- thawra abukhdeir
Police Harassment of Demonstrators Waving the Palestinian Flag
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.