Since October 7, when Israel launched its genocidal war on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian citizens of Israel have faced escalating persecution for merely showing solidarity with the thousands of people being massacred in the besieged coastal enclave. Despite the Israeli government’s usage of its Palestinian population as evidence of it upholding democratic principles, it is refusing to tolerate any dissenting voices.
This weekend the Israeli cabinet is slated to approve a proposal by the fascist Minister for National Security, Ben Gvir, to allow police forces to shoot Palestinian Citizens of Israel (PCI) blocking roads in protest at the onslaught in Gaza. The development is an acknowledgment that Israel is at war against its own Palestinian citizens.
Many restrictions on political expression, many restrictions on political participation
“They want to try and say we support terrorism, that we are terrorists, but this is not true, they are the terrorists and our people are resisting,” says a PCI who only spoke to red. media on the condition of anonymity due to the threat to their safety. “You want to know why there’s no protests here, this is because even the Jewish members of Knesset are punished for speaking out against genocide in Gaza,” they added, referencing Israeli Knesset member, Ofer Kassif, who was suspended from his duties for publicly voicing his opposition to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and has since called for an immediate ceasefire.
On October 17, it was reported that Israel’s police commissioner, Kobi Shabtai, publicly threatened to put PCI’s on buses to Gaza for expressing their solidarity with those suffering in the besieged territory, in addition to arbitrarily announcing a ban of solidarity protests and threatening “financial attacks” on those who demonstrate for Palestinian human rights. This came following over 100 arrests that were carried out against Israeli citizens for posting comments online in solidarity with Gaza. On October 19, Israeli occupation police forces violently broke up a protest held in Umm al-Fahm in the Haifa district, arresting 12 Palestinians, including 4 minors.
Back in February, the Israeli Knesset voted through a bill that allows for the stripping of citizenships from Palestinians who commit violent acts against Israelis for political purposes, also paving the way for their possible deportation to the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
red. media spoke with Dr. Suhad Bishara, who is the Legal Director for Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who characterized the Israeli police commissioner’s comments on October 17 as racist. She went on to say that while threats of deportations were unlikely to be followed through “there have been discussions in the past day or so about expanding the legal framework through which the Israeli authorities can revoke citizenship, targeting a wider group of Palestinian citizens against the backdrop of what has been happening since the 7th of October.”
They want to try and say we support terrorism, that we are terrorists, but this is not true, they are the terrorists and our people are resisting
Dr. Bishara also noted that PCIs have been discriminated against through “many restrictions on political expression, many restrictions on political participation”. She stated that “another aspect is the confiscation of Palestinian lands to serve for Jewish settlements, which we are still seeing in the Naqab, in the attempts to displace Bedouins from their unrecognized villages in order to build or establish Jewish towns”, also noting the military occupation that PCI’s were formally under between 1948 to 1966. “Most of the resources in terms of budget, land resources” are not allocated equally to Palestinian communities, while there are issues in the education system and with socio-economic rights. “Unfortunately the list is very long” when it comes to areas of discrimination against Palestinians, she says.
Another PCI, who wished to go by the alias “Abu Ali”, stated that “we are with Gaza and I feel sad to say that even those of us who are activists are feeling under pressure when it comes to protests, we have to make our moves carefully.” “I know that maybe we see the people didn’t come out to the streets like in May of 2021, but this may still happen and the people are feeling the pain of Gaza.” Abu Ali was referencing the 11-day war on Gaza, when the Palestinian joint room of resistance factions launched operation ‘Sword of Jerusalem’, in response to attacks on worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque during the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan.
So far, since October 7, there have been at least “50 Palestinian citizens who have been fired, demoted or suspended from their jobs in various sectors, including retail, hospitals, high-tech, and private companies.” In addition to this, as of October 22 there were cases of suspensions or expulsions of students across 25 Israeli universities and colleges, over social media posts. The Israeli Bar Association has also threatened to take steps against lawyers who voice support for the people of Gaza in the face of Israel’s genocide, which it brands as supporting “terrorism”.
The crackdown on freedom of speech only seems to be getting worse, as Israeli government offices, official Israeli institutions and extremist right-wing groups all rally together to suppress the voices of Palestinian citizens. Despite attempting to present Palestinian citizens of Israel as examples of how Tel Aviv operates an inclusive and democratic regime, freedom of expression is forbidden; in an environment that tolerates violent, genocidal and racist rhetoric towards Palestinians, including by those operating in the highest positions of government.