Photo Credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visits a military plant in the Southern Israeli city of Sderot. December 14, 2017.

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday compelled the Israeli government to permit the entry of 90 Arabs into Israel to participate in a joint memorial ceremony for bereaved Israeli and Arab families, reversing a ban imposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Justices Esther Hayut, Uzi Fogelman and Anat Baron accepted the petition from the Forum of Bereaved Families and Combatants for Peace, the event’s organizers, allowing the Arabs’ entry, subject to an appropriate security examination.

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The combined memorial ceremony will take place Tuesday evening in Tel Aviv.

Liberman handed the court the reasoning for its decision. As Defense Minister, he could have legitimately ban the Arabs’ entrance based on the current volatility at the borders. Instead, in order to score with his voters, the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu said last week that he “will not give a hand to desecration of Memorial Day,” calling the combined event “not a memorial ceremony, but a demonstration of bad taste and insensitivity that harms the bereaved families who are dear to us.”

The ceremony has been held for 13 years, and in the past 11 years Arabs have been allowed entry to participate.

The justices noted that “there is no dispute over the fact that the professional echelon of the Defense Ministry – the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – believed that this year, too, there is room to respond to the petitioners’ request and allow Palestinians to attend the ceremony.”

The court admonished the defense minister for being sensitive only to the families who might be offended by the ceremony, “while completely ignoring the harm to the bereaved families and the groups who wish to carry out [the mixed ceremony] in the manner in which it has existed over the years.”

Therefore, the justices ruled that “the minister’s decision suffers from a substantial imbalance and unreasonableness to the extent that justifies our intervention.”

The defense minister responded to the judges’ decision on Twitter, saying, “This morning the High Court of Justice created an equation between bereavement and terror, between murderers and victims. The court’s decision affects the most national and uniting day for the people of Israel. The end result: instead of unification, division.”

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