Be'er Sheva Doves Defy Mayor to Hold Draft-dodging Event

The Negev Coexistence Forum stirs controversy with plans to convene a conference featuring speakers who have rejected IDF service.

Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
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A draft-dodging demonstration in front of a recruitment station near Tel Aviv.
A draft-dodging demonstration in front of a recruitment station near Tel Aviv.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

A conference featuring speakers who support refusing to serve in the army is scheduled to be held in Be’er Sheva on Thursday despite the mayor’s efforts to cancel it.

The Negev Coexistence Forum, one of the organizers, wrote Mayor Ruvik Danilovich on Tuesday it had no intention of acceding to his request to call off the event but invited him to come and present his views.

Last Friday, Danilovich protested in writing over the plans to host the event at a public building allotted to the forum by the municipality, and asked that it be canceled.

This occurred after the municipality learned that the forum planned on holding an event together with Yesh Gvul, an organization that supports conscientious objection, and the Solidarity Film Festival for Activism and Human Rights, at the municipality-allocated public shelter. The event is also set to include a discussion with two people who have refused to serve in the army.

The event also plans a showing of Uri Barbash’s film about conscientious objectors, titled, “Clear Conscience.”

In its reply to Danilovich, the forum wrote:

“We assume you’re acting as you are because you’re under pressure from city council members and government officials who aren’t interested in holding an open discussion on questions that violate the consensus.” 

Nevertheless, it added, “We’re shocked that instead of praising the forum’s work, you opted to threaten us with terminating our activities in the shelter, while lashing out at the organization’s work and voicing suspicions about the legality of our activities.”

Danilovich’s letter, however, did not threaten to terminate the forum’s use of the shelter if the conference went ahead.

He argued that the conference violated the organization’s goal of promoting Jewish-Arab coexistence in the Negev. 

The forum disagreed, saying its mandate “includes promoting dialogue and joint activities by Arabs and Jews in the Negev and outside it.”

Danilovich accused the forum of failing to have held a conference about the suffering of Negev residents under rocket fire from Gaza, alluding to a 2014 war. The forum responded that it had held an event about the suffering of “civilians in Sderot and in Gaza.”

The forum also took issue with the mayor for publishing his letter in the media rather than discussing it with the group privately. It also accused him of consistently refusing to attend an annual Iftar dinner for the city’s Muslim residents.

“If you were familiar with our work, we might not have arrived at the current conflict,” the letter said.

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