Interior Minister Arye Dery canceled plans for the northern Arab town of Baka al-Gharbiya to hold a book launch for one of Israel’s oldest security prisoners.
The city had planned to launch a children’s book penned by Walid Daka, who was convicted by a military tribunal of membership in a terrorist cell that kidnapped and murdered soldier Moshe Tamam in 1986.
Mayor Mursi Abu Moch was supposed to speak at the event scheduled to be held in Baka al Gharbiya's community center, in addition to other social activists such as Fahima Ghanayim, philosophy lecturer Anat Matar and attorney Omer Kemaisi.
Dery’s decision followed an appeal against the event by the family of the slain soldier. Protest letters were also sent by an organization representing disabled IDF soldiers and right-wing activist Shai Glick.
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Dery told the mayor he would not allow him to hold the event. “In the State of Israel we won’t permit a pulpit for toasting the writings of a terrorist at a public building that belongs to the [public] council,” referring to Daka’s life sentence for murdering Tamam.
“It is incumbent upon us to preserve the honor of Moshe Tamam, of blessed memory, and not to permit the terrorist to use public property to launch his book,” Dery said.
Organizers have moved the event for the book entitled “The Story of the Fat Secret” to a private wedding hall venue, where it will be held on Thursday. The Arutz 7 website has called on Israelis to protest at the site of the event.
Matar explained on the Sicha Mekomit website why she feels Daka merits support: “In 1986 Daka was convicted in the case of the kidnapping and murder of soldier Moshe Taman. According to the indictment, Daka wasn’t at the scene of the murder, but was a senior member of the ring from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that plotted and perpetrated the act."
To this day Daka denies any involvement in the murder and has asked for a retrial to prove his innocence. His request has not been granted. "The military tribunal in Lod which gave him a life sentence was shut [down] years ago because it did not meet with the standards of civil courts in Israel, but Daka has remained in jail for 31 years,” Matar went on to write.
In their demand to cancel the book launch, the organization for disabled IDF veterans said that “funding and holding an event is a knife in all our hearts, no less than the heart that punctured the heart of Moshe Tamam, of blessed memory.”
The organization added that copies of the letter, which protested the event “provides fuel for the families of murderers,” were sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Recently Daka was also the focus of another controversy over a play called “Parallel Time,” about some of his letters describing his time in prison. The Al-Meidan Theater in Haifa lost funding for the play and its director, Adnan Tarabshe, resigned in protest. Tamam’s family had sought to cancel the show which they said damaged their son’s memory.
Baka al-Gharbiya’s city hall said in response that it has “adopted the motto of being a city of tolerance. We believe in coexistence based on the values of equality and respect among all Israeli population groups.”
It said that Daka’s book had been approved by Israel’s Prisons Services Authority before publication. “This is a cultural event organized by Walid Daka’s family… we have read the book and its contents are humane, contain no hatred or hostility or any illegal motifs,” read a statement by the city hall.
The city hall went on to say that Daka was sentenced before the Oslo Accords were signed and that he no longer supports an “armed struggle.”
“The Walid Daka of 32 years ago is not the same Walid as now. We are not in a place where we seek to hurt anyone, for that goes against the values of tolerance that we in Baka al-Gharbiya embrace," said the city hall.
"It’s important to note that if the book [had] contained any incitement or racism, the city would most definitely not have allowed the event to take place,” the statement concluded.
The mayor has not yet decided whether he will attend the rescheduled private event.