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Israel Railways says it will no longer bar passengers wearing protest symbols

Station guards blocked some passengers at start of overhaul protests in January, sparking outcry and leading to High Court petition demanding end to practice

Protesters against the government's judicial overhaul rally at Tel Aviv's Hashalom train station, July 18, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
File: Protesters against the government's judicial overhaul rally at Tel Aviv's Hashalom train station, July 18, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Israel Railways on Tuesday announced that passengers can no longer be blocked or delayed from trains based on their type of clothing, or on whether they were demonstrating, after complaints by some who said they were prevented from boarding because they wore protest symbols.

The issue came to the forefront in January when some protesters were prevented entry into stations to travel to demonstrations against the coalition’s judicial overhaul plans began. Since then, on major protest days, droves of demonstrators have passed through stations and have traveled on trains carrying flags and wearing protest attire without trouble.

After one of the incidents, Israel Railways denied any form of discrimination and stressed that its policy related to prohibiting protests on trains.

“Israel Railways is responsible for transporting millions of passengers across the country every year and works to maintain their safety without taking sides in any political debate. For that purpose, security guards are positioned in stations to maintain order. Passengers are not allowed to demonstrate or enter stations with items used in protests (including signs, flags, etc.) and so the passenger was asked to wait several moments so that the issue could be checked by the station manager, who then let her in,” the company said in a statement.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the High Court in January to force Israel Railways to completely cease the practice, labeling it a violation of anti-discrimination law.

“We praise the decision of Israel Railways,” Oded Feller, director of ACRI’s legal department, said Tuesday. “Israel Railways has no authority to censor expressions, to forbid entry because of content that may provoke disputes, or to limit demonstrations.

“Delaying or preventing the use of public transportation because of an expression of an opinion and the exercising of the freedom to demonstrate undermines the core of democracy,” he added.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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