Israeli police are threatening to confiscate a Palestinian woman’s hijab, a symbol of her status as a citizen, as part of a new policy that critics say will be used to restrict Palestinian women from attending school and to punish them for participating in public.
The hijab is the most basic garment in the Arab world, which requires women to wear it while attending public events and to keep it tucked in during menstruation.
It is also worn by some Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as by some Muslim women in Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia.
“We will confiscate her hijab, which will not be used as a disguise for her activities,” an Israeli police spokesman told Reuters.
The head of the Jerusalem Police, Gilad Erdan, has previously made public statements saying that Palestinian women will be prevented from participating in Israeli society, including schools and in the workplace, unless they wear hijab.
“If they are in a hijab, they are a woman and we will make sure they wear a hijab,” Erdan said at the beginning of October.
“I don’t think the government should be in the business of banning anyone from going to school, not even in a public place.”
Erdan also said that women would not be allowed to join the army or to attend military-related courses if they wore hijab.
The police spokesman said the hijab would not stop people from participating if they wanted to, but that it would be confiscated.
“We will take it down when it comes to people who want to wear hijab, but it won’t stop them from wearing it,” the spokesman said.
The Palestinian Authority has been using a similar tactic to force women into hijab.
In July, the head of Fatah’s political bureau, Mohammed Taha, told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an that the hijab “is the symbol of the Palestinian women and the Palestinian people”.
“There are many people in the world who are going to see this, and will judge us harshly,” he said.
But in a statement published on the Israeli news site Ynet on Monday, a senior police official said that while the hijab was banned in the occupied West Bank, the women would still be allowed in the Israeli city of Haifa.
“The police will not take it from us and it won`t be taken from us,” the official, Yitzhak Hacohen, said.
“There will be a small number of women in Haifa who will be allowed for religious reasons and will wear the hijab and we have the option to enforce that,” he added.
He also claimed that women in Israel would be allowed, if they wished, to wear the headscarf if they had been given permission by the Israeli government.
Israelis have been increasingly worried about the rise of Islamist and Palestinian groups.
In 2014, a group of Israeli women held a protest at the country’s parliament demanding the ban on headscarves and wearing the hijab.