21 Israeli Arabs Arrested During Haifa Protest Against Gaza Killings

Dozens participated in the protest, in which many were carrying Palestinian flags; head of NGO advocating for Arab citizens' rights claims police attacked him while detained

Police officers during the protest in Haifa's lower city commercial area, May 18, 2018
Israeli Police Spokesperson's Unit

Twenty-one Israeli Arabs protesting the killing of Gazans were arrested Friday in the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Dozens participated in a demonstration in the city's lower commercial area. Police said those arrested were suspected of public disorder offenses. Protesters held up Palestinian flags, according to reports.

The organizers of the demonstration, a group of young activists, decided to hold it without a permit. The call to protest was spread across social networks, and its exact location was given two hours before it started. Some activists were warned prior to the protest not to participate in it, according to the organizers. One of the activists was interrogated last week after a similar protest and was sent home for a three-day house arrest.

Police said it will let the demonstration "continue and allow the public to fulfill the right to protest and free speech, in accordance to the caveats and instructions of the law, but will prevent any attempt to disrupt the public order and endanger the safety and security of the public."

One of the activists who was detained during the protest is the CEO of the Mossawa Advocacy Center For Arab Citizens In Israel, Jafar Farah. Farah's relatives and Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, accused the police Saturday of breaking his leg while he was under arrest. The police said they cannot provide details about his medical condition, but that the case will be looked into.

In a video from the scene, Farah can be seen being escorted away from the protest by policemen. On Saturday, he was hospitalized in Haifa. Police said that "one of the detainees was taken to a checkup at the hospital after he claimed he was injured in his leg," and the Bnei Zion hospital in the city confirmed that Jafar was hospitalized but said that due to medical immunity, more details regarding his condition could not be disclosed.

Chairman of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, who met the detainees at the police station said "police forces brutally oppressed the protest without any explanation. Netanyahu's government wants to silence any voice of resistance and dissent coming from here, to silence any voice that embarrasses it and its actions. I am full of appreciation for the protesters tonight and the immense sacrifice of the detainees. No police brutality will succeed in silencing us."

MK Aida Touma-Suleiman (a member of Hadash, one of the parties making up the Joint List) also spoke up against the arrests of participants in Friday's demonstration, saying that "the attempts to scare and silence people will fail again!"

"The violence exerted on protesters was unchecked. Interrogators continued to beat up the detainees after they were arrested without any explanation or justification. As a result, some of them were injured. Jafar Farah's leg was broken. All this happened while they postponed the detainees' meeting with a lawyer and withheld medical care from them, all in order to prevent the documentation of the recklessness with which the police behaved," she said.

MK Touma-Suleiman also called for the opening of an investigative committee that would look into the police's conduct in those arrests.

Jafar Farah getting arrested at a Haifa protestHaaretz/ YouTube

In a statement released in response to the arrests, Adalah said the police dealt with the demonstration “like a war.” Adalah accused the police of closing in on the demonstrators, beating and arresting those who attempted to escape, and denying detainees from meeting with lawyers for over an hour after their arrest.

“All the detainees were handcuffed for the entire night and kept sitting on the police station floor. Many of them experienced serious bruising to their wrists. Adalah considers these arrests to be illegal, as the police violence in Haifa was unprecedented and unprovoked,” the group wrote, calling for the release of the detainees.

Around 1,000 Gazans gathered Friday around the Israel-Gaza border for the eighth weekly protest in the "March of Return." Dozens got close to the fence, burning tires and threw rocks. Israel Defense Forces responded with tear gas and occasional gunfire. 56 were wounded in the protest, 25 of which by live gunfire, the Gaza Health Ministry reported.

The UN Human Rights Council on Friday called for an international inquiry into the state of human rights in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Jerusalem blasted the decision and the council as being biased against Israel.