From the start of the holy month of Ramadan, ACRI called upon Israeli authorities—from the Attorney General to the Chief of Police—to remove arbitrary police restrictions and deescalate the rising tensions in Jerusalem, already high because of the Sheikh Jarrah protests and impending High Court hearing.
On April 19, 2021, ACRI appealed to the Police Commissioner and Commander of the Jerusalem District to remove the barricades implemented at the Damascus Gate in the Old City, where Muslims traditionally gather to break their fast during Ramadan, and to curb the prevalent police violence in the area.
The violence unfolding within Israel in the past month occurred in this context and against the backdrop of decades of neglect, discrimination, brutality, and over-policing against Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories.
Hamas rockets rained over Israel in proclaimed response to the situation in Jerusalem, killing 12 civilians, and Israel’s retaliation in Gaza killed over 250 people. In the meantime, the unprecedented, reprehensible violence unfolding in Israel’s mixed cities highlights the polarization between Arabs and Jews, the unrest to come out of decades of discrimination and unequal allocation of resources, and the widening gap between communities that have seemingly lived side by side for generations. This disparity is especially stark when it comes to education and policing.
During this time, ACRI responded to the needs of the public through its Human Rights Education Department, providing educators nationwide with anti-racism pedagogic materials preparing them to present the situation unfolding outside of classrooms in Lod, Yaffa, Acre, Jerusalem, and on our news screens in a meaningful, constructive way.
ACRI continues to call on authorities to deescalate this highly volatile situation, and to educate Israel’s youth—many of whom are inciting violence via social media and on the streets—about democracy and anti-racism, as stipulated in the national education curriculum.
How has ACRI responded to the recent violence in “mixed cities”?
For five decades, ACRI’s legal, policy, and educational work has challenged Israel’s institutionalized racism, neglect, and discrimination. We have achieved a lot, but much remains to be done.
As unprecedented violence and civil unrest escalated from East Jerusalem throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the weeks following, ACRI protected the civil and political rights of the Arab minority and the general public by appealing to:
the Legal Advisor of the Israeli Police, to remove the checkpoints and barricades in Sheikh Jarrah that violate the freedom of movement and expression.
the Police Commissioner, against the use of skunk water and violent crowd control measures used by the Police against protesters throughout Israel, and especially in East Jerusalem.
the Attorney General, regarding the unlawful detainment of Arab residents as a method of deterrence and collective punishment following weeks of civil unrest. ACRI called on the authorities to cease the detainments immediately, to assess the arrests and police procedure up to this point, and to refine the police guidelines on the matter.
the Civil Service Commissioner and the Attorney General, along with Kav La’Oved, regarding the political persecution of Arab workers in the Ministry of Health, demanding refinement of guidelines to prevent witch-hunts of Arab civil servants for political speech and activities.
the Chief of Police about violent police officer conduct; including illegal stun grenade use in Sheikh Jarrah, Haifa, and Jaffa.
the Chief of Police, regarding acceptable police procedures during demonstrations.
the Attorney General, demanding that the General Security Service (Shin Bet) desist from sending threatening text messages to Arabs who worshipped at the al-Aqsa Mosque.
the Chief of Police and the Police Legal Advisor, demanding police desist from removing political signs from residential homes.
the Attorney General and Prime Minister, asking that they immediately and unequivocally make clear that all commanders and police are obligated to act in accordance with the law and are required to protect the well-being of all residents regardless of nationality.
the Minister of Defense, to cancel the declaration of a civil emergency and curfew in Lod, which was enacted outside the given legal authority, and to act in accordance with established police authority and powers to deal with disturbances.
ACRI filed a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Defense regarding the administrative detention orders issued against Arab protesters.
ACRI joined a letter with peer organizations calling for an Iron Dome to be placed in the Negev to protect unrecognized Bedouin villages, as well as to place temporary shelters in all Bedouin villages in the Negev regardless of their recognition status.
ACRI is filing a Freedom of Information request into the Israeli Police’s use of crowd control methods in East Jerusalem.
ACRI’s Human Rights Education department responded to educators and parents, providing anti-racism pedagogic tools and curricula during weeks of unprecedented inter-communitarian violence.
Now, as we look towards the future, ACRI is:
Appealing for adequate representation at all levels in local municipalities of mixed cities, including a review of guidelines for hiring Arabs to such postings.
Appealing and petitioning to preserve housing for Arab communities in mixed Jewish-Arab cities.
Appealing and petitioning about police conduct, both in terms of over-policing and violence as well as neglect regarding inter-Arab violence and crime.
Appealing about environmental and health hazards in industrial areas affecting Arab populations in mixed cities.
Ensuring protections and rights for Negev Bedouin, such as access to basic infrastructure (water and electricity), health and educational services, and shelter.