Home » ‘Democratic margins’ get even thinner in ’48 Palestine – breaking news

‘Democratic margins’ get even thinner in ’48 Palestine – breaking news

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‘Democratic margins’ get even thinner in ’48 Palestine – breaking news

Even within its pre-1967 borders, Israel was never a democracy. Palestinian political expression was always persecuted. The first Palestinian political movement within the areas that were occupied by Israel in 1948, the Al-Ard (“The Land”) movement, was outlawed in 1964, and its leaders were arrested and exiled. Abna al-Bald, a leftist grassroots movement, succeeded in existing stubbornly on the margins, with its activists and leaders going in and out of prison. The most prominent Palestinian intellectual and political leader, Azmi Bishara, was forced into exile by trumped-up accusations of espionage. The most popular political movement over the last three decades, the “northern” Islamic movement, led by Sheikh Raed Salahwas outlawed in November 2015, and its activists were arrested for such actions as organizing travel to pray in al-Aqsa Mosque.

With all this repression, Israel tried to keep a semblance of democracy, mostly for international public relations. For this purpose, they allowed the participation of some Arab or Arab-Jewish parties in the Knesset under the election law, which obliges every party willing to take part to support the nature of Israel as a Jewish state. With the strengthening of overtly fascist parties and their prominent role in Israeli-Jewish politics, public opinion, and the state apparatus, many ask how thin margins for “tolerated” Palestinian political activity may survive.

We are now finding out. The latest war on Gaza has provided an opportunity for the police, under ultra-rightist minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, to launch an all-out repressive campaign against the Arab population and against any expression of opposition to the mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza. While ten days ago, I reported on how there is some disagreement within the regime concerning how far to go with this oppression, the last week showed that the push to destroy the small democratic margins that remain is still in full swing.

‘McCarthyite persecution’ of Hadash

There is nothing new with the Israeli police using gangster methods to prevent freedom of expression when they do not have legal grounds to act. I remember the 2018 inauguration of a book by Palestinian prisoner and writer Walid Daqqa, from Baqa al-Gharbiyye (in the Triangle). At the time, the police threatened the owners of all wedding halls in the area that if they would rent their place for the book’s inauguration, their hall would be closed. In the end, Daqqa’s family held the event in their private home. Now years later, and using similar threats against a hall’s owners, the police succeeded in preventing an Arab-Jewish public meeting against the war in Gaza, which had to take place on October 26 in Haifa at the invitation of the High Follow Up Committee, the united leadership of ‘48 Palestinians.

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On December 6, Hadash (an Arab-Jewish front around the Israeli Communist Party) announced that the police were trying to prevent them from holding an emergency conference to discuss the political situation that was set for December 16. It was not so surprising that the police threatened the owners of the hall in Shefa’amer (a Palestinian town in the Galilee, just east of Haifa) that their hall would be closed. But using this tactic against a “private event” of Hadash can be seen as an escalation in the repression, as Hadash is the oldest, most established, and most cautious political party active within the ‘48 Palestinian population.

The police claimed that they knew in advance that there would be speeches against the war and against government policy that would constitute incitement and danger to public safety at the conference.

On December 6, Hadash published the following announcement on its Facebook page:

“An emergency session of the leadership of the Communist Party and the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality convened this Wednesday evening to discuss our response to the intimidating steps taken by the Ben-Gvir police today, to thwart the holding of the National Council of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality…

The Front Council would be held on time, with the location to be decided later. We call on all cadres to mobilize against the targeting of the party and the front for their role in the political battle.

We call on all Arab, Jewish and international anti-fascist movements and cadres to protest the McCarthyite persecution. The Israeli establishment suppress any voice opposing the aggressive war and acts to establish an obscurantist fascist regime. The right-wing government began with this oppressive scheme before the outbreak of war and uses it to accelerate its aggression against the already fragile democracy.”

Even a small vigil is not allowed

Another step toward complete dictatorship was taken this week by the Bagatz, Israel’s self-proclaimed “High Court of Justice.” Since October 7, the High Follow Up Committee has been trying to find a legal way to express the solidarity of ‘48 Palestinians with their suffering sisters and brothers in Gaza. They called for a vigil in Al-Ein (the spring) square in Nazareth on November 9 and promised the police in advance that there would not be more than 50 participants, yet the police prevented them from demonstrating by detaining 6 of the organizers before the vigil even began. They tried again to hold a vigil in the same place on November 23 but called off the vigil as police forces flooded the square, and it was clear that any attempt to demonstrate would be suppressed.

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Previous attempts to ask for a license for anti-war demonstrations in Arab towns were refused by the police on the grounds that they did not have enough personnel to keep public order in such events. But small vigils, according to the law, do not require a license and never involve any “disturbance” of public order. The Follow Up Committee and Adalah turned to the state’s Attorney General office and requested her to instruct the police to enable, at least, the holding of a small vigil. The answer was that the police were responsible for keeping public order, and the attorney general (or her staff) did not find it necessary to intervene with their considerations.

On November 30, Mohammad Barakehthe secretary of the High Follow Up Committee, together with Adalah, appealed to the Bagatz against the systematic prevention of the right to hold anti-war vigils. It happened that in the Bagatz, out of the three judges that heard the case, two (David Mintz and Noam Sohlberg) were themselves settlers from illegal settlements in the West Bank. They rejected all the claims in the appeal, declared that the Follow Up Committee did not do enough to prove to the police that, in their intended vigil, they would not perform any offense, and added that there was no urgency for the organizers to demonstrate, as their demonstration could always be postponed. In some of their arguments, the judges even undermined (though not clearly negated) the basic right to protest about issues concerning the state’s foreign and security policy.

Tel Aviv police say no to Human Rights Day commemoration

Several Human Rights NGOs plan to hold a vigil in Tel Aviv to commemorate International Human Rights Day tomorrow, December 10.

A similar coalition of NGOs tried to hold a similar vigil in Tel Aviv on International Children’s Day (November 20) with a call to protect children on all sides at the time of war. At the time, as we reported here, the police demanded that they apply for a license, even though such a vigil does not require licensing. After they obliged, the police refused to grant the license and prevented the vigil from happening.

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Faced again with a police demand to apply for a license, the organizers of tomorrow’s vigil refused and applied for the Bagatz to instruct the police not to prevent the vigil. The hearing was set for tomorrow morning (Sunday, December 10). They still hope to be able to hold the vigil in the afternoon.

Fascist march is allowed (and turns into a riot)

Well, not all requests for demonstrations are refused. The same police allowed a far-right group, led by Barukh Marzel, to organize a provocative march through Arab East Jerusalem on Thursday, December 7. As stated above, the police have justified preventing Palestinian protests, however muted, by saying they do not have the necessary resources to keep public order. However, when it came to this clearly provocative march, in the most sensitive and explosion-prone area, they were happy to find and mobilize their forces.

The demonstration was specially designed to march the most provocative path, through Damascus Gate (popularly known as Bab Al-Amud), the main entrance to the old city that is the center of Palestinian social and commercial life, continuing through the market and the “Muslim Quarter” of the city. The police did not even wait for the fascists to come, but started terrorizing the local population in advance, ordering shops to close, and threatening against any expression of local protest.

In the end, the mob did not wait until it reached the old city and started rioting while participants were still gathering for the march. Some of them accused Ben-Gvir, the ultra-right “National Security” minister who controls the police, of “giving up to Hamas” and not being forceful enough in repressing Palestinians. The police dispersed them on the spot.

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