Banning Yisrael Beytenu from distributing copies of French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s “survivors issue” is a violation of its right to freedom of expression, the party said Thursday, opening an “outdoor library” in which people could read the satirical weekly.
Yisrael Beytenu plans to petition the High Court of Justice on Sunday, in response to Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Salim Joubran’s Wednesday night injunction against them distributing the magazine.
The party planned to give out copies of Charlie Hebdo, because the Steimatzky bookstore chain decided to only sell them online and not in stores. The bookstore chain’s decision came after MK Masud Gnaim (UAL) said “the country and the [Steimatzky] chain will be responsible for the results” of selling Charlie Hebdo copies, and that doing so would be crossing a redline as far as Israeli Arabs and their leadership were concerned.
Joubran’s ruling was a response to a petition by MK Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al), who wrote that distributing the magazines violates the law against giving gifts as part of an election campaign, and warned that doing so would likely disturb the peace, because it offends Muslims by mocking their religious symbols.
The judge accepted the first claim as reason enough to ban the party from acting as it planned, adding that it would be better if parties worked to bring Jews and Arabs closer and not take advantage of the tension between them.
On Thursday, Yisrael Beytenu opened an outdoor library in front of Independence Hall on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, which only had one thing to read: Charlie Hebdo. The party allowed passers-by to read copies of the magazine and sign a petition supporting its petition to the High Court.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to try to maintain freedom of speech in Israel in this way,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said, visiting the library.
“When [first mayor of Tel Aviv Meir] Dizengoff thought of the first Hebrew city, he didn’t think we would give in to blackmail and threats.
“I don’t agree with a lot of the magazine says, but as Voltaire said, I would defend to the death their right to say it,” he said, attributing a quote to Voltaire that he did not actually write.
Nearby, party activists sat on the steps of Independence Hall with their mouths taped shut, reading the magazine, while those whose mouths were not taped chanted “no to censorship.”
Yisrael Beytenu’s library also had copies of the cover it planned to attach to the magazine, which read: “Ahmed Tibi doesn’t want you to see this. Ahmed Tibi doesn’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state. We do.”
They also had flyers saying “Ahmed Tibi and radical Islam want to murder Israeli freedom of expression” and “Today it’s a newspaper; tomorrow it’s the national anthem.”