Activists and police at Zochrot office in Tel Aviv 390.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Police arrested three people for disturbing the peace outside the Tel Aviv
offices of the Zochrot (“Remembrances”) organization on Wednesday night, during
an unusual standoff that took place shortly after the group held an Independence
Day event commemorating pre- 1948 Arab villages.
The event consisted of a
meeting and a lecture inside the group’s headquarters, a small office inside a
converted apartment in a residential building about two blocks away from the
main Independence Day celebrations at Rabin Square. Attendees had planned on
exiting the building and leaving fliers on the sidewalk and side street outside
their offices, which showed the names of Arab villages that existed within the
Green Line before the founding of the state.
When they came downstairs,
they said they were told by police that the fliers were “incitement material”
and that distributing them would be considered disturbing the peace. Police told
them they would only be allowed to leave the building if they left the posters
behind and identified themselves to police officers.
A standoff of sorts
ensued, and police eventually arrested three people for disturbing police,
including one who had arrived from outside the event and was standing in the
street reading the names of villages that were in the Tel Aviv area before
Eitan Bronstein, the spokesman for Zochrot, said that the group has
held the event for several years and has never had a problem. He said that they
speak to people about the posters and at times there are arguments and some
anger directed at them, but said that they had never encountered
When asked if the event could be seen as a provocation, he said
that the point of the event was merely to show that “the independence that we
are celebrating was won at the expense of the Palestinians who lived
While the building was still barricaded, attorney Gaby Lusky, who
represents a number of left-wing activists and organizations, arrived to speak
to the police, and said that what they were doing constituted false
She said that the protesters did not legally need to
identify themselves, and that police would need to either let them leave or
arrest them, not just hold them indefinitely.
By 11 p.m. there were
around two dozen riot police at the scene, including two standing in the
courtyard in an alley next to the building, to make sure no one exited by
sneaking around the back.
The large police presence brought a sizable
amount of attention from passersby, who came to check out the group of around a
dozen activists holding small placards with the names of Arab villages in
Hebrew, English and Arabic.
Most passersby took a quick glance and
continued walking, though a few, most seemingly drunk, stopped to speak with
activists, occasionally becoming heated, but quickly continuing on their way to
Independence Day parties.
One such passerby was a drunk teenager –
wearing electric bunny ears and holding a bottle of beer – who spent 30 minutes
alternating between arguing with activists, hugging them, dancing, and finally
being told by one riot cop that he needed to calm down or risk a charge of
disturbing the peace or drunk and disorderly.
By around 2 a.m. police
relented and cleared the barricades, and the rest of the protesters left without
incident or identifying themselves.