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Settler group tries to shut down bi-national Memorial Day event

The Samaria Settler Council, the same group that recently released a video defaming human rights groups with anti-Semitic imagery, petitions the defense minister to stop Palestinians from participating in, and to pass a law banning an alternative Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony.

The alternative, joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony, 2014. (Photo by Dan Haimovich)

The alternative, joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony, 2014. (Photo by Dan Haimovich)

An Israeli settler group is trying to shut down the 10th annual joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial day ceremony put on by Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle Families Forum, which is set to take place this Tuesday.

The Samaria Settler Council asked the Israeli defense minister not to grant entry permits to the Palestinian participants in the ceremony, which takes place on Israel’s national Memorial Day. Speakers in the event include bereaved family members from both sides of the conflict.

The Samaria Settler Council is the same group that produced a video earlier this year that used classic anti-Semitic imagery to suggest that Israeli human rights groups serve Nazi paymasters.

In its letter to the defense minister, the settler group referred to the Palestinians slated to participate in the joint memorial service as “the families of murderers.” The group further called on Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to advance legislation that would ban such events.

In an article with no byline on the website of “Ma’ariv,” which was recently acquired by the Jerusalem Post Group, the majority of which appears to have been copy pasted from a press release, the Palestinian participants are described as the families of “terrorists” and “terror operatives.”

A quick glance at the list of speakers at the joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony is enough to see that the portrait painted by the Samaria Settler Council is far from accurate. Along with bereaved Israeli families, scheduled to speak are: Mazen Faraj form the Daheish Camp, whose father was shot to death by soldiers while returning from work; and Yasmin Ishtayeh of Saalam village, who was born blind, and whose father was murdered by Israeli settlers.

One might expect such distortions from the Samaria Settler Council, but it is amazing how freely Ma’ariv reprinted the libelous accusations against these Palestinians.

By the time of publication the Defense Ministry had not responded to a request for comment on whether it would grant entry permits to those Palestinians who were scheduled to participate in the ceremony.

Two years ago, a similar request led to the denial of some 200 entry permits. Only after a threatened petition to the High Court of Justice and the intervention of a number of Knesset members, the Defense Ministry approved entry permits for 40 of the participants.

The alternative, joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony, 2014. (Photo by Dan Haimovich)

The alternative, joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony, 2014. (Photo by Dan Haimovich)

Combatants for Peace released the following statement in response to the letter by the Samaria Settler Council:

In the ceremony we honor the memories of those who have fallen and share the pain of their families. That pain is not foreign to us. Many of us served in combat roles [in the army], some of us lost close family and friends. It is on us to remember and to remind that war is not our fate but a choice made by humans. On such a difficult day like [Memorial Day] we call on both sides to recognize the pain and hopes of those living on the other side of the fence and to try and prevent the next war. Just maybe, on next year’s Memorial Day, we won’t need to commemorate new victims.

In addition to settlers, criticism of the ceremony also can be found on the Palestinian side.

“I have Palestinian friends who are angry and who do not understand why I support such an event, but I am not afraid,” said Muhammad Salah of Bethlehem, a member of Combatants for Peace.

“I believe that we will only be able to bridge the gaps between the two peoples if more and more people participate in our activities,” Salah added, “and the ceremony is one way of convincing as many people as possible to take part.”

“We all took part in the cycle of violence,” said Michal Hochberg, coordinator of Combatants for Peace’s Tel Aviv-Nablus groups. “It is through our actions that we can show people the other side [of the conflict] through our personal stories, and the transformation that we went through.”

In addition to speeches, the details of which can be found here, a recorded message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be screened, in which he praises the event’s organizers.

Combatants for Peace is a movement made up of Israeli military veterans and Palestinians who were involved in the cycle of violence, all of whom chose to abandon the path of violence in favor of together ending the occupation. The Parents Circle Families Forum is an organization of over 600 Israeli and Palestinian families who lost loved ones in the conflict, and who chose a path of reconciliation. These are the people the Samaria Settlers Council is trying to stop from getting together, commemorating and mourning alongside each other. One can only hope that they fail.

Combatants for Peace is still trying to raise money for the ceremony, and is accepting donations here.

This article first appeared in Hebrew on our sister site, Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Pedro X

      What is striking is the small number of Palestinian Arabs who participate in this alternate memorial event and want reconciliation. The participants are almost all Israelis. Last year 2500 participants came. The article notes that two years ago only 200 Palestinians sought permits and 40 were allowed into Israel. Every year this alternative memorial service has been held in the bubble of Tel Aviv. It has never been held in Haifa, Jaffa, Sderot or even Jerusalem which has 300,000 Arab residents. More noteworthy, the service has never been held in Gaza City, Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus or any Palestinian city, town or village. This speaks volumes about the lack of any sizable Palestinian peace movement.

      Not long ago left wingers went to Ramallah to discuss alternative peace proposals but they had to be evacuated form the building because of serious threats of harm from Palestinian Arabs. Khaled Toameh reported on January 9, 2014:

      “Scores of Palestinian activists on Thursday attacked a hotel in Ramallah where Israelis and Palestinians were holding a meeting to talk about peace.

      Chanting slogans against “normalization” with Israel, the vandals smashed windows and tried to storm the conference hall before dozens of Palestinian Authority policemen pushed them back.

      The meeting, which was held under the motto “Ordinary People Make Peace,” was organized by a group called Israeli- Palestinian Public Negotiating Congress in Ramallah & Jerusalem.

      The Palestinian and Israeli delegations consist of 15 members each. They include ex-IDF officers, Palestinian security commanders, Israeli settlers, Palestinian ex-prisoners, academics, businessmen and journalists.

      Palestinian activists who learned about the meeting at City Inn Hotel hanged a banner at the entrance to the hotel reading, “Normalization is Treason.”

      The activists protested against the presence of Israelis in the city, banging on the main gate and chanting, “Israelis out!” Others chanted, “No to negotiations, no to normalization, this homeland is not for sale” and “Our people want RPG [rocket-propelled grenades], not security coordination.”

      A Palestinian journalist expressed outrage over the hanging of an Israeli flag next to a Palestinian flag inside the conference hall.

      One of the protesters condemned the Palestinian participants.

      “Instead of caring about our people in the refugee camps, they are sitting here with Israelis who are killing our people every day,” he said. “It’s disgraceful that these people and our Palestinian Authority are continuing to negotiate with Israelis, begging them to give us something.”

      The activist denounced the PA police for refusing to allow him and his friends to enter the conference hall to protest against the meeting.

      Another activist said he and his friends came to the hotel to tell the Israelis to leave immediately. “This is not where Israelis should be,” he said. “They should be pursued before international courts for war crimes.”

      It appears ordinary Palestinians really do not want peace.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        “One of the protesters condemned the Palestinian participants.

        “Instead of caring about our people in the refugee camps, they are sitting here with Israelis who are killing our people every day,” he said. “It’s disgraceful that these people and our Palestinian Authority are continuing to negotiate with Israelis, begging them to give us something.” ”

        Not a bad point to make, actually.

        Reply to Comment
      • ‘Palestinian activists who learned about the meeting at City Inn Hotel hanged a banner at the entrance to the hotel reading, “Normalization is Treason.”’

        Just as the Boycott Law flags treason.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Bottom line, in Palestinian society talking to Israelis, even leftists, about peace is treason. The message to Israelis is no negotiations, no recognition and no peace. Where have we heard that before?

          The Israeli boycott law fights harm against and to Israeli citizens by virtue of them being Israeli. Boycotts against Jews in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries culminated in the Shoah. Many BDS supporters call for the total destruction of the Israeli state. That Israel does not promote demonization and boycotts of Israelis and has a civil law to allow Israelis affected by BDS to sue those who seek to harm them must be a real disappointment to you.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Pedro X you are hilarious in your tireless hasbara and chutzpah. To an article that is all about intransigent Israeli settlers trying their damnedest to join with the occupying IDF to shut down a joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial day ceremony in which working together and reconciliation are the theme, you want to say, “see, those Palestinians don’t want peace.” Hilarious.

            And you managed to bring in the Holocaust too! So now these same Israeli settlers trying to boycott and shut down a joint effort at peace are people with a special right to not ever be boycotted. How convenient. How hypocritical. As Noam Scheizaf has articulated well, in Israel you can boycott everything, except the occupation.

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            The fact is that the conference has never been cancelled and will not be cancelled now. The fact is that there is very little Palestinian participation in the joint conference and it has little support within the West Bank or Gaza.

            Reply to Comment
          • phil

            The fact is that you’re a racist Pedro.. not a comment about the right wing fascists trying to shut this this down.. oh no.. it’s always the other guy… pathetic

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro, The Israeli Boycott Law targets only Israeli residents. It has no effect on BDS organized abroad save that it prevents Israeli citizens (and, technically, foreign residents) from being some form of fellow traveler with the logic. The Justice writing the opinion called such support “political terror,” just a hair from treason. Israeli law as enabled the suppression of opinion punitively, no different than what you cite across no man’s land. It’s just that you approve of the former and are eager to use the latter in propaganda.

            You began this by noting the low Palestinian turn out for the memorial, then move to active opposition to the idea of the memorial among Palestinians, but are unwilling to acknowledge that the Israeli State is similarly preventing coalition. If you talked to those Palestinians opposed to memorial, they will have plenty of horrible stories to tell you about what Israel has done to “their people,” just as you have for what has been done to yours. But the whole point of the memorial movement is to say “don’t put us in your never ending war.” But you are so convinced there will ever be nothing but that war you can’t even hear their voices.

            I know your presence here indicates true belief; but have some human charity and see that as Jews have horribly been lumped as a single entity, so too you are doing to the same to Palestinians. I see little difference between you and those Palestinians opposed to the memorial, save you have different parents.

            Reply to Comment