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Court shuts down left-wing lecture following threats of violence

‘Breaking the Silence’ planned to hold a speaking event at a local pub in Be’er Sheva. The police shut it down after it could not ensure the safety of the participants.

By John Brown*

Yahuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence leading a tour in Hebron (photo: Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence leading a tour in Hebron. (photo: Activestills.org)

A Be’er Sheva court barred a local pub from hosting an event put on by “Breaking the Silence” following threats by right-wing activists.

The Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court issued the order barring the event, which was supposed to take place Tuesday night at the Ashan Hazman pub, following a request by the police, which arrested a resident of the city on suspicion of threatening the pub owner earlier this week.

Breaking the Silence is an Israeli NGO comprised of former combat soldiers who try to expose the Israeli public to the realities of the occupation through discussions of their military service as well as tours to the West Bank.

In court, the police prosecutor argued that “according to our intelligence, extreme rightists called on other right wingers to come to the pub and torpedo the event. Our intelligence included remarks that were grave bordering on dangerous.” The judge accepted the appeal and barred the event from taking place at the pub. According to the judge, “the intelligence shows that there are those who wish to disrupt the gathering… and that they are willing to use violence to do so.”

According to the state representative, the request for a restraining order came too late — only four hours before the event was scheduled to take place — and that they only heard of the event the day before the hearing. This is a strange claim, when considering that the police arrested a right-wing activist suspected of threatening the event organizer two days on Sunday.

The request for a restraining order also came after the organization complied with a police request to compile and hand over a list of attendees. According to Breaking the Silence, the police also requested the owner take responsibility over what happens in the area surrounding the pub during the event, meaning he is responsible for protecting patrons from right-wing violence. The owner refused this request, leading the police to appeal to the court.

It is worth noting that the pub is not a publicly-funded institution, and that the Breaking the Silence event was cancelled because the police were unable to protect attendees.

Breaking the Silence responded to the court’s decision:

Be’er Sheva Police has awarded right-wing terror a prize instead of doing its job and maintaining public order. It’s capitulation to right-wing terror does not happen in a vacuum, this is the spirit of the law that comes from above — from the prime minister, education minister, justice minister and their friends — who constantly incite against social activists and human rights activists. Neither their campaign of hatred and incitement nor will right-wing terror stop us — we will continue to meet today and in the future, with everyone who cares about the future of the state and Israeli society. They will not silence us.

Breaking the Silence eventually held the event in a number of private apartments in Be’er Sheva.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger. This story first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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    1. Lauren

      A sad testimony to the so-called right to freedom of speech in this so-called democratic country. I stand behind Tzachi Goldberg for continuing to provide an alternative stage for local artists and cultural events. Ashan Hazman fulfills an important role on the southern cultural scene.

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