Bolstered Israeli restrictions against flying the Palestinian flag are “a shameless attempt to legitimise racism”, rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday.
Israel’s new firebrand National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered the police commander on Sunday to authorise officers to remove Palestinian flags flying in public spaces.
“I have instructed the Israeli police to enforce the ban on flying a PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) flag in public spaces, a sign of identification with a terrorist organisation”, Ben-Gvir wrote on Twitter.
“We will fight terrorism and the supporters of terrorism with all our might,” he added.
After winning November elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed a government last month with key posts taken by far-right allies.
They include Ben-Gvir of the Jewish Power party, who has a history of inflammatory remarks about Palestinians.
Amnesty called the new measures “repressive” and an “audacious attack on the rights to nationality, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly”, in a statement sent to AFP.
In Israel and in annexed east Jerusalem, Israeli security forces already confiscate Palestinian flags, sometimes triggering violence.
In May last year, at the funeral of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran Al Jazeera reporter, baton-wielding Israeli police beat pallbearers carrying the coffin, which was covered by a Palestinian flag.
Although it is not illegal to fly the Palestinian flag, Israeli laws prohibit the public display of a flag of an enemy country or group hostile to Israel’s existence.
“Israeli authorities say the directive is aimed at stopping ‘incitement’ against Israel, but it comes amid a string of measures designed to silence dissent and restrict protests, including those held in defence of Palestinian rights,” Amnesty said.
“The farcical pretexts for this directive cannot mask the fact that Israeli authorities are growing increasingly ruthless in their attempts to silence Palestinian voices,” the statement added.