Multaqa-Mifgash under threat of eviction
I’m writing to you because today, more than ever, we need you on our side.
As some of you may have heard, our Arab-Jewish cultural center, Multaqa-Mifgash, is under threat of eviction from the bomb shelter it has been operating from for over a decade. At the end of last year, the Be’er-Sheva Municipality sent a letter informing us that we violated the terms of our agreement and therefore must evacuate the shelter within 14 days. The Municipality’s main argument is that our activities are political and hence they violate the purpose for which the shelter was allocated – communal activity.
While the Be’er-Sheva Municipality seeks to rely on vague terms in order to justify the eviction order, it is well clear that the motives behind the order are political. The municipality of Be’er-Sheva and its mayor, Ruvik Danilovich, succumb to the political pressures of right-wing extremists. The latter seek to silence those who they object ideologically, and it seems that Arab-Jewish coexistence, freedom of speech and democracy are values alien to them. Instead, they wish to divide the communities and spread hatred.
Last week, together with Attorney Dan Yakir of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), we filed a petition to the Be’er-Sheva District Court against the annulment of the agreement and the immediate evacuation of the shelter (link to the petition, in Hebrew). The petition refutes the Municipality’s claims and shows that not only they apply selective enforcement towards us, but also, they ignore the Attorney General’s instructions. As early as 2015, after threats by the Be’er-Sheva Municipality not to broadcast the film ‘Shivering in Gaza’, we approached the Attorney General in order to clarify the limits of political activity in municipal facilities. The Attorney General’s response made clear that for the sake of protecting freedom of speech, political activity is prohibited only if it is partisan, meaning our activities were legal.
Despite the Attorney General’s response, the Be’er-Sheva Municipality continued to harass events hosted at the Multaqa-Mifgash over the past year and a half. Whenever a critical event was planned – be it about freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and protest or the Israeli arms industry – we received threats from the Municipality to cancel the event. These threats give rise to the delegitimization and incitement against Israel’s civil society we experience in recent years.
As we have clarified time and again to the Be’er-Sheva Municipality, we will not succumb to the silencing of the extreme right-wing. We, Arabs and Jews of the Negev, will carry on with our activities in order to promote a just and equal society. The Multaqa-Mifgash will continue to serve as a cultural space in which significant public issues arise, especially with regard to Jewish-Arab relations.
In order to fight the miserable decision of the Be’er-Sheva Municipality, we ask for your help. We are amidst a campaign against the evacuation of the Multaqa-Mifgash, both in the public and legal arena. In order to fund our struggle, and rent an alternative place in case we are evicted, we initiated a crowdfunding campaign.
I call upon you to take part and make a donation in order to prove that coexistence exists in the Negev as well.
Thank you for your support and solidarity,
Executive Director, Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality