Israel’s police has drawn up new regulations restricting the rights to civil protests, with those who break them committing “criminal offences”.
Despite the Israeli High Court of Justice having permitted the holding of demonstrations of any size without the necessity for a permit two years ago, police are exploiting a loophole in which the term “protest event” will be used. This concept, which has not been mentioned in Israeli law until this day, consists of a demonstration of more than 50 people “aimed at expressing an idea, protest or message,” a vague and general description which can apply to any prominent rally.
Under the new regulations imposed by police, gatherings and marches of over 50 people will require a permit to be allowed to proceed, and even smaller gatherings will be subject to restrictions under the Police Ordinance. This would give police authorisation to set conditions on organisers, and if no organisers are identified, to unilaterally impose conditions themselves. The organisers would be obligated to meet the required conditions, with violation being “considered a criminal offense”.
Police are also staking their claim on the imposition of the regulations on the court’s ruling which said police are authorised “to impose, in advance or retroactively, restrictions on demonstrations and marches that it believes are almost certain to endanger public safety.”
The regulations and the circumventing of the High Court ruling were originally updated in June this year, but were revealed following a freedom of information request filed by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. The move by police signals the further deterioration of democratic values in Israel, causing the Jewish state to not only target the Palestinian Arab population – both within its borders and in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip – but also to target and limit other minorities living within its borders.
This comes at a time in which Israel has been rocked by a series of major protests including those held by the Druze community against the Nation-State Law, by Ethiopian Jews following the killing of an Ethiopian man and Haredim Jews against plans to force them to enlist in the army.