Israeli-Arab Lawmakers May Mark 50 Years of Occupation With a 'Meeting,' but Not an 'Event'

Joint Arab List MKs still intend to hold an 'event' on Jerusalem Day

Joint List Knesset members at a press conference in February 2015 (from left): Masud Ganaim, Ayman Odeh, Aida Touma-Suliman, Ahmad Tibi, Dov Khenin and Jamal Zahalka.
Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

The Knesset’s legal adviser announced on Sunday that lawmakers may mark the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank with a “meeting,” but not with an “event.”

The adviser, attorney Eyal Yinon, permitted members of the Joint Arab List to mark the anniversary after the Knesset speaker, Yuli Edelstein, had forbidden such activity. Yinon asserted in a letter to lawmaker Aida Touma-Suliman that a misunderstanding had resulted in the decision by Edelstein.

“While you asked to receive an auditorium to hold a ‘meeting,’ the speaker’s office believed that it was an ‘event’ or ‘ceremony,’ to which other rules apply,” Yinon wrote. “Because it turned out to be a meeting, there is, in principle, no reason to prevent it and the visitor center’s reservation line has been informed accordingly.” 

Yinon did state, however, that the fact the event was planned to be held on Jerusalem Day in one of the Knesset halls was a legitimate reason for Edelstein to block it.

“The contents of meetings that lawmakers have held in the Knesset building have never been censored, as long as exceptional and extreme incidents that are suspected of violating the law or posing a security threat are not involved,” he noted. “The Knesset speaker has no intention of changing this policy.”

Touma-Suliman, however, said that she still intended on holding an event – and not a meeting – on Jerusalem Day. 

“Knesset halls are not the private property of the Knesset speaker, and the attempt to interfere with the content and timing of the meetings are illegitimate and a grave attack on public representatives,” she said. “It is a real shame that the Knesset legal adviser backs the Knesset speaker instead of protecting democratic values and the right to free speech.”