The Be’er Sheva municipality has ordered a nongovernmental organization to vacate a municipal bomb shelter in the next two weeks because it objects to events held there by the group, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality.
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The most recent event the municipality wanted canceled was a discussion on the Israeli arms industry.
In a letter, the municipality said activities held at the shelter were “in breach of the agreement between the parties, in breach of the aims of the NGO, and in breach of the allocation of land and the criteria that were determined.”
As the municipality put it, “After the NGO was given a number of opportunities to rectify the repeated violations of the agreement, and after the NGO rejected the municipality's demands and continued with its activities, the mayor ... after consulting with the allocations committee, ordered the cancellation of the agreement."
For the past few years, the municipality has complained about certain events at the shelter located in the Dalet neighborhood, which is northeast of the Old City near Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The NGO received the shelter from the municipality in return for payment of expenses only.
In the run-up to the talk on the Israeli arms industry, Mayor Ruvik Danilovich sent a letter threatening that the municipality would take legal steps to remove the NGO from the shelter if the event took place.
Danilovich wrote that he considers freedom of expression a supreme value, and that he would “protect it as necessary. But I cannot lend a hand to the use of municipal property paid for by municipal funds for these purposes. That is not the purpose for which the shelter was allocated. That was not the purpose of the allocation, the purpose of the NGO, as presented to the allocations committee and the city council.”
Danilovich was also angry about another discussion one evening entitled “Effective Photography at Demonstrations and Protest Events,” at which Israelis who refuse to serve in the army took part. The municipality said the subject was “how to disturb soldiers and create provocations with the security forces in general, and the effective way to photograph these events.”
In May, the municipality sent a letter to the NGO's director, Haya Noah, saying certain activities at the site violated the agreement under which the group obtained use of the shelter. Since then the two sides have met in Danilovich’s office in an attempt to bridge the gaps; people who took part in the meeting said the mayor broached lifting the group's permission to use the shelter.
In his letter this week, Danilovich wrote: “We asked that there be a rapprochement .... Unfortunately, we were deceived. One event after another, more and more extremism, as if your entire aim were to stoke provocations."
About two years ago the municipality banned the screening of the short documentary “Shivering in Gaza,” a move the attorney general later ruled was unjustified.