Adalah to Israel Bar Association: Halt Incitement Against Palestinian Lawyers

Palestinian lawyers are being threatened due to their social media posts and other forms of expression. The bar association has declared its intention to advance emergency regulations that would allow the immediate suspension of lawyers’ licenses.

Today, 25 October 2023, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to Amit Becher, the Chairman of the Israel Bar Association, demanding immediate action to combat the recent campaign of rampant incitement and threats made against Palestinian lawyers, who are citizens of Israel. Adalah also demanded an immediate halt to the advancement of emergency regulations, which according to Amit Becher, would empower the Bar’s Ethics Committee to immediately suspend lawyers accused of “supporting terrorism” or “inciting to terror”. This change would significantly harm lawyers’ rights, livelihoods, and reputation prior to any due process taking place

These actions are part of a widespread campaign of incitement and political persecution that Palestinian citizens of Israel  are currently facing, since the horrific events of 7 October. This campaign affects not only Palestinian lawyers but also workers, students, and has even led to the arrest of many Palestinian citizens of Israel for speech-related incitement charges. 

In the letter, Adalah Attorney Salam Irsheid stressed that Palestinian lawyers are facing severe incitement and serious threats, particularly from Jewish-Israeli lawyers, due to their posts on social media and other speech. The Jewish-Israeli lawyers are falsely accusing the Palestinian lawyers of “supporting terrorism”, and even labeling them as “terrorists”, and threatening that complaints will be lodged against them with the Bar Association’s Ethics Committee. Adalah argued that the lawyers’ expressions on social media and other speech lie well within the legal realm of freedom of expression. Adalah argued that these baseless accusations and incitement campaigns inflict significant harm on lawyers who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, damage to their reputations and relationships with colleagues and credibility with their clients

Additionally, Adalah emphasized that numerous Palestinian lawyers representing suspects and detainees at police stations have reported a growing level of disrespect and mistreatment, not only from their fellow lawyers but also from police officers, making it extremely difficult for them to adequately defend their clients and fulfill their roles.

Further, Adalah pointed to a statement published by the Israel Bar Association on 15 October 2023, which notes that it has received numerous complaints concerning a specific lawyer, and that it will take “all necessary steps to lead to the revocation of her license and her expulsion from the Bar Association.” Adalah argued that this amounts to an unlawful intervention in the discretion of the Ethics Committee of the Bar, which is meant  to make an objective decision on the complaint following presentations of arguments from both sides. 

The Bar’s statement also mentioned that it is currently reviewing the advancement of new emergency regulations that would grant the Bar the authority to immediately suspend lawyers suspected of “praising or supporting terrorism” or “inciting to terror”. Adalah argued that this statement contributes to the ongoing severe campaign of incitement against Palestinian lawyers and effectively encourages Jewish-Israeli lawyers to continue to submit baseless complaints to the Ethics Committee. In Adalah’s view, this proposed action violates the role and responsibilities of the Bar Association, a professional body tasked by law with upholding the integrity of lawyers and safeguarding the rule of law and human rights.