Police policy to ban display of the Palestinian flag
1. Waving the Palestinian flag during a demonstration
2. Waving the Palestinian flag at a high school graduation party
3. Appeal to the Deputy Attorney General and the State Attorney
Waving the Palestinian flag during a demonstration
On January 4, 2021, we appealed to the legal adviser of the Israel Police, following the arrest of a demonstrator who waved the Palestinian flag during the weekly demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, which takes place in protest of the eviction of local families from their homes. The appeal provides additional examples of incidents in which the Jerusalem District Police erased graffiti of the flag, demanded its removal, confiscated flags, and carried out arrests of flag-waving demonstrators.
Attorney Reut Shaer claimed in the petition that the Jerusalem District Police’s consistent and undeclared policy to prohibit the display of the flag within the city, is illegal and contravenes the ruling regarding the restriction of freedom of expression and the enforcement policy put forth by the Deputy Attorney General. We further claimed that it is not the role of the police to censor political expression – even if they are controversial, as that would constitute a disproportionate violation of the core of freedom of expression.
In response, the police stated that they are acting in accordance with the Attorney General’s instructions on the matter, and examine the potential risk inherent in waving the flag in each case. They further alleged that in the cases described in our appeal, the commanding officers believed that there was genuine concern for disruption of the public peace, and thus prevented their display.
Waving the Palestinian flag at a high school graduation party
On July 1, 2021, we appealed to the commander of the Moriah Police Station and the head of the Police Internal Investigations Department, demanding the closure of investigation files opened for three high school students from East Jerusalem, one of whom was still a minor, who waved the Palestinian flag at a graduation performance of the school in which they studied. The performance took place in a closed auditorium, solely in the presence of parents and students. The three were interrogated, photographed, had their fingerprints taken, and were released on NIS 5,000 bail.
In her appeal, Attorney Tal Hassin wrote that the interrogation of the girls in suspicion of disturbing public order due to waving the flag at a high school graduation party, displays a new absurd peak in police harassment of the freedom of expression of Palestinians living in Israel – along with their right to national and group identity – through abuse of police powers, improper use of tools of incrimination, and the exercise of unreasonable discretion.
Attorney Hassin upheld the Attorney General's guidelines, according to which waving the Palestinian flag is not a criminal offense, and on the balancing formula established by the High Court of Justice time and time again, according to which freedom of expression may solely be restricted when there is near certainty of a grave and serious violation of public order or public peace – which was clearly not the case in these circumstances. We demanded the closure of the investigation files against the girls, and the deletion of the incident and their means of identification from police databases.
Appeal to the Deputy Attorney General and State Attorney
Due to the numerous cases in which police banned demonstrators from waving Palestinian flags, in turn confiscating flags, sometimes detaining, arresting, or interrogating the flag-wavers, severely violating their right to expression and identification, we appealed to the Deputy Attorney General and the State Attorney on August 22, 2021. In the appeal, Attorney Tal Hassin requested that opening an investigation on waving a Palestinian flag should require the approval of the State Attorney. We further requested that the police be instructed that the confiscation of a flag, item of clothing, or object on which the flag is stamped, as well as the ban on waving it, must require the approval of a senior officer, at the rank of district commander, at least. We wrote that these measures are necessary to prevent improper use of police authority and to understand the discretion of the police on the ground.