The release of 19 Palestinian citizens of Israel on Monday, who had been arrested since Friday, after police violently dispersed a demonstration in Haifa against last week’s mass killings in Gaza, is a fleeting speck in the context of recent events in the conflict. As the detained activists have emphasized, their experiences are nothing compared to what Palestinians are subjected to in the blockaded Strip. But after weeks of tragic news, the past three days have offered a moment of strength and hope that should not be overlooked.
The police’s response to Friday’s demonstration is hardly exceptional, even in the purported “capital of coexistence.” Harassment and repression are frequent features of political protests by Palestinian citizens, especially those in solidarity with Gaza. Last week, police launched“preventative” arrests and interrogations of several activists in their homes, hoping to deter them from participating in further demonstrations.
The courts, far from putting law enforcement authorities in check, routinely grant the police extensive impunity to keep protesters in detention and to avoid responsibility for their brutality, even when they clearly violate their own laws and regulations.
This past weekend, however, the protesters altered the rules of the game. Unfazed by the police’s repressive tactics, young and old activists and leaders returned to the streets in Haifa, and gathered outside the court to continue showing their solidarity with Gaza and with the detainees (including in the face of a right-wing demonstration calling to “return Haifa to Israel”).