West Jerusalem’s new national security chief has ordered the removal of “terror flags” from public places
Israeli national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has reportedly banned the flying of Palestinian flags, claiming that they “encourage terrorism” and should no longer be allowed in public places.
“It is inconceivable that lawbreakers will wave terror flags, incite and encourage terrorism,” Ben-Gvir said on Sunday night in a statement cited by the Jerusalem Post. “I have issued instructions for the removal of the flags, which support terrorism, from the public space and to stop incitement against the state of Israel.”
The nationalist security chief, who already stirred controversy shortly after taking office by visiting the Temple Mount compound last week, dismissed concern that his flag order will infringe on civil liberties, arguing that freedom of expression “does not extend to identifying with a terrorist” and those who seek to harm Israeli soldiers.
“We will fight terrorism and the encouragement of terrorism with all our might!” he added in a tweet.
Ben-Gvir directed Israel’s police commissioner, Kobi Shabtai, to order officers to remove Palestinian flags. Under Israeli law, the flying of Palestinian flags isn’t illegal, but military and law enforcement authorities have the power to remove them in cases where they’re deemed to be a threat to public order.
Ben-Gvir landed the job of national security minister after his Otzma Yehudit party, whose name translates to Jewish Power, joined in the coalition government of newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The coalition agreement included a policy of removing Palestinian flags from state-funded institutions. Sunday’s order appears to go a step further, banning the flags in all public places.
The move came after Palestinian flags were flown at an anti-government protest on Saturday night in Tel Aviv. Concerns also were raised after the release of Israel’s longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, Karim Younis, who was convicted in 1983 of kidnapping and murdering an Israeli soldier. Younis waved a Palestinian flag as he returned home to a celebration in northern Israel’s Ara village.
Netanyahu’s government also has announced a series of punishments of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for seeking a legal opinion from the UN’s International Court of Justice on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki discovered on Sunday that those sanctions apparently included rescinding his travel pass.
Ben-Gvir shrugged off condemnations from the PA and Arab states over his visit on Tuesday to the Temple Mount. “The Temple Mount is open to all,” he said, adding that “those who make threats must be dealt with, with an iron fist.”