Israel Refuses to Let 110 Palestinians Participate in Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Event

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman says alternative event is 'not a memorial ceremony, but rather a demonstration of bad taste and insensitivity'

Around 3,000 attended the alternative Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv, April 30, 2017.
Hai Ashkenazi

The Defense Ministry is refusing to grant entry to 110 Palestinians seeking to attend an Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony scheduled for the eve of Memorial Day next week in Tel Aviv.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday, “This isn’t a memorial ceremony but a display of bad taste and insensitivity, which hurts the bereaved families who are most precious to us.”

The Combatants for Peace and Parents Circle – Families Forum movements, which organize the annual ceremony, said they would petition the High Court of Justice on Wednesday against Lieberman’s decision.
The two groups said they had asked for entry permits for 220 Palestinians. Half of them were given a green light from a security standpoint, but Lieberman decided not to issue them permits. “Perhaps Lieberman doesn’t know any left-wing bereaved parents. Bereavement and memory is something very personal, and this is how we’ve decided to acknowledge it,” said Robi Damelin, the spokesman for the Parents Circle.

 Last year Israel also refused to allow 225 Palestinians to attend the ceremony. The official reason at the time was security – there had been a stabbing attack a few days earlier – but the organizers claimed it was a political decision. Following the ban, a parallel ceremony, the first of its kind, was held in Beit Jala in the West Bank and was attended by about 600 people.

 The alternative Memorial Day ceremony has been held since 2006 and last year drew 4,000 people, some of whom were attacked by right-wing activists. “With this joint ceremony we recognize the pain and the terrible price paid by both sides, and choose together to stop the violence,” the organizers said. “We understand that just as the pain is the same pain and the tears are the same tears, the future must also be shared.”

Author David Grossman will be one of the two keynote speakers at the ceremony; the other will be Dr. Amal Abu Sa’ad. Grossman lost his son Uri in the Second Lebanon War, while Abu Sa’ad is the widow of Yaqub Abu Al-Kiyan, who was shot in January 2017 in Umm al-Hiran. The event will take place two days before the Israel Prize ceremony, at which Grossman will receive the award for literature.

This year the ceremony will be held in the Rose Garden at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv. Last week, Haaretz reported that the Holon municipality refused to hold the ceremony in its jurisdiction, claiming it was a “political event,” according to the event’s organizers.

In a statement announcing their intent to fight Lieberman’s decision in court, the two groups said, “Defense Minister Lieberman is violating Memorial Day and hurting Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families who seek to promote a dialogue of reconciliation. This is a cynical political use of a tool whose essence is supposed to be security; a use aimed at hurting bereaved families and Israelis and Palestinians who wish to mark Memorial Day together with mutual respect and recognition that pain and sorrow are not the exclusive domain of either side.”