In the weeks since October 7, there has been no room for dissent in Israeli society. Detention centers are filling up fast with people who show even the slightest opposition. Here are some scenes from the Israeli Dictatorship.
On October 18, after the massacre in the Gaza Baptist Hospital, Herak Haifa called for a demonstration.1 The police announced in advance to the Hebrew media that it would not allow any demonstration against the war and would act “forcefully.” At the designated time, I arrived at “Prisoners Square” with a few banners wrapped under my arm. Before I arrived there, I noticed that the police were deployed all along the German Colony. In the square itself, there were more than a hundred police.
I sat quietly on a concrete railing on the side of the road, between the police and a big group of journalists that came to cover the action, the banners rolled between my legs. As the police were distracted, I quietly half-opened the rolled banners, and all the journalists took the opportunity to take quick pictures of the top banner. It said “It Is Genocide!” in English.
One woman came to sit near me and took the first banner, still half-rolled. A second one half-appeared: “Stop the Fire Now!” in Hebrew. It was only seconds before the two of us were violently carried away by police. A third man who shouted “why are you doing this?” was also violently detained.
About one hundred people came to the demonstration. They did not dare to enter the square, did not carry any banners, and did not dare to shout any slogans. But they were attacked anyway by the police, which ordered them to disperse. Many people were hit and injured by police violence; two women were seriously injured and required treatment at the hospital. The non-demonstrating public tried to stand their ground, withdrawing a few meters with every attack. When they tried to sing together, they were quickly silenced by an especially violent attack. One woman who shouted at the police “We are not afraid,” was promptly violently detained. A Palestinian journalist who was taking pictures of police violence was also detained. The one-sided confrontation continued for almost two hours before the crowd dispersed.
Another woman, a Palestinian doctor, was on her way to Haifa when police stopped her car on the highway some 10 kilometers away. She was accused of intending to join the Herak demonstration but denied the accusation. She was detained anyway, leaving the car on the shoulder of the road.
The six of us, four women and two men, were interrogated by the Haifa police until 1:00 a.m., and spent the night there in the detention cells. In the morning, we were told that we would be taken “to the court,” but we were taken to the Jelemeh (Kishon) detention center instead. We learned that, because of the “emergency situation,” we would not appear in the court physically but only attend by Skype. The police requested to remand our detention by five days. The judge decided that, despite serious suspicions against us, we could be released on bail.
On the same night, October 18, police also dispersed a vigil in solidarity with the people of Gaza in the Palestinian town of Tayibe, near Tel Aviv. They attacked the protesters, beating them with batons. One protester was hospitalized, and two were detained.
A demonstration in Umm al-Fahm
The only anti-war demonstration I know about within the green line, which is supposed to mark the boundaries of “democratic Israel,” in the first 20 days of “the special situation” was held in Umm al-Fahm on Thursday, October 19. Umm al-Fahm is a densely populated, hilly Palestinian town with a great tradition of struggle, and the police usually do not intervene in whatever happens inside its inner streets.
Herak Umm al-Fahm is bigger than Herak Haifa and more deeply rooted, and it initially called for a demonstration on October 17. But, following the call, the Shabak threatened the central activists of the Herak, and they called off the demonstration. The invitation for October 19 was published under the name of a previously unknown “Herak for Gaza.”
The demonstrators gathered at the designated point, and, as they noted heavy police presence around the city, they confined themselves to marching through its thin alleys. Hundreds of people joined the march, expressing their anger at the Israeli attacks and their solidarity with the people of Gaza, but taking care not to use any expressions that might be labeled illegal.
Just as they finished the march and one of the organizers congratulated everybody for participating in a peaceful demonstration without any disturbances, they were suddenly surrounded from all sides by a phalanx of riot police and “border guards” that violently attacked them without any warning. Twelve people were arrested in this attack, including a Palestinian journalist.
On Friday morning, we waited for the detainees in the Haifa court. In fact, we knew that the detainees would not be brought to the court, but we waited with their families and lawyers for the remand hearing. The detainees were held in the Megiddo prison, which is mostly used for “security detainees” from the West Bank, many of them under administrative detention, but it is now filling up fast with a wave of freedom-of-expression detainees from 1948 Palestine….