Wearing a T-shirt, chanting songs at a demonstration or donating clothing could be enough for Israel’s large Palestinian minority to fall foul of a newly passed anti-terrorism law, civil rights groups have warned.
The legislation, applied in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, has been condemned as a “dangerous” threat to civil liberties. It dramatically broadens the range of offences to include sympathising with, encouraging and failing to prevent terrorism.
According to legal experts, it also gives Israeli police sweeping new powers to arrest suspects and deny them access to lawyers. Courts will be required to hand out long jail sentences.
Leaders of Israel’s 1.7-million-strong Palestinian minority, which accounts for a fifth of the population, said the law was “anti-Arab” rather than “anti-terror”. They fear it will be readily exploited to jail Palestinian citizens and East Jerusalem residents for political activity in showing solidarity with Palestinians under occupation.
Palestinians in the West Bank will be largely unaffected because they are subject to a separate system of Israeli military courts.
Several years’ jail
Adalah, a Palestinian legal organisation in Israel, says the law would effectively import into Israel many of the draconian military orders currently used against Palestinians under occupation.
Nadeem Shehadeh, an Adalah lawyer, told Al Jazeera the law’s vague definitions meant waving a flag, sharing a Facebook post or being caught in clashes at a demonstration could result in prosecution under the law and several years of jail.
“Throwing a stone, jostling with police or chanting slogans could all be treated as violations of the law,” he said.
In any future Israeli military operations in Gaza, he added, Palestinian citizens who make donations to humanitarian groups – of clothing or food, for example – could risk prosecution for aiding terror.
“If enforced harshly, this [law] could lead to lots of arrests and prosecutions – with those found guilty facing heavy punishments.”