Court lets Jerusalem venue hold Israeli-Palestinian memorial event
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Court lets Jerusalem venue hold Israeli-Palestinian memorial event

Controversial Barbur Gallery to host discussion about service for the fallen on both sides despite municipality attempt to block it

Palestinians and Israelis attend a memorial ceremony commemorating the long Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2017, as Israel marks the annual Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Palestinians and Israelis attend a memorial ceremony commemorating the long Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2017, as Israel marks the annual Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Jerusalem’s Magistrate’s Court on Thursday rejected an attempt by the city to prevent an open meeting about a planned Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony.

The court ruled in favor of the Barbur Gallery, which has previously faced attempts by the municipality to silence it, and said it can host an open discussion organized by the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum and the Combatants for Peace movement.

The two groups are organizing a larger Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day service in Tel Aviv next Tuesday night.

The court also rejected the municipality’s request that it to delay the meeting to allow time for an appeal, and also ordered it to pay legal costs of NIS 5,000 ($1,400).

The meeting, which will include representatives of bereaved families, is to be held at 8 p.m. on Thursday.

“We are proud of the ceremony and have nothing to hide about it, and it is very important for us to hear what you think face to face and not just through a keyboard,” the organizers said on the gallery’s website. “Therefore, we would be especially pleased if those of you who do not agree with our path will come to the meeting.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at the faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu part at the Knesset, March 5, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A year ago the municipality attempted to close down the gallery after it hosted a lecture by the left-wing organization Breaking the Silence, as right- and left-wing activists faced off outside.

On Tuesday Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced he would bar the entry to Israel of 110 Palestinians who were due to attend the Tel Aviv service, saying the event was a “desecration” of the Memorial Day for fallen soldiers.

“This is not a memorial ceremony, but a demonstration of bad taste and insensitivity that hurts the bereaved families that are most precious to us,” he tweeted.

The Palestinians were invited as participants to the ceremony, which is organized an alternative to the standard Israeli Memorial Day events.

The organizers accused Liberman of desecrating the day.

“Defense Minister Liberman is the one who desecrates Memorial Day through his action and he hurts Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families who seek to promote a dialogue of reconciliation,” they said. “This is a cynical political use of a tool which is intended to be for security,” Walla news reported.

The organizers added that Liberman’s decision was made “with the sole intent of hurting bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families who want to mark Memorial Day together through mutual respect and recognition that pain and suffering are not theirs alone and do not belong exclusively to any side.”

They said they would appeal to the High Court over the defense minister’s decision.

Participants at an Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony held in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2017, as Israel marks its annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror. West Bank Palestinians were barred from entering Israel for the event. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

This is the thirteenth year the event is being held. Organizers said that the event was in jeopardy due to lack of funding. They said they had “great difficulty” finding a venue that would agree to host the event, and were forced to hold it outdoors in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park.

“We have a powerful message of nonviolence and mutual dignity that some would like suppressed,” the group said in its fundraising appeal. “What began as a small ceremony of 50 people in 2005 is now the largest event of the Israeli-Palestinian peace movement.”

Last year Palestinians were also denied entry permits into Israel for the event, which took place shortly after a Palestinian teenager who entered Israel with such a one-day pass for a “Natural Peace tour” attacked four people in a Tel Aviv hotel with a pair of wire-cutters.

People watch Palestinians speak on pre-recorded videos after the Defense Ministry barred them from attending an Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2017, as Israel marks its annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Last year, the West Bank Palestinians who planned to attend the ceremony in Tel Aviv instead gathered in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, to watch the proceedings on a big screen. The two Palestinians slated to speak at the event delivered their remarks in pre-recorded videos.

Next Tuesday night and Wednesday, Israel marks its Memorial Day, known in Hebrew as Yom Hazikaron, honoring its thousands of fallen soldiers and terror victims.

The country observes two sirens, one at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and another at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. On Wednesday night, the country switches to celebrating Independence Day.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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