On February 23, 2022, ACRI petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Police Commissioner, Jerusalem District Commander, and State Attorney, demanding an end to the harassment of demonstrators carrying the Palestinian flag. In the petition, ACRI explicitly calls for an end to the confiscation of Palestinian flags in Jerusalem at large, and particularly during the weekly protest in Sheikh Jarrah. Moreover, we requested that an investigation be opened regarding an incident that began with waving a Palestinian flag and resisting its confiscation, which is contingent on approval from the State Attorney.
The petition includes many videos from recent years that present the police practice of chasing after the flag – whether it’s carried by demonstrators, flown alongside homes, worn decoratively, or represented through a bundle of balloons in the colors of the flag. The petition maintains that the persecution of the flag and demonstrators, sometimes violently and through depriving them of their liberty, violates the right to freedom of expression, thought, and the identity of Palestinian residents of the city.
The petition indicates that the Supreme Court has already deemed in many rulings that the right to expression must not be restricted, unless there is near certainty of a grave and genuine threat to public safety. Yet the police disregard these legal provisions. Such police conduct exhibits an unacceptable policy whose sole purpose is to remove the flag from the public sphere even when there isn’t the slightest concern for public safety. This conduct also stands in contrast to the Attorney General’s guidelines, who declared that no sweeping actions should be taken to remove Palestinian flags or prosecute those who wave them.
On November 7, 2022, the High Court of Justice rejected the petition, noting the State's response that the police are working to refresh the instructions of the Attorney General among the police officers in the field, according to which it is permissible to restrict the flag and those using it only in extreme cases when there is a tangible fear that its hoisting will lead to a serious violation of the public peace.
Court Ruling, 7.11.2022
ACRI's Appeals Following the Court's Ruling
Since the protest against the legal coup broke out in December 2022, the police have resumed a pattern of systematic and ongoing harassment against the flag and those who wave it. On April 4, 2023, we appealed to the Commissioner, requesting that he act to implement and refresh the Attorney General’s instructions regarding the Palestinian flag among police, in accordance with their commitment in the petition.
Police Response 30.4.2023
On April 19, 2023, we appealed to the mayor of Tel Aviv, after a municipal inspector confiscated a Palestinian flag from a demonstrator, unauthorized.
Municipality's Response, 23.5.2023
On April 30, 2023, we appealed to the Attorney General, following the numerous cases in which police officers prohibited demonstrators from waving the flag or carrying signs on which it appears, both confiscating them and requiring individuals to identify themselves.
On July 17, 2023, we filed a second appeal to the Supreme Court against the Commissioner of Police, demanding that he instruct police officers to refrain from confiscating and banning Palestinian flags. In the appeal, numerous testimonies and videos were presented, indicating that despite the police's commitment to review procedures, the systematic confiscation of flags and banners continues in Haifa, Jerusalem, and sometimes in other settlements. The prohibition on waving the flag, often accompanied by police violence, occurs during mostly peaceful demonstrations, unrelated to the nature of the protest and without any apparent threat to public safety. Therefore, we requested the Commissioner to issue explicit written guidance allowing protesters to wave the Palestinian flag, stating that flag waving by itself does not imply affiliation with a terrorist organization or incitement to terror, in accordance with the legal adviser to the government's guidelines."
In the Supreme Court 5442/23 Abbas v. Commissioner of Israel Police
Verdict (Hebrew), 20.7.2023
The petitions and appeals were written with the assistance of the Field and Freedom of Protest Coordinator, Tehila Tahl, and the interns Eyal Luria Pardes, Ofek Azoulay, Lila Etar, and Hila Sharon.