Be'er Sheva Court Bars Talk by Left-wing NGO Breaking The Silence

Police were concerned that the event lacked proper security after the venue received threats.

Olivier Fitussi

A talk at a Be'er Sheva pub originally scheduled for Tuesday sponsored by Breaking the Silence, a left-wing organization of former soldiers, has been cancelled following a court-ordered restraining order issued over concerns that appropriate security arrangements had not been made for the event.

As a result of the court order, Breaking the Silence announced that it would be holding two parlor meetings at private homes in Be'er Sheva on Tuesday evening instead.

The Be'er Sheva Magistrate's Court issued the order barring the holding of the event at the Ashan Hazman pub at the request of the police, who earlier this week arrested a 27-year-old resident of the city on suspicion of threatening the pub's owner, Tzachi Goldberg. A Facebook post announcing the event prompted hundreds of calls for protests, boycotts of the pub and threats against the bar. Many of the opponents of the event were believed to come from the right-wing Al-Yahud organization.

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.

The Ashan Hazman pub plays an important cultural role in the city, regularly hosting young artists and open-stage evenings and as a venue for lectures. Breaking the Silence described the program at the pub 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.”

Prior to the issuing of the restraining order, the police had imposed strict conditions on arrangements for the program, insisting that Breaking the Silence prepare a list of only 40 invitees in advance, that it ensure that no one congregate outside the club and that Goldberg be present at the event. The police had also required the presence of two security guards at the program, one inside the pub and one outside.

Although the organization said it prepared a list of 40 people that would be attending, at a Tuesday morning court hearing on their request for a restraining order, the police said the Breaking the Silence Facebook page showed that about 250 people had confirmed their attendance at the program. In addition, Goldberg is said to have told the police that he would not be providing security and would not be in attendance himself.

Breaking the Silence issued a statement saying that the Be'er Sheva police had rewarded "right-wing terror instead of doing its job of maintaining public order." It called the Be'er Sheva police decision "capitulation," which it said had not arisen in a vacuum, but instead was in the spirit of sentiments the group said have been expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other cabinet members and their colleagues "inciting from every possible platform against social justice and human rights activists."