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Four Former Arab Israeli Lawmakers Detained for Questioning by Police Over Plans for Anti-war Protest

12:00 Nov 9 2023 Nazareth (النَّاصِرَة נָצְרַת)

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Former Knesset member Sami Abu Shehadeh accompanied by police in Nazareth on Thursday. Published by Haaretz

Former Knesset member Haneen Zoabi, second from right, being detained by police on Thursday. Published by Haaretz

Israeli troops operating in Gaza. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit. Published by Haaretz
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The chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, former Knesset member Mohammad Barakeh, was questioned first, followed by three former Balad party MKs and director general on suspicion of organizing gathering that ‘could lead to incitement or harm public peace’

by Jack Khoury
Nov 9, 2023

Israel Police detained the chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, Mohammed Barakeh, for questioning on Thursday in connection with plans to organize a protest in Nazareth against the Israel-Hamas war.

Police later questioned three former Arab Knesset members from the Balad party, as well as the party’s director-general.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which consists of Arab Knesset members and representatives of political movements, local Arab authorities and civil society organizations, said the committee had planned to hold a protest at 11 A.M. in the center of Nazareth attended by a limited group of leaders of the monitoring committee and party representatives, by invitation only.

The police said Barakeh, a former Hadash party Knesset member, was questioned on suspicion of what they described as attempting “to organize a demonstration that is liable to lead to incitement and harm public peace, in violation of police directives.”

After questioning Barakeh, the police detained former Balad party lawmakers Haneen Zoabi, Sami Abu Shehadeh and Mtanes Shehadeh as well as the party’s director general, Yousef Tatur. They had come to the site of the planned gathering to protest against the war that erupted on October 7 following the string of terrorist attacks and abductions that Hamas carried out that day in Israeli border communities.

The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which is providing Barakeh legal advice, said that a day before, on Wednesday, it had informed the commander of the Nazareth police station of the plans for a protest to be attended by no more than 50 people. Barakeh said that the demonstration did not require a permit and asked the police not to interfere.

In a statement referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Hadash party called the detention of the former Knesset members “an assault by the Ben-Gvir-Netanyahu government on the authorized leadership of the Arab public aimed at arousing tension between Jews and Arabs and silencing voices calling for peace and a halt to the war.”

On Wednesday, the High Court of Justice denied petitions from Hadash and Adalah challenging a police ban on protests in the northern Arab towns of Sakhin and Umm al-Fahm against Israeli operations in Gaza. In its ruling, the court stated that “despite the lofty status of the right to protest and assemble, the complex reality in which we find ourselves affects how [rights are] balanced in this regard.”

Prior to the court’s decision in the case, the police informed the court that there was a near certainty that demonstrations might disturb public peace and security. The three-justice panel, Isaac Amit, Yael Willner and Ruth Ronen, accepted the claim by the police that they would have to deploy considerable manpower to maintain order in Sakhnin and Umm al-Fahm at a time when the north was threatened by ongoing rocket fire from Lebanon. The policing of the two demonstrations would come “at the expense of emergency lifesaving tasks,” the police said.

Justice Amit ruled, however, that any ban on a march or gathering had to be a last resort and said that the court had taken note that the police had committed to consider any request to hold a protest on its individual merits based on a current situation assessment at the time and place involved.

In a statement on Thursday, the Adalah Legal Center noted that the court’s ruling does not give the police sweeping authority to ban protests in the Israeli Arab community even during wartime. Adalah accused the police of acting “to silence any criticism and to suppress the freedom to demonstrate of Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel.” It called Barakeh’s arrest illegal and said that it was designed to prevent legal political activity.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel called the detention of the former lawmakers “a new and dangerous expression of the government’s unrestrained scathing attack on Arab society in general and its leadership in particular.” The police have no authority to ban the Nazareth protest, which did not require a permit, the group stated, “and certainly not to detain the leadership of the Arab community for questioning or arrest.”
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via Twitter/X

MK Aida Touma-Sliman
@AidaTuma
Nov 9, 2023
It appears we are under undeclared military rule. The arrest of Mohammad Barakeh, head of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, is an attack on the entire Arab population. We won't give up our right to protest and oppose the war.
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