Israeli NGOs fight gov’t to allow terrorists’ families attend Memorial Day event

Two left-wing Israeli groups file petition with Supreme Court calling to overturn Defense Minister’s decision not to grant entry permits to Palestinian Arabs for alternative Memorial Day event in Tel Aviv.

By World Israel News Staff

Two left-wing Israeli groups have filed a petition with the High Court of Justice, demanding that Israel allow Palestinian Arabs to enter the country in order to attend a bi-national Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant decided not to allow Palestinians to enter the country due to security concerns, citing the general closure of Judea and Samaria during the holidays and the recent string of terror attacks.

The two groups, Combatants for Peace and The Parents Circle-Families Forum, argued in their petition that Gallant’s decision violates freedom of expression and democratic values, as it denies families the right to express their grief and impedes the goal of facilitating peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

The 18th annual joint ceremony, titled “Sharing sorrow, Bringing hope,” is set to be held at Ganei Yehoshua Park in Tel Aviv on the eve of Yom Hazikaron – Israel’s memorial day for fallen IDF soldiers and victims of terror.

Both organizations claim that a great deal of time and resources have been invested in the ceremony, which is based on the participation of Palestinians, and that without their involvement, the program would be effectively nullified.

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“Although there were those who painted him as the hero of democracy, we see that Gallant continues the line of the extreme government in disdain for the High Court and freedom of expression,” Combatants for Peace said Wednesday.

“It’s a shame that this decision touches on the eve of Memorial Day, in a year when so many of us hope and aspire to unite with the memory of all those who were lost without the involvement of politicians, and at the expense of bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families who are holding a ceremony whose entire purpose is to spread hope and change.”

In their petition Wednesday, the two groups noted that the court intervened in 2018 and 2019 to prevent restrictions barring Palestinian Authority residents from being allowed into the country for the ceremony.

“The High Court’s decision is wrong and disappointing,” PM Netanyahu said in a statement in 2019. “There is no place for a memorial service that compares blood between us and the blood of terrorists. I therefore refused to allow the participants to enter the ceremony, and I believe that there was no room for the High Court’s intervention in this decision.”

Tzachi Wachsman, the brother of Sgt. Nachshon Wachsman who was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists and murdered during a failed rescue attempt in 1994, wrote in 2019 that the court’s decision doubled his grief.

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“I am shocked by the holding of an alternative memorial ceremony, with the encouragement of the Supreme Court, in memory of terrorists with the participation of their families,” he posted on Facebook. “This decision makes me feel doubly sad and grieved on the day of remembrance for our holy fallen. I feel frustrated and humiliated that this is my country.”

No ceremony was held in 2017 due to security threats, and the ceremony was held virtually in 2020, 2021, and 2022 due to the COVID pandemic.