The High Court on Tuesday ordered Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to grant entry permits to Israel to 90 Palestinians who are slated to attend an Israeli-Palestinian memorial service in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening, saying his decision to ban them was “unreasonable” and “imbalanced.”
Liberman rejected the ruling, saying it created an equivalency between “terrorists” and bereaved families.
The Palestinians were invited as participants at the annual ceremony, organized by the Combatants for Peace and the Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace groups as an alternative to the standard Israeli Memorial Day events.
“The defense minister’s decision fails to take into account the reality created over the years and the legitimate expectations of the participants in the ceremony,” the court wrote. “It completely ignores the harm to the bereaved families and the public who wish to carry it out in the manner in which it took place in previous years.”
The court said in its ruling that Liberman’s decision was “unreasonable” and “imbalanced” to such an extent that it had to intervene.
The Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit had told Liberman that the Palestinians who were invited posed no security threat and recommended that he grant them entry permits, but Liberman rejected the application, saying that the joint Israeli-Palestinian service was in “bad taste.”
“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 last Tuesday.
In its initial response against the petition challenging Liberman’s decision, the state claimed that some of the Palestinians who were due to attend had family members who were terrorists, but subsequently admitted that it had no evidence to that effect and that the participants did not pose a security threat.
The court had suggested that the parties work out a compromise whereby only the Palestinians who were speaking at the event be granted entry permits, but that too was rejected by the defense minister, the court document said.
Therefore, the court ruled that the army must grant entry to 90 participants from the West Bank, the same number who were allowed to attend in 2016. In 2017, Palestinians were not allowed to attend.
The organizers welcomed Tuesday’s ruling, saying, “We are pleased that the court has made it clear that the defense minister also has limits and that he has to keep his sense of taste to himself.”
Liberman slammed the court’s decision, saying it was equating “bereaved families with terrorists, victims with murderers.”
“The ruling of the court damages the most unifying day for the Israeli people,” he tweeted. “The final result is that instead of unity, there is division.”
Speakers at the joint Israeli-Palestinian event will include author David Grossmann, whose son was killed in the Second Lebanon War, and Amal Abu Sa’ad, whose husband Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an was shot dead by Israeli police in Umm al-Hiran a year ago.
The organizers had argued 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.”
It is the thirteenth year the memorial service is being held, and Palestinians from the West Bank have attended every event apart from last year’s, which took place shortly after a Palestinian teenager who entered Israel with a one-day pass for a “Natural Peace tour” attacked four people in a Tel Aviv hotel with a pair of wire-cutters, lightly injuring all of them.
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 television screen. The two Palestinians slated to speak at the event delivered their remarks through pre-recorded videos.
On Tuesday night and Wednesday, Israel marks its Memorial Day, known in Hebrew as Yom Hazikaron, honoring the thousands of fallen soldiers and terror victims.
The country observes moments of silence during the wailing of 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.