Those arrested in Nazareth include former Knesset members Haneen Zoabi and Mohammed Baraka
Israeli police have raided a vigil organised by Palestinian citizens against the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, arresting several prominent leaders of the community, including former members of the Knesset.
Those arrested on Thursday include Mohammed Baraka, a former member of the Knesset for the leftist Hadash party, and Haneen Zoabi, who was an MK with the Arab Balad party.
According to Palestinian sources, Baraka was on his way to the invitation-only event in the northern city of Nazareth when he was stopped on the street and arrested.
Baraka is the head of the Arab Follow-Up Committee, an umbrella group of Palestinian organisations, which represents the community’s interest at a national level.
Israel has banned any public protest against the war in Gaza and has threatened to imprison those who take part.
The organisers of Thursday’s event had petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to allow gatherings in the towns of Umm al-Fahm and Sakhnin, but their request was rejected by judges, who said the state did not have the resources to police such demonstrations.
Palestinian groups said they would go ahead with a closed vigil of fewer than 40 people, which does not require police approval under Israeli law.
In a statement, the Balad party said the arrests demonstrate the state’s “hostile policy” towards the war in Gaza.
“The National Democratic Rally (Balad) denounced the brutal and unjustified attack on the vigil organised by the leaders of the Arab community,” it said in a statement.
“This attack on the leaders of the Arab community is a dangerous precedent that contains a clear political message to silence our national, moral and humanitarian voice.”
Others arrested included Sami Abu Shehadeh, another former MK who leads Balad, and Youssef Tatour, its deputy head.
“These ongoing arrests are dangerous because they are targeting dozens of people who are protesting for a ceasefire,” Amjad Shbita, the secretary general of Hadash, told Middle East Eye.
“Israel is clamping down on any voice against the ongoing war. This protest had only one aim and that was to stop the bombing, and unfortunately Israeli police see that as radical.
“Mohammed Baraka was a former member of the Knesset and is a well-known figure,” Shbita added. “I had just spoken to him and he reiterated to me that the protests have no other intention and they abide by laws.”
Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said his organisation was providing legal counsel to those arrested.
He said Israeli police had no legal basis for breaking up the gathering in Nazareth.
“Just yesterday, the Israeli Supreme Court delivered a ruling emphasising that the police have no authority to sweepingly and arbitrarily ban protests by Palestinian citizens in Israel, even during times of war,” Jabareen said in a statement.
“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.”
Source : Middle East Eye