High Court Orders Arab Attendance at ‘Alternative’ Memorial Event

YERUSHALAYIM -
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

The High Court on Tuesday ordered Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to issue special permits to 90 Palestinian Arabs to enter Israel on Tuesday night so they can attend a joint “memorial service” for fallen IDF soldiers and Arab terrorists who were killed trying to attack them.

The Court had earlier ruled that the event was legal, and that the Yerushalayim municipality was obligated to provide space for it. In response, Liberman said that permits for the PA Arabs who had been invited to attend would not be permitted – but attorneys representing the Arabs appealed that decision, and got the backing of the Court in its decision Tuesday.

The event has been a matter of much contention over the past week. It is set to take place at the Barbur Gallery, the Yerusahalayim city-affiliated art gallery that is sponsoring the event. The city, along with Culture Minister Miri Regev, sought to ban the event, but in a decision last week the Court said that the event was legal. After that, Minister Regev said she would try to pull funding for the event, but was apparently unable to do so, as it is still scheduled.

The gallery is located in a city-owned property, and therefore the city argued that the gallery was violating its contract, as its lease limited it to art expositions – and specifically excluded political activity. “The admission of groups whose legitimacy is contested and who are participating in the event, including Breaking the Silence and similar groups, warrant shutting down this gallery,” attorneys for the city said. In response, the Court said that the gallery had framed the event not as a political one, but as a memorial event – and there was nothing in the contract against that.

Finally, Minister Liberman announced Sunday that permits would not be issued to the Arab participants – especially relevant given that there is a closure on PA-controlled areas of Yehudah and Shomron in effect, as Memorial Day and Independence Day are commemorated. In its decision Tuesday, the Court said that “the decision by the defense minister to prevent attendance by participants is harmful to the feelings of many who have lost loved ones, and who seek to commemorate their memories in the same manner that they have been doing so for years.”

Gallery officials hailed the decision, saying that the attempts “to silence us have been quashed. Suffering and mourning is not the exclusive property of one side or the other. We invite Minister Regev and Mayor Nir Barkat to participate in our event, which is based on accommodation, not hate and division.”

Commenting on the decision, Jewish Home MK Betzalel Smotrich said that “this is a perfect example of why we need a law to override High Court decisions. The Israeli legal system needs extensive repairs. If Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu misses his opportunity to bring that change about, he will be remembered as the biggest failure of the right in Israeli history.”