Recommendations on Mixed City Municipal Conduct to Prevent Flare-ups Surrounding Processions of a Religious and/or Nationalistic Nature
For a number of years, processions/parades of a nationalistic nature taken place on certain occasions, the most prominent of which are “flag marches” of different kinds, in which paraders wave flags (Israeli/Palestinian flags).
An example of such processions are flag marches that take place during the Hanukkah holiday in mixed cities.
In some cases, in addition to flags, these Hanukkah processions incorporate torches and threatening chants. Sometimes, these processions pass through mixed neighborhoods wherein Jews and Arabs reside, and violent or threatening statements are clearly directed at the Arab residents.
Such processions, marked by motifs of fire and racist chants, have the potential to precipitate a flare-up and damage to relations between Jewish and Arab residents of the cities.
In the current reality, where such marches and processions may amplify intercommunal tensions, there is no benefit in turning a blind eye with the naive hope that the processions will pass safely on their own without actions taken to minimize the risks.
This short document is designed to propose principles of action to prevent this kind of flare-up surrounding such processions, by considering the welfare and safety of the residents of mixed cities.
The recommendations contained in this document rely to some extent on the recommendations of the “Parades Commission” of Northern Ireland in which, over the years, the parades have been a “trigger” for sectarian violence. The Parades Commission is a governmental body that was established as part of the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998, and its purpose is to ensure that parades will be held in a coordinated manner and pass peacefully.
Who are the recommendations for?
The recommendations are intended first and foremost for the leaderships of mixed municipalities (mayors and general managers) and the commanders of police stations in these cities, who are responsible for preventing violence, especially in times of tension.
In addition, they are also addressed to the initiators and organizers of processions, who are also expected to act responsibly and understand that alongside freedom of expression and the right to assemble, to march, and to mark various occasions with a procession, it must be ensured that exercising these rights will not lead to an escalation of pre-existing tensions in the mixed cities. This is doubly true in cases where those organizing the processions are organizations from outside the cities that are liable to provoke tension without suffering its consequences and without the possibility of rectifying the situation afterwards, as well as organizations that, in the past, have partaken in incitement of the other population.
Recommendation on principles of action surrounding marches/processions
In instances in which there is a planned procession of a religious and/or nationalistic nature, it is the responsibility of all those involved (the organizers of the march, the local authorities in whose jurisdiction the procession is held, and the Israel Police) to act in a way that will reduce the risk of friction.
This is especially true when the procession is organized by political parties or actors affiliated with political parties, whether on the national or municipal level. These actors are expected to demonstrate leadership and encourage the resolution of disputes and conflicts surrounding processions via dialogue and understanding.
As such, when such a procession is scheduled in a mixed city, it is important to convene the relevant parties from among the organizers of the procession, the municipality, and the police, to draw up agreements that ensure that the procession will not intentionally create friction. These agreements should include, inter alia, the following matters:
- Processions should be prohibited from passing through mixed neighborhoods, as well as Arab neighborhoods (in the case of Jewish flag marches) or Jewish neighborhoods (in the case of Palestinian flag marches).
- Prohibition of inciting, insulting, or threatening chants/songs against the other population.
- Prohibition on carrying firecrackers and fireworks. In the case of objects that have symbolic/cultural value (such as Hanukkah torches), a more sensitive decision must be made that takes into account the marchers and their needs on the one hand, but also those of other residents on the other.
In cases where there is known opposition or fear expressed by population groups in the city regarding the procession, the municipality must hold a meeting with representatives of these groups and think of ways to deal with the concerns raised.
The organizers of the procession must communicate its goals to the public in a manner that makes clear that the procession does not intend to promote incitement or threats against the other population.
- Just as marchers have the right to assemble and march, so too do other groups have the right to protest against the march in instances where they oppose the procession’s message. Such protests, similarly to the procession against which they are protesting, should be carried out in a legal fashion and without resorting to violence of any kind. When it is made known that there are groups that wish to protest against the procession, the police and municipality should hold a meeting with the representatives of these groups and clarify the rules of holding such a protest.
 We wish to emphasize that this document deals specifically with processions, and not with protests in which flags are waved; the latter events carry a different set of characteristics, and preparedness for such protests looks a bit different.