The Be’er Sheva District Court rejected the petition of the Negev Coexistence Forum against the Beer Sheva Municipality on 15 May 2018.
Judge Eliyahu Bitan rejected the petition by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) on behalf of the Negev Coexistence Forum against the evacuation of the Multaka-Mifgash Cultural Center, which resides in a public shelter. Unfortunately, Judge Bitan clearly favored the claims of the Beer Sheva municipality. Similar to what occurred during the hearing, when the judge said several controversial things (among other things, the judge compared the activity of the Multaka-Mifgash to Kahane Hai’s activity in Umm al-Fahm), he continued to give unequivocal statements and casually dismissed the activities of the Multaka-Mifgash as illegitimate and political, thus completely ignoring our claims.
In the Judge’s opinion, this is not a matter of freedom of expression, but rather a narrow administrative matter, since in a contract between us and the municipality it is written that our activity in the shelter will be “community activity.” It is regrettable to see that the Court choose to give a narrow and limited interpretation of community activities, and a shame that the Judge does not see the case from a somewhat broader perspective in view of the reduction of freedom of expression and public space in Israel in recent years. Instead of promoting a notion of dialogue between Arabs and Jews and allowing in-depth discussions on controversial issues (as is customary in democracy), the Judge chose to reward all those who seek to create a devide between different groups in our society and silencing any opinion that is inconsistent with the Government’s opinion. We regret that the Court chose to side with and accept the municipality’s arguments almost entirely without any regards to the arguments raised in the petition.
The judge cancelled the interim injunction and delayed the execution of the judgment by 14 days.
Our commitment to freedom of expression is absolute, and we will do our best to over-turn the decision of the District Court and leave the contents of the Multaka-Mifgash in our hands, as they have been for more than a decade.
We will not agree with the city’s censorship or self-censorship. Therefore, the Negev Coexistence Forum, with the help of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, will file an appeal with the Supreme Court.