Communist Party Leading Member Detained After Announcing Anti-War Protest

A leading Communist Party of Israel (CPI) and former Hadash lawmaker was detained Thursday morning after he announced a protest against the war in Gaza. Mohammad Barakeh, chair of umbrella organization for the Arab-Palestinian community in Israel, the High Follow-up Committee, called for Arab officials to demonstrate in Nazareth. The general public was not invited to the vigil.

Police say in a statement that Barakeh is detained because he, “contrary to police instructions, is trying to organize a demonstration that could lead to incitement and damage public order.” He was held by police officers using an unmarked police vehicle, while he was on his way to a protest in Nazareth. The police also detained in Nazareth five Arab-Palestinian political leaders, members of the High Follow-up Committee, was also detained. Barakeh was transferred to the Beit She’an Police Station while the other detainees were transferred to the Migdal Haemek police station Police Station.

Mohammad Barakeh, chair of umbrella organization for the Arab-Palestinian community in Israel, the High Follow-up Committee (Footage: Panet)

Yesterday, Barakeh informed the Nazareth Police Commander that the High Follow-Up Committee planned to organize a protest vigil in Al-Ain Square in Nazareth, expecting no more than 50 participants. In his communication with the commander, Barakeh emphasized that, according to Israeli law, the protest did not require a permit and requested that the police refrain from interfering with its organization.

According Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman, “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.”

According a CPI appeal, “The unlawful arrests today come at the heels of orders issued by the Israeli Police to ban all demonstrations calling to end the war in Gaza and the occupation, upheld by the Supreme Court yesterday. It reflects the swift intensification of state repression against the Palestinian minority, which includes legal prosecution of citizens who express their solidarity with Gaza or their Palestinian identity on social media, as well as swift amendments to Emergency Regulations, which sanction shooting live ammunition at unarmed civilian demonstrations.” 

“Israel is receiving massive support from the international community for fighting Hamas under the pretext that it is a democratic state. Democratic countries don’t repress political opposition during wars, precisely when dissent and public criticism are most important to protecting human rights and values. Democratic states don’t persecute their minorities, threatening to arrest, injure, or kill those who stand by their identity. Democratic states don’t put minority leadership under arrest,” CPI said.

Hassan Jabareen, the General Director of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who provides legal counsel to Barakeh and the other political leaders, commented: “Just yesterday, the Israeli Supreme Court delivered a ruling emphasizing that the police have no authority to sweepingly and arbitrarily ban protests by Palestinian citizens in Israel, even during times of war. Today, however, we are witnessing a draconian ban by police being implemented on the ground, with the intention of silencing all forms of criticism and suppressing the freedom of expression and assembly of Palestinian citizens and their leaders. These detentions are blatantly illegal, and are clearly aimed at obstructing Palestinian political activity that falls within the confines of the law.”