Recent successive political events have impacted on the Palestinian population as a whole, including the Palestinian minority inside Israel. This began with the kidnapping and killing of the sixteen year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was taken by three Israeli settlers and brutally burnt alive. Events then subsequently intensified with Israel’s declaration of war on Gaza which over the course of a month resulted in approximately 2000 Palestinian deaths wiping out entire families and destroying whole neighborhoods through intense bombing raids.
Consequently, an uproar swept through Palestinian communities in both Israel and the West Bank which manifested itself in a series of spontaneous local protests as well as national demonstrations called for by the political parties, the follow-up committee and the youth movements. The majority of these demonstrations were unplanned and led by youths who were expressing their anger with the turn of political and social events and the increase in racism and discrimination on both a public and institutionalized level through the state. These demonstrations were not unique to a particular area, but spread to all regions where Palestinians reside inside Israel – in the Galilee, the Triangle and the Naqab (Negev).
Arrests – these demonstrations received a violent reaction from both the police and the wider Israeli population. The police forces responded with large scale continuous arrests, detaining over 800 Palestinian Israelis, a high proportion of whom were minors. The volume and speed of the arrests was phenomenal. During the week beginning 30 June, 40 people were arrested. By 7 July, the number of detainees had risen to 277 and by 10 July it had reached 378, of which dozens were indicted.
Manifestations of racism and incitement – The month of July saw a surge in racism and incitement against Palestinian citizens and leaders, by Israeli government figures and the population on the street. This included statements by the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman and his call to boycott Arab businesses that had declared a general strike in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Furthermore, Arab Knesset member, Haneen Zoabi (National Democratic Assembly) was summoned for questioning and suspended from participating in debates on the Knesset floor for six months after accusations of incitement. Discussions were also raised on revoking her parliamentary immunity and prosecuting her. Other Arab party leaders have similarly been targeted and summoned for questioning and/or arrested and sentenced to house arrest or banishment. For example, Raja Aghbarieh, a prominent Palestinian activist and leader in the Abnaa El Balad movement was brought in for questioning on charges of incitement and subsequently placed under house arrest; dozens of activists from the same party were also pursued. MK Mohammed Barakeh was also attacked and physically assaulted in the police station in Nazareth following a demonstration.
In addition to this, Arab citizens have not only received threats, but have been physically assaulted as a result of statements and writings they have made. The growing culture of racism and violence towards Arabs was evidenced in, and fuelled by, a surge of Facebook groups which were created by Israelis to pursue Arabs and demand revenge. Right-wing groups attacked joint Arab-Jewish demonstrations that took place in Haifa and Tel Aviv, and the police could not, or did not do enough to prevent it. Universities also sent messages to their students warning them against publishing statements which voiced criticism of the army and threatened potential disciplinary proceedings and police involvement (Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University). Others declared their full support for the military and their students who had been called up to serve in the army reserves (Carmel College, Haifa).
Arrests and Trials Characteristics
During the month of July 2014, more than 900 Palestinians from inside Israel were arrested based on the aforementioned events. Approximately half of those arrested were minors and many were subsequently indicted. The figures are as follows:
63 in the Naqab, including 11 minors, with 4 indictments;
122 in Jerusalem, including 28 minors, with 28 indictments;
122 in the North, including 29 minors, with 27 indictments;
81 in the Coastal region, which includes the Wadi Ara area, including 9 minors;
41 in Nazareth, including 18 minors, with 15 indictments.
The most worrying aspect of these large scale arrests is the fact that the defendants are mainly minors. Therefore, in addition to undergoing a harsh experience of detention and interrogation, their future will be affected by the opening of criminal cases against them.
Form of detention: violent and illegal practices and the targeting of public representatives.
The arrests were accompanied by oppressive and brutal practices by the police, whose actions fell outside of the law. For example, in a number of cases, minors were prevented from meeting with their parents and their lawyer. Adults and minors alike were also subjected to interrogation without the presence of a lawyer (or parent) as stipulated by the law. In addition, during the course of the interrogations, methods of psychological torture such as sleep deprivation were used as well as beatings and physical violence. Raids were conducted during the night by police who were accompanied by Special Forces, and interrogations continued late into the night, sometime using illegal techniques in order to entrap the youths, such as telling them, “If you want to be released, admit to throwing at least three stones, or tell us about the Molotov you threw”. Moreover, minors were randomly arrested from their homes. Following a large demonstration in Nazareth; some people were arrested who were not present at the demonstration or even in its vicinity. Individuals were also arrested before the demonstration began to prevent them from participating.
During a demonstration in Haifa, protesters were surrounded by police forces, beaten and physically prevented from dispersing, whilst not being informed that they had been arrested.
Charges: illegal gathering, property damage, assaulting police.
Through comparing the reports of individual cases, broad similarities can be seen and a pattern has emerged of grossly inflating the charges leveled at demonstrators. The majority of the charges included illegal gathering, property damage, assaulting a police officer, disrupting a police officer while carrying out his duties, blocking roads, igniting tires, causing damage to property, incitement, intimidation and rioting.
Sentences: Restrictions to prevent entry to certain towns and banishment, fines, indictments, and extension of detention.
The sweeping similarities between the charges and verdicts in the above cases suggest that the judges used a collective copy and paste approach in dealing with these individuals. Judicial proceedings and court deliberations have been characterized by imposing penalties and fines on the detainees and threatening them with indictments. In Nazareth, out of 40 detainees, 15 had charges filed against them, including 10 minors, which is an unprecedented high percentage! A large number of verdicts were banishments without a court hearing for one to two weeks. This is a new tactic, not previously used in this way and on this scale. Bail has been set at very high amounts (payable immediately), and in addition to this, defendants were ordered to provide a guarantor who was responsible for paying a further sum should they commit any further offense. Bail conditions commonly put defendants under house arrest and stipulated that they not participate in any illegal demonstrations for a certain period, averaging two months from the demonstration itself.
Emergency regulations and military practices.
In the Naqab (Negev), courts were permitted to use a military clause which allowed them to use security order no. 1651 (issued by the Military Governor in the West Bank) to extend the detention of 9 detainees from Beer ElSabe (Beer Sheva) on the charge of throwing rocks.
Also in the Naqab (Negev) the security forces were permitted to arrest and demand the banishment of a person based on the claim that they had entered a military zone. Prosecutors and police, in many cases, also relied on so-called secret evidence, which is mostly testimony from the Mista'arvim (units from the IDF and Israel Border Police in which officers are specifically trained to disguise themselves as Arabs in order to kill or capture Arabs) who were inserted amongst the demonstrators.