A Haifa Zionist group said it would prevent the establishment of a “Palestinian Heritage Center” in the city, in a building that has been identified with Israeli life for decades.
A report in the Israel Hayom newspaper Sunday said that a group calling itself the Union for Arab Culture had acquired the old Chen movie theater in the Hadar Hacarmel neighborhood. The acquisition took place quietly several months ago, and now the group said it was going to set up an information center to present Arab and Palestinian cultural issues, among them the “Nakba,” the term, meaning “tragic defeat,” used by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians to describe the establishment of the State of Israel.
The Union for Arab Culture is said to be connected with former MK Azmi Bishara, who, Israeli officials said, transmitted information to Hezbolllah on Israeli targets, which the terror group used in its 2006 missile war against northern Israel. Bishara subsequently fled Israel, and is said to be living in the Gulf states now.
The Chen Theater was built in the early 1960s and was originally a sports club used by the Macabee Haifa basketball team, and as such is considered an important landmark in the city's annals. Later, it was converted into a movie theater, and then into a music and dance club. In 2010, the city refused to renew the club's permit because of neighbor's complaints about noise. The building has been empty since then.
The Israeli “National Vision” (Chazon Leumi) group said that it would work to prevent the establishment of the Arab center in the building. “It's clear that the establishment of this center will not be a positive thing for coexistence,” the organization said. “Anyone can see that such a center will very quickly be converted into a propaganda mill against the rights of the Jewish people to its state, and will be an Azmi Bishara-type center for radical anti-Israel action and hate.
“We call on Zionist residents of Haifa and northern Israel, and to the Haifa municipality, to enhance the Zionist narrative, not the enemy's narrative,” the group said. “We will begin a major campaign against this in the coming days.”
A spokesperson for the municipality told Israel Hayom that “unfortunately this is not the first building in the city connected to Haifa's Zionist heritage that is now in Arab hands."