High Court Upholds Ban on Machsom Watch Exhibit in Be'er Sheva

Mayor banned exhibit showing soldiers, Palestinians at checkpoints, deeming it harmful to public's sensitivities.

The High Court of Justice has decided not to interfere with Be'er Sheva Mayor Ya'akov Turner's decision last week to ban a Machsom Watch photo exhibit at the Teacher's Center in the city.

Machsom Watch is a women's group that monitors the behavior of soldiers toward Palestinians at checkpoints. The pictures in question depict interactions at the Qalandiyah and Hawara checkpoints in the West Bank.

Turner announced the ban last Thursday, claiming that the contents of the exhibit are harmful to the sensitivities of the public.

Justices Edna Arbel, Miriam Naor and Elyakim Rubinstein ruled that Turner acted in accordance with his authority, which gives him the right to ban a public exhibit in a municipal building.

However, the court ruling also stated that the municipality should allow activities of this sort in public locations.

Attorney Gabi Lasky submitted a petition to the court on behalf of Machsom Watch, after the Be'er Sheva District Court rejected an appeal by the group.

Lasky noted that just two weeks ago, the Teacher's Center held an exhibit on human rights abuses in China.

The ten-day exhibit was to be launched on Sunday, after completing a month-long run in Tel Aviv. It was coordinated in advance with a city council representative and with the mayor's bureau.

The exhibit's organizers protested what they called, "The mayor's assault on freedom of expression and the use of his authority to prevent political activity that is not compatible with his own world view."

The organizers added that they are appalled by the notion that a mayor in a democratic state can prevent residents from seeing pictures of what goes on in the Palestinian territories.