Inside Israel’s largest crackdown on Palestinian citizens in decades
By Suha Arraf and Baker Zoubi June 6, 2021
(...) Since the demonstrations began in Jerusalem and in so-called “mixed cities” last month, Israeli authorities have been waging a campaign of violence against Palestinian citizens of the state. After a ceasefire was reached with Hamas in Gaza, Israeli police launched a large-scale arrest operation dubbed “Law and Order.”
The police claim that the campaign’s goal is “to restore deterrence and increase governance in designated places in the State of Israel, along with maintaining the personal security of Israeli citizens.” But activists and lawyers say the operation is an attempt to suppress the current Palestinian uprising.
Since early May, Israeli police have arrested more than 1,900 people across the country, and another 348 since the ceasefire in Gaza. According to human rights groups, those who have been arrested are overwhelmingly Palestinian, with the number of Jewish detainees not exceeding 10 percent. Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai decided to extend the operation for another week.
Upon announcing the extension, Shabtai said the authorities have arrested hundreds of suspects and located dozens of weapons. “The purpose of the operation,” the police said in a statement, is to prosecute “those involved in the events, including for possession and trade in weapons, arson, property offenses, and belonging to criminal organizations.”
However, attorneys who are defending the detainees argue that there is no connection between the current operation and the fight against organized crime and the proliferation of illegal weapons in Arab society.
“From the beginning, it was clear that there was a policy of suppressing demonstrations,” says Janan Abdu, an attorney with the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, who is also part of a group of volunteer lawyers organized by the Palestinian legal center Adalah. Adalah had called on lawyers from all over the country to volunteer to track the arrests, and very quickly, a WhatsApp group was created for each Arab city and village. The initiative was joined by more than 150 attorneys, many of whom spent nearly a week with hardly any sleep. (...)