Visitors to Land of Israel museum
Visitors to Land of Israel museum Israel news photo: Flash 90

Likud MK Ofir Akunis has asked the Land of Israel Museum to cancel a planned event that is to be held there by anti-Zionist group Zochrot in late September. The group, which militates in favor of an Arab “return” to villages abandoned in 1948, sees “symbolic value” in the fact that the two-day conference will be held in the Ramat Aviv neighborhood of northern Tel Aviv, noting that the location was once an Arab village called Sheikh Munis.

The event is presented as an “international, multidisciplinary conference to discuss practical aspects of the Return of Palestinian refugees grounded in the transitional justice principles of acknowledgement, accountability and a joint Jewish-Palestinian process of redress.”

“The objective of this conference is not to argue whether the Palestinian refugees have a right to return, but to see how this right can be realized. How Return represents for Israelis the chance to stop being occupiers and the opportunity to live in a better place,” says Zochrot's website.

Israel Hayom quotes Zochrot's director, Liat Rosenberg, as saying: “Holding a conference that dicusses the right of return of refugees, which is a sacred cow, in the heart of Tel Aviv, of all places, is an initial statement. The fact that the conference is being held in the Land of Israel Museum, which is built atop the ruins of the village of al-Sheikh Munis, has symbolic value. Discussing the return of refugees on land from which refugees were expelled is very proper.”

"It is obvious that this is a radical post-Zionist organization that is in the margins of Israeli society,” Israel Hayom quotes MK Akunis as saying. “This is a low provocation. If they had looked into the history of the place they would have found that Tel Kasila was the location of an ancient Jewish community, even before Sheikh Munis, and then this silly NGO could have saved itself and us this provocative gathering.”

Tel Kasila is the archaeological mound on which the museum sits. Archaeologists determined that it dates back to the Philistine era, but it also contains shards bearing Hebrew communications from the time of the Israelite kings.

The Land of Israel Museum management was quoted as saying, in response:

“This is a completely legal NGO. Anyone acting according to law has the right to rent halls in the museum. The museum takes no sides in events, and in this case, too, the museum does not interfere in the contents of NGOs and orgainzations or any group that rents a space and an auditorium.”