When Israelis and Palestinians want publicity for a show of solidarity, they don’t have to look far; nationalist government ministers will soon be there.
So it was with the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony organized by Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle-Families Forum and supported by the New Israel Fund on the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day last month.
The event, held in a Tel Aviv sports stadium, drew a record 4,000 participants who had to contend with some 200 protesters who spat, threw water, and shouted at them “Nazis” and “whores” at the entrance to the stadium.
In the event, Israelis recounted the stories of their relatives who had been killed from the stage while their Palestinian counterparts did so by video from the West Bank. Speakers from both sides spoke with emotion, evoking tears from the crowd. The 225 Palestinians who had been slated to attend were not granted permission to enter the country by Israel’s Ministry of Defense but instead gathered in Beit Jala in the West Bank to participate by video conference.
The next day, Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s office tweeted criticism of the ceremony that many said went too far.
“I expect that people who mourn the murderers of babies and bombers of buses should be less sensitive to spit, pushes and water,” Bennett wrote on Twitter. In response to the criticism over the comment, Bennett rescinded it an hour later, admitting in the next tweet that it was “lacking taste” and stating that a student in the office had written it, not Bennett himself.
Bennett’s tweet and then retweet brought further attention to the event that had been reported on in several media outlets largely due to the protest outside.
The ceremony is held every year on Israel’s Memorial Day. This is the first year that the Israeli government has refused all entry permits to the Palestinian participants.
Photo Credit: Gilad Kavalerchik