Tel-Aviv: Police besiege and arrested activists planning to commemorate Nakba

Police arrested three people for “disturbing the public order” outside the Tel Aviv offices of “Zochrot” on Wednesday night. Some 15 activists from the organization Zochrot were besieged by police on Wednesday night in the NGO’s offices, in order to prevent them from quietly commemorating the Palestinian Nakba on Israeli Independence Day. Three were arrested for reading aloud names of destroyed villages.

Reports started flowing in at around 22:30 p.m. through text messages and phone calls. Some 15 activists from Zochrot (“Remembering”), an Israeli NGO dedicated to preserving the memory the Palestinian Nakba among the Hebrew-speaking public, had gathered in the group’s offices on Ibn Gabirol Street in central Tel Aviv. They were planning a quiet symbolic action entailing placing placards with the names of villages demolished in the 1948 war on the ground in Rabin Square, the epicenter of Independence Day festivities. Actions very much like it have been carried out by the group every year on the same day for at least seven years.

Hadash activist arrested while reading names of Palestinian villages (Photo: Activestills)

However, this time the activists were surprised to see riot police forces building up a barricade around the building while they were inside. When they tried to leave for their quiet ceremony, activists were told by high ranking officers on the site that they are forbidden to do so, and that anyone trying to skip over the fences would be immediately arrested. “They said their goal was to prevent us from disturbing the peace,” says Liat Rosenberg, Zochrot director. “We were held captive for about four hours, and were told we could only leave if each and every one of us shows an ID, turns in all [protest-related] materials, and goes through an interrogation and a physical search. Attorney Gabi Lasky told police that they are unlawfully imprisoning the activists, but they refused to stand down.”

As the news spread, a small demonstration of several dozen activists formed in solidarity with Zochrot outside the police barriers. When demonstrators on both sides of the fence started reading out aloud the names of destroyed villages – the refugees of which are still living in refugee camps in neighboring countries, Gaza and the West Bank – police started beating them and making arrests. Rosenberg says that Zochrot will be suing the police for its illegal conduct.