Policing Bereavement

Lieberman’s latest ban makes it clear that the issue of entry permits to Palestinians from the territories is not subordinate to that holy of holies of 'security considerations', but rather to purely political considerations

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Israeli settlement of Katzrin in the Golan Heights on April 10, 2018
Jalaa Marey (AFP)

“This isn’t a memorial ceremony but a display of bad taste and insensitivity,” declared Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who refused to allow 110 Palestinians to enter Israel for an alternative Memorial Day service planned for next week in Tel Aviv. The brazenness of Lieberman – whose party’s contribution amounts to institutionalized corruption, spreading racism and sabotaging democracy – knows no bounds.

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Lieberman’s response makes it clear that the issue of entry permits to Palestinians from the territories is not subordinate to that holy of holies – “security considerations” – but rather to purely political considerations. His insolent preaching to families that have paid the highest possible price for living in Israel on how to memorialize their loved ones is a disgrace in itself. It’s not the alternative ceremony, but his remarks that hurt the bereaved families and the memory of their loved ones.

Lieberman knows that his move does not meet the test of reasonableness of administrative law. His populist and offensive statement is aimed at attracting a few more votes by delegitimizing those who sound a voice other than that of the tempestuous voice of the nationalist right.

The alternative Memorial Day event — which has been organized by the Parents Circle – Families Forum and the Combatants for Peace movement for the past 13 years, and is attended by thousands of Israelis and Palestinians — has always generated criticism and suspicion. Over the past two years, amidst escalating nationalist propaganda, the delegitimization of the left, the persecution of human rights organizations and the dismantling of society’s moral assets – initiatives led by the government – have made the ceremony a target for violent attacks. Last year protesters gathered outside the hall in which it was held and cursed, spit and threw bottles of urine at participants. This year the Holon municipality refused to rent the organizers a hall on the grounds that the event was political.

According to the organizers, Israel always sets up obstacles for the Palestinian participants, and the entry permit requests are refused at a rate of 40 percent to 50 percent, mainly because of the traditional closure imposed during holiday periods. But Lieberman’s declaration sets a new record for bullying.

Lieberman isn’t operating in a vacuum; most Israelis object to this welcome initiative, which seeks to establish common ground on the basis of shared pain, out of the understanding that a loss is a loss among people of every religion, race and gender. Instead of viewing the event as a bridge between the two peoples, recognizing the human side of the Palestinians is regarded as a threat.

The alternative Memorial Day ceremony should not only be allowed to proceed, with the full participation of bereaved Palestinians, but should be given a place of honor in Israeli public life.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.