jerusalem.


Adalah and JLAC sent the letter in response to Israeli police action following the 19 September 2016 stabbing attack on Sultan Suleiman Street in East Jerusalem. Following the stabbing, Israeli officers ordered the closure of Arab-owned businesses on Sultan Suleiman and Salah al-Din streets and in the Musrara area, threatening those business owners who refused with monetary fines.


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher and JLAC Attorney Mohammed Abu Sneineh wrote: "This is a policy with ulterior motivations intended to take vengeance upon and collectively punish local residents and business owners. This policy, first and foremost, stands in opposition to the tenets of administrative law obligating an administrative authority to refrain from taking action on the basis of ulterior political or racial considerations. The fact that only Arab owners were obligated to close their places of business, even though such [stabbing] incidents also take place in Jewish areas and communities and this policy is not applied there, increases the suspicion of discriminatory enforcement according to national/ethnic background."


The attorneys further stressed that the collective closure order was also a violation of the business owners' constitutional rights.


"This policy results in severe economic hardship for owners and the closure of their businesses constitutes a severe harm to their constitutional right to freedom of employment, in contravention of Israel's Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, and of relevant court rulings. In addition, a vengeful collective obligation such as this, which places a stain on all the area's residents and imposes upon them a baseless element of suspicion that they are involved in the incident, constitutes a severe humiliation that violates the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty."


In addition, Adalah and JLAC emphasized that the closure of Arab-owned businesses was carried out without any legitimate authority and in contravention of international laws relevant to the concerned area.


"The obligation to close businesses was carried out without authority, and the police officers did not have any warrant or other legal source authorizing their actions. Such an obligation is also a violation of international law and its associated legal rulings, which determine that an occupying power may not hinder the daily business and economic activities of the civilian population except in exceptional circumstances of military necessity, which was not the case here," the organizations emphasized.


Adalah and JLAC therefore demanded Israeli authorities refrain from all future use of this policy of vengeful collective punishment.


READ: Adalah & JLAC joint letter (Hebrew)


(File photo of mounted Israeli police officers in East Jerusalem / Tal King/Flickr Creative Commons)