The Legal Infrastructure for the Suppression of Protests and Demonstrations in Israel

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>> Click for a Summary of the Report in Arabic | لقراءة الملخّص باللّغة العربية ، اضغط هنا

>> Further Reading: Human Rights Index – February 2024 Survey 

This report, written as part of Zulat’s collaboration with the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and the Akevot Institute, shows that despite the importance that freedom of expression and protest hold for any democratic regime, their recognition and preservation in the State of Israel is based on rickety legal patchwork, which provides feeble and vague protections for the right to demonstrate and grants draconian powers to the police to enforce the law and use force against protesters. These powers have in part been translated into standing operating procedures that allow selective enforcement and use of force against protestors hailing from minority populations and disadvantaged groups in an arbitrary, political, and even racist manner, in addition to overenforcement toward demonstrators with political views in opposition to the government.

The report shows that this rickety patchwork is unsustainable, especially in light of the fact that in charge of the Israel Police is Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a man with anti-democratic views who is liable to abuse this system and, in the process, harm the principles of equality and of freedom of expression and protest. Following Amendment No. 37 to the Police Act-1971, approved upon the establishment of the current government in December 2022, he was given powers to interfere in the police’s work and apply selective enforcement to restrict the freedom of protest. The report presents examples of various instances where he abused his authority over the police and tried to limit or prevent anti-government demonstrations.

Despite court rulings offering a narrow interpretation of British Mandate-era legislation and bolstering the protections of freedom of protest, the police’s enforcement policy was uneven, selective, and arbitrary even before Ben-Gvir’s appointment. Moreover, even with most court rulings tilting in favor of freedom of protest, protesters whose rights are violated by the police cannot be expected to turn to the courts to obtain a legal interpretation of the specific circumstances of each demonstration where their rights were harmed.

The dangers inherent in law enforcement that is arbitrary and largely hinges on the conduct of the troops on the scene have grown more acute since the establishment of the current government, which has from day one promoted legislation aimed at weakening the judiciary.

The report reviews the existing legal infrastructure for the suppression of demonstrations in the light of the 2023 protests against the regime revolution, backed by examples (primarily from the last 20 years) that show how minorities and disadvantaged groups played a significant part in the ongoing struggle for the exercise of freedom of expression and protest in Israel.

In addition, the examples throughout the report illustrate how the police have continued to use the same anti-protest “tools,” both against minority and disadvantaged populations and against the so-called majority when they protest against the government. These tools, which are detailed in the report, include British Mandate-era legal provisions requiring a license for assemblies and marches, draconian and vague offenses contained in the Penal Law such as “illegal assembly” and “riot, profiling certain demonstrations as dangerous through the invocation of the police‘s powers to maintain “the public order, restrictive conditions for release from detention in the hands of the precinct’s commanding officer, the offense of obstructing a police officer in the performance of his duties, legal authority to prohibit the display of a flag, procedures that allow extensive use of crowd control measures to disperse demonstrations, etc.

Finally, the report includes Zulat-PCATI’s proposals for correcting the deficiencies in the existing legislative framework and improving the protections for freedom of protest, thereby making the use of force and enforcement powers no longer dependent on the identity of the minister in charge of the police and his worldview or on the discretion of police officers on the scene.


Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi


Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.


Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.


Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.



Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.