Minister says it’s a security decision but peace organisations say Israeli governments have a history of trying to block the controversial joint service on Yom Hazikaron.
Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has rejected a request from bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families to allow Palestinians from the West Bank to attend the annual joint commemoration on Israel’s Memorial Day next week.
A statement from Gallant’s office said he was blocking the Palestinians from entering Israel for the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Ceremony on April 24 due to “the complex security situation” in the West Bank.
He also cited the planned closure of crossings with the West Bank and Gaza Strip over Memorial Day and Independence Day, a step Israel regularly takes during national and religious holidays.
Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle-Families Forum, a grassroots organisation of bereaved families, are appealing the decision which has twice before been overturned by the Supreme Court.
They say the ban violates a 2019 ruling by the High Court of Justice that overturned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision then to deny permits to dozens of West Bank Palestinians planning to attend the event, citing security grounds. The court said that it was not legitimate to bar the attendees’ entry for security reasons.
Among the leaders of the event are Palestinian Bassam Aramim and Israeli Rami Elhanan who work together to build peace. Aramim’s eight-year-old daugher Abir was killed by an Israeli soldier and Elhanan’s 13-year-old daughter Smadar was killed by a suicide bomber.
“We, like every year, will continue our sacred mission and remember together”Rami Elhanan
Aramim told Plus61J Media that blocking the joint event was part of the government’s strategy to entrench the status quo.
“Unfortunately, it is known that the policies of successive right-wing Israeli governments have long been based on the policy of not having a partner on the other side, and there is no party to talk to.
“This joint event has become the strongest and largest demonstration of the peace camp, the rejection of occupation and cooperation between the parties to facilitate the achievement of human solidarity, and sharing in pain and hope for a bright future for this region.
“Mr Gallant’s decision to prevent the Palestinians from being allowed to reach the meeting place comes within this context, and this meeting on the joint memorial day constitutes a clear and unequivocal embarrassment that there is a partner and there are many who desire dialogue between the two peoples and there is much to talk about.”
Aramim said attempts to prevent the joint commemoration had become “an annual Israeli government tradition” but would not prevent the shared commemoration.
“We are determined to commemorate the anniversary jointly, and if it is not possible to meet in person, it will be as it was during the last three years through various internet technologies.”
Elhanan said he was hopeful the Supreme Court would approve the entry of Palestinian participants, as it has done in the past.
“The Israeli Right-wing makes every possible effort to ignore the Palestinian people their existence and their pain. They are trying to show that all Palestinians are extremists, that there is no one to talk to and nothing to talk about, so you don’t have to give up anything. Courageous Palestinians who are willing to acknowledge the Israeli pain are rejected.”
He said bereaved participants also had to walk past Right-wing activists “with flags, loudspeakers, whistles and spits”.
“We, like every year, will continue our sacred mission and remember together with our Palestinian friends the Jewish and Arab victims of the conflict.”
Photo: Joint memorial service 2019
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Like many of his predecessors, Gallant is using the general closure imposed on the West Bank on the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day as an excuse for his decision, refusing to exclude the small number of invited families.