Israel Independence Day: Israeli activists "falsely imprisoned" for passing out fliers


US President Barack Obama speaks during a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sept. 21, 2011 at the United Nations in New York City.


Mandel Ngan

A group of left-wing Israeli activists said that police prevented them from leaving their office building Wednesday night. Their offense? Passing out fliers.

Members of Zochrot, an Israeli NGO that argues for more Palestinian rights, had planned to pass out fliers in Hebrew, Arabic, and English during Israel Independence Day celebrations in Tel Aviv. The fliers named the Palestinian villages that were destroyed in 1948. But when the activists tried to leave their office, they saw that it was surrounded by Israel Police. The officers barred the doors for four hours, Haaretz reported.  

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The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said that the NGO members were victims of political persecution. "What we sought to do was to hand out postcards, not anything violent," a Zochrot spokesman told Haaretz. "There were people threatening to beat us, and they weren’t arrested."

Police described the fliers as "incitement material" and arrested three of the NGO workers, the Jerusalem Post reported. Attorney Gaby Lusky told the Post that the officers' actions constituted false imprisonment.

The Post described the standoff as "rather absurd" because of the large police presence. By 11 p.m., there were around two dozen riot police at the scene, including two who were hiding in the bushes. Many people were out drinking to celebrate Independence Day, and some noticed the police presence and stopped to talk with the activists, according to the Post. 

Israel's 64th annual Independence Day celebration comes at a time when the nation is experiencing economic and political insecurity, MSNBC reported.