Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced Tuesday, April 10, that Israel will deny entry permits to 110 Palestinians who were planning to participate in the annual Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony next Tuesday, April 17. Liberman called the alternative Memorial Day ceremony, organized jointly by Combatants for Peace and the Bereaved Families Forum, a “show of poor taste and lack of sensitivity that hurts the bereaved families who are most precious to us.”
The organizers accused Liberman of desecrating the day. “Defense Minister Liberman is the one who is desecrating 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,” added.
This year has not been easy for the organizers of the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony, which began in 2006. The initial venue for the event, an auditorium in the city of Holon, backed out of the agreement with the organizers after the municipality deemed the event political.
Despite the challenges, organizers of the event expect an even bigger turnout than last year, when 4,000 people attended the ceremony at Tel Aviv. Last year, like this year, Liberman refused to grant permits to Palestinian participants, so a parallel event attended by 600 people was held in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.
Distinguished author David Grossman will be one of the two keynote speakers at the ceremony; the other will be Dr. Amal Abu Sa’ad. Grossman lost his son Uri in the Second Lebanon War, while Abu Sa’ad is the widow of Yaqoub Musa Abu al-Qee’an, who was killed by police in January 2017 in Umm al-Hiran. The event will take place two days before the Israel Prize ceremony, at which Grossman will receive the award for literature.
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court rejected on Thursday 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 authorized its hosting of an open discussion organized by the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum and the Combatants for Peace movement.
“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.”
A year ago the municipality attempted to close down the gallery after it hosted a lecture by the anti-occupation organization Breaking the Silence, while fascists and left-wing activists faced off outside.
On the evening of Wednesday, April 18, with the start of Israeli Independence Day, Yesh Gvul will hold another special ceremony outside the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem: “Lighting torches to represent putting an end to violence and the occupation and to express the hope for peace between Israel and Palestine and the fulfillment of social justice in our country.”
Several peace and social activists were honored for their struggles by being called to light a torch during the ceremony. Both ceremonies, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, will be attended by several activists from Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel, among them MK Dov Khenin from the Joint List. Other alternative ceremonies will be held on Tuesday in Haifa and Kiryat Tivon.