Incitement Remarks by the Chief of Police, Yaakov Shabtai, Against the Arab Community
On October 17, 2023, the Israeli police published a video on three social media platforms managed by the police in the Arabic language (Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok). In the video, the Chief of Police, Yaakov Shabtai, said:
"We are in a state of war. From our perspective, the directives are clear - zero tolerance for any events. No riots, not from the media, not from doctors, not from singers [referring to cases of Arabs previously arrested]. There is no approval for holding demonstrations, and the district here [Southern District, the Southern Command] has proven that it handles it at a high level. We are not in a situation where we start allowing all sorts of people to come and deal with us. In other words, the threshold for dealing with the issue of zero tolerance is very high. I have also given instructions to employ economic measures against criminals, meaning economic attacks. We take action against anyone who is caught in this way, just as we do against criminals. Anyone who wants to be a citizen of the State of Israel is welcome, and anyone who wants to identify with Gaza is welcome. I will put them on buses that are heading there right now, and I will help them get there." The video was accompanied by the sentence (in Arabic): "Chief of Police, Yaakov Shabtai: Anyone who wants to show solidarity and support for Gaza is welcome to get on buses going there now."
Following these comments, which constitute explicit incitement and threats against the Arab community, we appealed to the Attorney General and the Head of the Department of Internal Police Investigations with a request to initiate a criminal investigation against the Chief.
In our appeal, we also asked the Attorney General to instruct him regarding the restrictions applicable to the police. In our appeal, lawyers Gadeer Nicola, Director of the Arab Society Department, and Oded Feller, Director of the Legal Department, wrote: "The Chief of Police, who is responsible for the law enforcement in the state, knows well that an expression like 'identifying with Gaza' does not in itself constitute a criminal offense. The Chief also knows that protests are not prohibited even during wartime, and he has no authority to waive this right. Thus, the Chief's statements, as well as the sentence published by the police and accompanying the video in various posts, were intended to instill fear in the Arab citizens and to deter them from any form of expression, even one that identifies with the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza and their plight."
In our appeal, we pointed out that the Chief's words convey to all the policemen a policy of letting loose and an open invitation to pursue any expression and any publication on social media platforms. Furthermore, we emphasized the severity of the Chief's racist statement about buses to Gaza and noted that this is not the first time that Chief Shabtai has expressed racist positions and contempt for the Arab community. Statements of a similar nature against Arab citizens that convey they are potential enemies and are dependent on the state are prohibited in general and certainly when they are heard from a public figure.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel's appeal, October 19, 2023 (Hebrew).