Israel orders removal of Palestinian flags from public spaces

Jerusalem, Jan 9 (EFE).- Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, has ordered police to remove Palestinian flags from public spaces in the latest crackdown by Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government.

The directive was issued by Ben Gvir, a Jewish supremacist, on Sunday and, according to the order, every police officer of any rank will be allowed to remove Palestinian flags, the national security minister said on Twitter.

The leader of the Jewish Power party, which entered a coalition government with Netanyahu 10 days ago, added that flying the Palestinian flag was an act of terrorism.

Waving Palestinian flags in Israel is not illegal or formally prohibited, but police officers often seize them at public events or protests citing public order reasons.

Banning the Palestinian flag has long been part of Israel’s far-right political agenda and in June 2021 lobbying to veto the symbol was eventually crushed.

According to local media reports, police officers are confused by the fresh directive and have raised concerns over the measure’s legal backing.

The minister’s order comes after a celebration was held last week in an Arab village in northern Israel to welcome Karim Younis, a Palestinian prisoner with Israeli citizenship who was released after 40 years in prison on terrorism charges.

Ben Gvir tried to ban the event by claiming that it would express support for terrorism, but the celebrations went ahead.

“It cannot be that lawbreakers wave terrorist flags, incite and encourage terrorism, so I ordered the removal of flags supporting terrorism from the public space and to stop the incitement against Israel,” Ben Gvir said.

The new order also comes after anti-government protests spilled onto the streets of downtown Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

Demonstrators took to the streets to oppose the plans of Israel’s new right-wing government to limit the authority of the Supreme Court and give politicians the biggest say in choosing judges.

The proposal was announced Wednesday last week by justice minister Yariv Levin.

At the heart of the initiative is a provision that would allow a simple majority of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to annul Supreme Court rulings.

Critics say the implementation of that measure would effectively negate the notions of judicial independence and the separation of powers, especially in the present circumstances, as Netanyahu’s coalition is fully in control of the Knesset.

Some have expressed concern that the government might try to use the mechanism to halt the ongoing trial of Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Since Netanyahu’s, Israel’s longest-serving premier, executive formed it has hardened its policies relating to Palestine.

The government has already slapped sanctions on the Palestinian National Authority in response to Ramallah’s United Nations-led initiative to have the International Court of Justice probe Israel’s conduct in the Palestinian territories.

Israel has also allegedly revoked the travel permit of Palestine’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, according to Palestinian authorities. EFE


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