Be'er Sheva Pub Owner Threatened for Hosting Left-wing Event

Pub owner who agreed to host lecture by ex-soldiers group Breaking the Silence files police complaint after receiving threats.

Olivier Fitussi

Be'er Sheva police have arrested a 27-year-old resident of the city on suspicion of threatening the owner of a pub scheduled to host a talk by Breaking the Silence, an organizartion of former soldiers dedicated to raising awareness about the situation in the West Bank.

Tzachi Goldberg, owner of the city's Ashan Hazman pub, filed a police complaint in conjunction with Breaking the Silence after a Facebook post announcing the event evoked hundreds of calls for protests, boycotts of the pub and threats. Many of the oponents of the event are believd to come from the right-wing Al-Yahud organization.

“You’ve ended your career, you apparently aren’t familiar with the residents of Be’er Sheva," was just one of the responses Goldberg received on Facebook. "You aren’t at all aware of the chaos and the agitation you have caused by your activities. Now we also know who the snake inside our city is.”

The police have imposed strict limitations on the scheduled event, insisting that Breaking the Silence prepare a list of only 40 invitees in advance, ensure that there will be no congregating outside the club, and that Goldberg himself be present at the event. The police also demanded that the organizers ensure that two security guards are in attendance during the talk - one inside the pub and one outside.

The Ashan Hazman pub plays an important cultural role in the city. It regularly hosts young artists and open-stage evenings and serves as a venue for lectures and exchanges of ideas. Breaking the Silence defined the talk as “a lecture offering an initial introduction to the organization, our goals and why we were established. The talk exposes the participants to the various methods by which the Israel Defense Forces exercises its control over the Palestinian population.”

On Sunday, police arrested a city resident on suspicion of threatening Goldberg over the past two weeks. Goldberg told Haaretz that it was not the first time an organization identified with the left had been hosted at the club, but he had never previously been threatened to such a degree.

Despite the threat, Goldberg is insisting on hosting the event, unless the police decide otherwise. “It’s impossible to give in every time they tell you what to do,” he said.

“In the face of the threats and the scare tactics of the right, we will continue to speak and to tell society about the situation we experienced as soldiers serving in the territories," Breaking the Silence said in response.

"As people who care about Israeli society and its values, we think it important to hold a public discourse about the reality of the military occupation and the domination of millions of human beings. Conducting a public discourse about the occupation is our civic and moral duty and is shared by every citizen in the State of Israel.”

Supt. Doron Aloni, investigations officer at the Be’er Sheva police station, explained that the police respected freedom of expression and would enable anyone to express his protest in a lawful manner. At the same time, he said that none of the parties will be allowed to take the law into their own hands.