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  • Human Rights Research Center

Extrajudicial Executions, Deportations, Imprisonment, and Censure: Civil Dissent Crushed Under Israel's Rule

For the safety of the author, this article is being published anonymously.

February 7, 2024

Israeli police attacking the funeral procession in Jerusalem of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed by the army [1] covering a raid in Jenin, Palestine, in 2022. (Credit: Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Voices that challenge the Zionist narrative have been systematically suppressed for decades in all of the territories that fall under Israeli total or partial control: Gaza, the West Bank and the 1948 boundaries. While Israeli Jews have widely enjoyed full civil liberties as long as they follow the consensus, as seen during months of so-called pro-democracy Israeli protests, Palestinians have overwhelmingly been the principal victims of Israel’s policies suffocating civil society.

Since the latest eruption of violence in Palestine began on the 7th of October 2023, Israel’s military bombing campaign has killed at least 82 journalists [2], with some estimates saying that 1 out of every 10 Gazan journalists has been killed [3]. They join the list of another 30 journalists killed by Israeli forces since 2000. Evidence on the ground shows that at least in some of these cases, journalists were intentionally targeted [4]. Benny Ganz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, declared that some Palestinian journalists who covered the October 7th Hamas attacks are “no different than terrorists and should be treated as such,” [5] suggesting that they are legitimate targets. Some media workers’ entire families have been wiped out by direct air-strikes at their homes [6]. In one case, a journalist’s husband in Gaza was phoned by someone who identified himself as an Israeli soldier, and was told to “leave or die,” [7] indicating that the attacks on journalist’s residences are deliberate. During the first month of fighting alone, around 50 media premises had been totally or partially destroyed in the Gaza bombardment [8]. Media infrastructure has been deliberately targeted before; in 2021, 31 media offices were destroyed, including the demolition of the Al-Jalaa Tower [9] in Gaza City. The Al-Hurriyya Radio station in Hebron has been destroyed 4 times since 2002 [10]. Since the 7th of October, dozens of journalists have been arrested, some in targeted raids at their homes, and some being held for months without charges [11]. A recent report recorded more than 900 crimes and violations against media workers in 2022, including killings, injuries by life-fire, arrests and fines [12].

The dramatic surge of violence directed at journalists seen last October is only the continuation of longstanding Israeli policies whose intention is to suppress freedom of expression and any kind of Palestinian political organization and collective national identity [13]. Since the war started, Palestinians have been arrested by the thousands [14], with gruesome reports emerging of torture and abuse of prisoners. As of December 2023, 2200 [15] prisoners were being held without trial, and, based on “secret evidence,” some of them have been in this situation for months or years. This is an Israeli policy called “administrative detention,” 99% of whose victims are Palestinian [16]

People are now being arrested for expressing the smallest sign of criticism against the current war or empathy with Palestinian victims, part of the reason why this article is being published anonymously. A Palestinian woman was arrested after changing her WhatsApp status to: “May God grant them victory and protect them.” The police argue she meant Hamas [17]. A Palestinian stand-up comedian was arrested 40 minutes after posting on Instagram: “The eye weeps for the residents of Gaza” on suspicion of “supporting a terrorist organization.” [18] Two Israeli activists were detained in Jerusalem for hanging posters that read: “We will get through this together” in Hebrew and Arabic [19], while an Israeli teen was jailed for refusing to enlist in the military due to his opposition to the war [20].

Police have banned all demonstrations that oppose the war, with full backing from the judiciary [21]. Former and current members of the Israeli Parliament have been censured and arrested for planning small anti-war demonstrations, [22] while joint peace conferences between Israelis and Palestinians have been shut down under police threats [23]. A member of the Israeli Parliament is facing expulsion for voicing support for South Africa’s genocide case against Israel [24]. New laws have been legislated allowing the government to ban international press [25] and to punish with up to 1 year in prison the consumption of “terrorist material,” [26] in what legal experts describe as thought policing. Meanwhile, impunity has been reserved for violent mobs of extremist nationalist Jews that chanted “death to Arabs” and tried to lynch Palestinian students at the dorms of a university in the city of Netanya and a Jewish journalist who posted a video of a prayer for the victims of the war, both Israeli and Palestinian [27]. Dozens of cases have been recorded of people who study and work in Israeli institutions, mostly Palestinians, being expelled or fired because of harmless social media posts published years ago or for having posted a quote from the Quran [28].

The Israeli police chief said: “Those who identify with Gaza can be escorted there on buses,” [29] while a minister called for an Israeli-Palestinian actress to be stripped of her citizenship after she was arrested for some posts she made on social media [30]. These are not empty threats; the government has already announced a plan to legislate the revocation of citizenship or residency over “support and incitement to terror.” [31] Under current Israeli law, around 140,000 Palestinians have been already stripped of residence rights since 1967 [32], with a woman from Jerusalem being denied citizenship because her social media profile photo showed a Palestinian flag, even though there was an Israeli flag alongside it, or in another case, a man was denied citizenship because his wife, who is an Israeli citizen, published a post that mentioned the Nakba [33]. In another case, a Palestinian human rights lawyer from Jerusalem was stripped of his residency and deported to France after being imprisoned for almost a year without charges [34].

The attempt to quell any Palestinian social or political organization goes far beyond the current hostilities. For decades, the Israeli military has violently suppressed peaceful Palestinian protests, killing hundreds [35] throughout the years, especially in the West Bank and Gaza, and enforcing a draconian ban on waving the Palestinian flag [12]. Civil society organizations and human rights defenders are also systematically persecuted. In 2021, 6 Palestinian human rights organizations were declared “terrorist organizations,” their headquarters raided and sealed and material confiscated, in what was probably an attempt by the Israeli authorities to disrupt an International Criminal Court investigation with which these organizations are collaborating [12]. Members of these groups have also been spied on with the infamous NSO spyware [36].

Further, the Israeli forces have employed for decades a policy of extrajudicial executions of Palestinian political, social and cultural leaders [37]. The list of targets includes writers, artists, youth activists and political leaders of different Palestinian groups, including members of the PLO, despite it being recognized by both the United Nations and later by Israel as the “legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” During the Second Intifada or uprising, 300 Palestinians accused of terrorism were assassinated, resulting in a further 150 civilian casualties [12]. These executions have been consciously used by the Israeli leadership as a negotiation tactic. Extrajudicial executions are still common in the West Bank and Gaza [38], with Israel using the current war to erase entire spheres of civil life through the assassinations of academics and politicians [39].



[37] Ronen Bergman, Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations (New York, Random House Publishing Group, 2019).


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