Israel police boss threatens to send anti-war protesters to Gaza ‘on buses’

Kobi Shabtai says there will be ‘zero tolerance’ for protests in support of Gaza in Israel.

Israel's Police chief Kobi Shabtai
Israel's police chief Kobi Shabtai attends a weekly cabinet meeting [File: Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via Reuters]

Israel’s police chief, Kobi Shabtai, has said there will be “zero tolerance” for protests in support of Gaza in Israel, threatening to send anti-war demonstrators to the besieged Palestinian enclave that Israel has been bombarding daily for nearly two weeks.

Shabtai’s comments came in a video posted on the TikTok channel of the Israeli police on Tuesday. Israeli media picked it up on Wednesday after police broke up a rally in Haifa in support of Gaza, arresting six people.

“Whoever wants to become an Israeli citizen, welcome,” Shabtai said. “Anyone who wants to identify with Gaza is welcome. I will put him on the buses heading there now.”

In the short video, Shabtai also said there would be “zero tolerance for any instance of incitement … there will be no authorisation for protests”.

He said that Israel is “in a state of war … we’re not in a situation where we will allow all sorts of people to come and test us”.

Israel Police spokesman Eli Levy told Army Radio on Wednesday that since the start of the Gaza war on October 7, 63 people in Israel have been arrested on suspicion of supporting or inciting “terror”.

Police officials told the Ynet news site on Wednesday that they are scouring social media to find Palestinians in Israel who were expressing support for Hamas, the group running the besieged Gaza Strip.

Israel has imposed a “complete siege” on Gaza, cutting off access to food, water, electricity and fuel for the strip’s 2.3 million residents after Gaza-based Hamas fighters launched an attack into southern Israel on October 7. Israeli authorities say at least 1,400 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the attack, more than 4,400 were injured and 199 others were taken captive by Hamas.

Since the attack, Israel has bombarded Gaza from the air in a devastating campaign that has reduced entire neighourhoods to rubble. Palestinian authorities have said that more than 3,400 people have been killed and more than 12,000 others wounded in the Israeli assault.

“After Operation Guardian of the Walls [the 2021 war with Gaza, which saw many Arab-Jewish clashes in mixed towns], we learned our lesson, and established a ‘war room’ to counter such incitement,” said Assistant Commissioner Dror Asraf.

“[Today, the operation] identifies online incitement or planning or any operational information that we identify on all the platforms, which has a goal of disrupting public order and harming others.”Interactive_Live tracker_Gaza_October18_2023_1150GMT_Casualty tracker_REVISED

Meanwhile, the ethics panel of the Israeli parliament has voted to suspend a left-wing parliament member, Ofer Cassif, for what it deemed as anti-Israel statements after the war broke out.

Cassif had given an interview in which he accused the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of enacting a plan in Gaza, which he compared with the Nazis’ “Final Solution” against Jews in Europe.

On another occasion, he told foreign media that “Israel wanted this violence”, in reference to the Hamas attack.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Cassif has been suspended for 45 days.

In a social media post published on Wednesday, Cassif called the Knesset’s decision “another nail in the coffin of freedom of political expression”.

“In each of my interviews, I emphasised my complete condemnation and deep disgust for the criminal massacres by Hamas. The political statements against the occupation and the war are not statements against Israel, since peace and justice also serve it and its inhabitants,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera