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Police target second 'Breaking the Silence' event in a week

Senior police brass hound venue over minor business license violations. Police shut down a similar Breaking the Silence event last week citing right-wing threats against it.

For the second time in a week, Israeli police have imposed restrictions on Breaking the Silence lectures scheduled to take place in private venues. The owners of those venues and Breaking the Silence claim police are silencing the organization’s message in a way that serves the right wing in Israel.

Breaking the Silence is an organization of former IDF soldiers that collects and distributes soldier testimonies about the occupation in order to show Israeli society exactly what it is sending its children to do. It has become the target of numerous right-wing attacks in recent years, including from members of the government.

Three high-ranking police officers, including a station commander, showed up on Sunday at Bar Kayma, a vegan restaurant-bar in south Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood. The police brass asked the restaurant’s management various questions about the Breaking the Silence event planned for Monday. The officers noted that on the event’s Facebook page some 70 people had indicated they planned to attend the lecture, whereas the restaurant’s business license gives it a maximum capacity of 38 people.

“We have been in business for three-and-a-half years, during which we’ve had three to five events each week, most of which have had ‘attending’ numbers far larger than our maximum capacity, and most people don’t actually show up. We once had 1,000 people indicate they were attending. Nevertheless, this is the first time in all of those years that police have come here to talk about our business license,” explained Aharon Porat, one of the managers of Bar Kayma, and a member of the collective that owns the establishment. Police said that somebody reported the event to them.

The restaurant-bar where the Breaking the Silence event was scheduled to take place. (Courtesy photo)

The restaurant-bar where the Breaking the Silence event was scheduled to take place. (Courtesy photo)

“The officers said they are only concerned about the safety of the participants, and when we said that it sounds like a political matter they denied it. Then they started talking about all sorts of minor matters relating to our business license, like the fact that name of the manager of the restaurant isn’t up to date and that it’s not okay that we’re using the courtyard as a smoking area. They also said that we are responsible for what happens outside our establishment, on the street, if we turn people away and there are problems.”

After some discussion and consultation with Breaking the Silence, the restaurant’s management and the police officers agreed that only people who register in advance will be allowed in, and that the number of attendees will be limited to the maximum capacity of the restaurant. Later that day, other police officers called to make sure that they were actually doing so.

“It reeks of political persecution,” Porat said. “You can’t ignore the fact that the same thing happened in Be’er Sheva. I also have to say that it’s threatening. As a business owner you want to be in the good graces of the authorities, because you know how easy it is for them to come after you administratively and bureaucratically. When this is what happens nobody is going to want to host Breaking the Silence events, even if they support the organization, because they’ll come after you.”

As we reported here, Israeli police requested and received an injunction against a similar Breaking the Silence event scheduled to be held at a bar in the southern city of Be’er Sheva last week. Police sought the injunction as right-wing Jewish activists made public threats against the event and against the owner of the bar. In their request to the court in that case, the police lawyers claimed they were asking for a last-minute injunction without a hearing because police only became aware of the event at the last minute — despite the fact that several days earlier police arrested someone for allegedly threatening the bar’s owner in connection to the event.

The management of Bar Kayma fears that police will attempt a similar maneuver ahead of the event scheduled to take place at their Tel Aviv establishment. Such a step, bar’s management says, would be meant to send a message about hosting events like this.

“Unfortunately that’s the situation we’re living in,” said Yehuda Shaul, one of the founders of Breaking the Silence. “Law enforcement authorities, following the lead of the Netanyahu-Bennett-Shake government, are capitulating to right-wing violence. This is happening in Hebron, when police and soldiers protect settlers attempting to take over Palestinian-owned homes, and it is happening in Be’er Sheva and Tel Aviv when police capitulate to the Right’s threats of violence, and attempt to shut down lectures and stop a discussion about what’s happening in the occupied territories.”

A spokesperson for the Tel Aviv district police sent the following response:

A [ranking] police officer visited the location after we were made aware that the number of people who confirmed their attendance was far higher than the limit set in the business license. In order to prevent a disturbance of the peace and public order at the establishment, the owners were instructed to ensure that they comply with the terms of their license.

(Full disclosure: Some four years ago, when Bar Kayma first opened, I bought a membership in the cooperative that operates it. Since then, I have not been involved with the restaurant in any way and I have no connection to its management. Nevertheless, I am still a member on paper.)

A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Ben

      “In Israel and in the Diaspora, many Jews refuse to see what is patently obvious to others: Israel is neither Jewish nor democratic.”

      by Rogel Alpher

      http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.688870

      “As of November 2015, Israel is not a Jewish state. I don’t understand how there can be any argument over this statement. In the areas under Israel’s control, which include of course East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, Israel is a binational state, because two nations inhabit it….

      But there are Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. They are not going to evaporate. That is also a simple fact.

      And the Jews of Israel and the world are in denial of that fact, too. The attempt to have them face this fact is also called “provocation.” And thus, to the Jews of Israel and the world, reality itself is a kind of provocation. When life is an illusion, reality is a provocation.

      The response to provocation is anger, verbal violence, threats of physical violence, shaming, shunning. There an attempt at silencing those who are “provocative” – the people who insist on reflecting reality – or making them go away. The fact that they are allowed to express their opinion is presented as testimony to the existence of Israeli democracy.

      But they are afraid to express their opinion. In Israel the public atmosphere is frightening and threatening. It encourages “provocative” people – those who merely want to state simple facts – to be quiet lest something bad happen to them, or to leave the country.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Merkava

        Ok, my good friend, BEN, you have copied and pasted the opinion of Rogel Alpher, but what has that got to do with the excellent topic that Haggai Matar writes about?

        My good friend, BEN, claims that the Jewish State is not democratic. Could he perhaps tell us in what way the US (the country BEN CLAIMS to come from) is more democratic than Israel?

        My good frien, BEN, also believe that Israel is not a Jewish State, because, ya know, Rogel Alpher wrote THAT in Haaretz! But, does my good friend, BEN, ever have his own mind and ever think for himself? If he does, does he then know what a Jewish State is and that Israel does not fit into that definition? Perhaps it would be worthwhile to remind you, my good friend BEN, that the Jewish State means nothing more than ‘The Nation State Of The Jewish People” and NOT a State inhabited ONLY by Jews. Perhaps, my good friend BEN is now ALSO wondering: ‘what the heck does The Nation State Of the Jewish People mean”? Well, to keep it rather simple, my friend, ‘The Nation State Of The Jewish People’ is a State Jews call Home with GUARANTEED Jewish majority and non-Jewish minorities with the same and equal rights as Jews. That is the way it is in Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, etc. All these countries have majority ethnic Swedish, ethnic German, ethnic French, ethnic English, Scottish and Irish populations and other ethnic minorities with equal rights. So, why does my good friend BEN single out Israel?

        Why does the concept of “a Jewish State” stare up so much rage and envy in the heart of my good friend BEN who is quite comfortable with 23 Muslim Arab States/Republics and other Islamic Republics around the world?

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          It’s hard to believe but Merkava appears to have missed the obvious point that he, in his attempts to shut me up, is not unlike the police officers in Haggai’s article on this page. How smart is that? Lol.

          Reply to Comment
          • Merkava

            Oh, so now your claim is that I am “trying to shut you up”? Is that the new complaint you are going to email to the moderator moaning, weeping and begging them to ban me again?

            My good friend, BEN, I am NOT trying to shut you up! I asked you a series of questions. You have NOT answered any of said questions.

            Please talk as much as you want!

            PLEASE answer the questions, moron!

            Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          “the excellent topic that Haggai Matar writes about”

          Folks, have you donated to +972 today? Please don’t delay. They need our contributions. You can make a small or mid-size monthly donation or a larger one time donation. (Yes, I donate regularly.)

          Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      “The only democracy in the Middle East”? This kind of thing is more typical of a fascist dictatorship. We’ve seen several instances of a selective application of the laws lately, a denial of equal protection of the laws.

      Days the murderers of the Dawabshe family by firebombing remain still at large: 124.

      Days the Israeli Defense Minister has known their identities but has refused to arrest them: at least 120.

      Ya’alon said in September that Israel knows the identities of the suspects but has not arrested them in order to avoid “revealing sources.”

      All the conditions for prosecution exist. Failure to prosecute denies equal protection of the laws and removes any pretense to equality before the law in the state of Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Merkava

        The annual average of murders as a result of murder in the US (where you claim to come from) is 32,100. The DAILY average is 88 – mostly African Americans, women and Latinos. But of course, you did not know about what goes on in your own country, nor do you care. As far as you are concerned, it’s all about your obsession with Jews and Israel, not about anything else.

        So, why is BEN more worried about ONE heinous crime in Israel (btw for which the Israeli PM, President, Defense Minister, etc. Ministers have been apologizing for ad nauseam and feverishly looking for the Jewish or Arab criminals who committed said crime) and NOT the tens of thousands of such heinous crimes in his own country? Perhaps, my good friend, BEN, should use his time more wisely and invest it for the good of your own country first? The problems facing your country, BEN, are by far more than Israel’s. If BEN is not fixated on- and obsessed with Jews and Israel, perhaps BEN can explain to us why he neither knows not cares about the calamitous quagmire that is threatening to sink the country he claims he comes from?

        Reply to Comment
        • Merkava

          “The annual average of murders as a result of murder in the US” should read:

          The annual average of murders as a result of GUN VIOLENCE in the US…

          Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Oh wow I just didn’t know that! I’ll drop everything and never post here again! LoL.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Sounds like you don’t care about what happens in your own country Benny.

            You only care about talking about bad things that Jews do in Israel. Real or imaginary. Only obsessive haters act like that.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Well I was thinking of sharing my pie crust recipe with you but it seemed kind of off topic so I held back.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Idiot.

            Reply to Comment
    3. The amount of harassment you get reflects the (growing!) level of your effectiveness and impact. Let’s hope these actions draw even more attention to the unstoppable message of Breaking the Silence !

      Reply to Comment