Right-wing protesters disrupted, heckled and even forced their way into joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremonies held in Tel Aviv and in the north on Sunday night.
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In Tel Aviv, some 4,000 participated in the event, held to commemorate the lives lost on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and were attacked by members of a counter protest of several dozen right wingers.
In Kiryat Tivon, north of Haifa, about 150 people arrived for a similar ceremony in a local bookstore, but about 30 demonstrators, some of them masked, entered the bookstore as the event was due to begin and announced: “This evening won’t take place.”
The alternative Memorial Day commemoration is organized by The Parents Circle Families Forum, an Israeli-Palestinian group of those who have lost family members in the conflict, along with Combatants for Peace, a group of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinians militants, and has been held for the past 12 years.
This year, 225 Palestinians were prevented from attending the ceremony after Israel cancelled all entry permits following a stabbing attack carried out by an 18-year old Palestinian in Tel Aviv last week.
The ceremony includes both Israeli and Palestinian speakers and is intended “to commemorate the memory of the victims of the conflict and the shared pain,” say organizers.
'We’ve all experienced loss'
Avi Penn, one of the founders of the Karon Hasfarim book store in Kiryat Tivon, said the demonstrators forced their way in. “They pushed us, but we weren’t afraid,” he related. “I pushed back. I had no choice, and then they told me, ‘You’re violent.’”
Amos Geva, whose brother Amir Hoffner was killed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, said that people were frightened, and the incident created an unpleasant atmosphere.
Gilad Alon, Penn’s partner in Karon Hasfarim, said that fortunately, the police arrived quickly, enabling the event to proceed in a dignified fashion, albeit under heavy police protection.
“We’ve all experienced wars, bereavement, loss and pain,” Alon added. “I myself am a disabled veteran due to combat operations in Lebanon. And it turns out that many people want a different way of marking our pain.
“The people gathered here have also opened their hearts to the pain of the country’s Arab citizens, and want to listen to them and have a shared life with them out of the hopes that dialogue and understanding will create a better future,” he continued.
“Regrettably, a group of people with no ability to listen and comprehend wasn’t capable of enabling their fellow citizens to hold events in their own way and used the only method they know – violence.”
In attempting to allow the 225 Palestinian attend the event, the two groups organizing the ceremony had called on the Israel Defense Forces’ coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to grant permits to the Palestinians so they could attend the ceremony.
“The Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony is one of the few events in Israel that succeeds in bringing Israelis and Palestinians together on one stage and providing a public message on behalf of peace,” said Combatants for Peace.
However, permission was not granted in this instance.