Defense Ministry denies entry to Palestinians for joint Memorial Day ceremony
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Defense Ministry denies entry to Palestinians for joint Memorial Day ceremony

Organizers of coexistence event vow to petition High Court after 181 people barred, say ministry showing ‘disdain’ toward those seeking ‘optimism and a joint future’

Palestinians and Israelis attend a shared memorial ceremony commemorating the fallen on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2017, as Israel marks its annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Palestinians and Israelis attend a shared memorial ceremony commemorating the fallen on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2017, as Israel marks its annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Defense Ministry has refused to allow Palestinians to enter Israel for an annual joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial service, planned to be held next week on Memorial Day, organizers said Wednesday.

The joint ceremony has been held since 2006 and is organized by Combatants for Peace and The Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF), which brings together bereaved families from both sides of the conflict. It is pitched as a pro-coexistence alternative to the standard Israeli Memorial Day events.

Organizers said they had submitted permit requests for 181 individuals who wanted to take part in the event.

But the Defense Ministry rejected all the requests, explaining its decision by saying the West Bank would be under closure for the duration of Memorial Day.

The organizers said they planned to petition the High Court of Justice to allow the Palestinians to attend.

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 19, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Last year, then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman similarly sought to block 90 West Bank Palestinians from attending the ceremony — despite the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories telling him that the Palestinians who were invited posed no security threat and recommending that he grant them entry.

Liberman said the ceremony was “a demonstration of bad taste and insensitivity that hurts the bereaved families that are most precious to us.”

However, the High Court overturned his ruling, saying his decision to ban the Palestinian participants was “unreasonable” and “imbalanced.” The ceremony eventually took place as planned.

After Liberman resigned from his position late last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed himself defense minister as well.

On Wednesday, organizers said of the ministry’s decision: “How predictable and yet regrettable that in the Defense Ministry lessons have not been learned from recent years, including the High Court decision from last year that reprimanded the defense minister for preventing the entry of our Palestinian partners.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on April 14, 2019. (RONEN ZVULUN / AFP)

They said those denied entry were “members of bereaved families who elected to put aside any desire for violence, terror and revenge and work with us shoulder to shoulder for dialog and reconciliation.”

They accused the ministry of “acting with disdain toward those bereaved families who wish to commemorate their loved ones in a joint format that offers optimism and a joint future.”

Last year’s event was held at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park with nearly 8,000 Israelis joining the Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families.

Among those who addressed the 2018 ceremony was author David Grossman, 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 the Negev Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran a year earlier, as the car he was driving crashed into an Israeli policeman, killing him, in disputed circumstances.

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