Special NIF Panel on Freedom of Expression in Tel Aviv

23 September 2014

NIF and flagship grantee Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) co-sponsored a special panel at Tel Aviv’s Lev Dizengoff cinema on threats to freedom of speech following the war in Gaza. This issue is of particular concern to many Israelis during this time.

The diverse panel, which included a number of voices not commonly heard in the mainstream, featured journalists Gal Ochovski and Ben-Dror Yemini, ACRI’s Merav Alush-Lebron, B’Tselem’s David Zonsheine, and NIF International Council (IC) member and sports broadcaster Zohir Bahlul. NIF IC Chair Talia Sasson and ACRI Executive Director Sharon Abraham-Weiss also spoke.

In front of a sold-out audience, the panelists held a lively discussion about freedom of expression during and after the war. David Zonsheine talked about attempts to infiltrate the B’Tselem offices during the war and how, for the first time ever, they had to install outside security. Zohir Bahlul argued that the national media had been “enlisted” to the military campaign and that very few voices of dissent were head. A lively debate then broke out between Ben-Dror Yemini (who made a point of thanking NIF for inviting him – a figure associated with the right) and the rest of the panel about whether threats to freedom of speech are as extensive as many claim.

Around 300 people attended the event, which received widespread coverage in the Israeli media. Following the panel discussion and questions from the audience, there was a screening of the new Israeli movie, Dancing Arabs, which is based on the novel by Sayed Kashua.