The Supreme Court ruled today (26.12.2018) that the Be'er Sheva municipality must continue to allocate the public shelter for the “Multaka”, the Jewish-Arab Cultural center which houses the Negev Coexistence Forum. During proceedings, Judge Mazoz stated: “The principle of pluralism requires that the municipality allocate public buildings to a range of NGOs, even those that do not comply with the consensus and public atmosphere.”
Last year, the Be'er Sheva municipality gave an eviction notice to the Negev Coexistence Forum, claiming the activities held in a municipality-owned shelter are not in line with the allocation contract signed between the two parties. Among the events that the municipality highlighted were: a discussion about conscientious objection, an event about the "Nakba", and a protest photography workshop.
ACRI filed a lawsuit in the Be'er Sheva District Court, which the municipality won. Attorney Dan Yakir, ACRI Chief Legal Counsel, then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that once the building was allocated to the organization, the municipality could neither intervene in programs nor cancel the contract based on differing perceptions of coexistence activity. Attorney Yakir further claimed that issues that are complex in society are essential to promoting a shared society, and, as long as programs are not racist or inciting, the municipality should not intervene.
The municipality claimed they had been working towards an agreement with the Forum to stop hosting “provocative” events, but the discussions were unsuccessful. In response, the Forum claimed that no real dialogue had happened and that complaints against them only occurred following a public campaign by right wing activists who pressured the mayor to evict the organization from the shelter.
During proceedings, the court proposed that the municipality adopt the Attorney General’s opinion: activities prohibited from public buildings on a political basis can only be partisan activities. The municipality refused to accept this principle, claiming the Forum to continue their activities as before, and thus the municipality objected. Following the municipality’s refusal to accept an agreement cancelling the District Court’s decision, the judges themselves reversed the lower court’s opinion and allowed the organization to continue operating from the shelter.
Attorney Dan Yakir: “Today, the Supreme Court judges made it clear that municipalities cannot prevent organizations from using public spaces for public conversations about controversial issues. During a time in which freedom of speech is under constant attack by politicians, this message is important and must be heard and recognized.”