This policy paper was written in the aftermath of the serious events that transpired at the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh, which apart from hitting a new moral low highlighted the need for a specific amendment of the law.
Abu-Akleh, a journalist for the Al-Jazeera channel, was killed by gunfire on 11 May 2022 while reporting on clashes and fire exchanges between Israeli troops and armed Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp. The question of who is responsible for her death remains in dispute, and both Israel and the Palestinians have launched separate investigations into the circumstances of her killing. Her funeral on Friday, 13 May 2022, set out from St. Joseph’s Hospital in East Jerusalem to Mount Zion Cemetery in the Old City. Due to her renown as a journalist who covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for many years, her status as a Palestinian national symbol, and the circumstances of her death, thousands joined the funeral procession, some of them waving Palestinian flags. Media reports of the massive event show that Israel Police’s Jerusalem District officers on the scene used batons to forcibly disperse the mourners. They beat people in the legs, used riot control gear, and even attacked the pallbearers until they almost fell to the ground. Moreover, police officers reportedly went to Abu-Akleh’s home and demanded from family members to remove Palestinian flags hoisted on the house.
The violent dispersal of Abu-Akleh’s funeral soon became the top media story in Israel and around the world. Broadcast videos of the event indicate that the violence perpetrated by the police was partly related to the hoisting of Palestinian flags. The filmed documentation exposed people in Israel and around the world to the violent and provocative conduct of Israeli policemen toward the Palestinians in East Jerusalem who live in occupied territory annexed by Israel and have neither citizenship nor national or other rights. In addition, the event underscored Israel Police’s selective use of the dry letter of the law to ban the hoisting of the Palestinian flag. Under Article 82 of the Police Ordinance, flag hoisting may be banned if it is perceived to disrupt public safety. In practice, the law is enforced primarily in East Jerusalem, in Palestinian neighborhoods, and in demonstrations, amid violation of human rights and freedom of protest, and therefore should be deleted from the law books of the State of Israel.