Students of rightist and centrist political groups in Tel Aviv University protested the invitation of an Arab-Israeli to partake in a Land Day conference on campus, after serving a prison sentence for contacting a foreign agent.
Ahead of the conference, expected to take place next Monday, the protesters turned to the university's management and demanded to cancel the participation of the man, Mohammad Kana'neh, former secretary general of the Abnaa el-Balad (People of the Land) organization. The event's organizers claimed the rioters attempt to silence them.
The protest was initiated by Lev Solodkin (Bayit Yehudi), Oren Halfon (Im Tirtzu), Or Zaken and David Ohana (Likud) and Inbar Amir (Yesh Atid). The activists asked the university to prevent at any cost the entrance of Kana'neh to the institution's grounds, and even asked to immediately suspend the students involved in the Arab political movements in the university, who stand behind the event.
Tel-Aviv university campus (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Kana'neh had served 30 months in prison after being convicted of contacting a source working for Hezbollah and transferring information to Palestinian terror activists.
"There is place for a pluralistic debate on campus, but no place for a terror-encouraging debate," the protesters noted while demanding "tighter inspection of the (Arab) movements' activities by the university."
Solodkin, head of the Bayit Yehudi movement in the university, noted that "at a time when every Israeli has very strong feelings in regards to the release of prisoners, there is nothing more detached than having a Zionist university in the heart of the country invite such a person. I am glad that not only rightists understand that, but all Zionist political movements within the university have united in order to stop this absurdity. What message does it send out that a person that harmed the State's security comes here to lecture?"
Jaber Basal, member of the Tel Aviv University Hadash movement, said: "It is our right to partake in any conference on campus. Every person has a different view. They call some of us 'terrorists', and we also see the representatives of their political parties as criminals of war who should be persecuted in an international court. The motion for a tighter control is despicable and we will stand against any such motion. I suggest that no one teaches us what to do."
Tel Aviv University said in response: "The university maintains freedom of speech on campus, and it allows public activity initiated by the students in accordance to the rules of conduct of the State of Israel and previous court rulings, as long as the following conditions are kept: Keeping the law of the State of Israel, maintaining university regulations, procedures and property, keeping public order and the proper order of the teaching, research and work on campus. In the case in question, all of these conditions were met and thus the university approved the activity."
Kana'neh himself has yet to respond.
Muhammad Aghbaria, student and member of the Al-Awda political movement, said that "we are surprised by the rightists' reaction. They say the university provides freedom of speech. This is an event that marks 38 years to Land Day, in my opinion this event needs to be marked every year. The man that was invited is a Palestinian and he is allowed to say whatever he wants as long as no one is hurt. I think he is not a terrorist and only stands for his people's rights."