Hundreds of Bedouin students at the Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva on Monday held a rally on the occasion of last week's Nakba Day and waved Palestinian flags across campus.
Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe, is a day of commemoration for the Arab defeat in the 1948-1949 war around the creation of Israel.
Jewish protesters waved Israeli flags from across the rally, which sparked public outcry.
The Arab students emphasized that they were merely acting upon their right to free speech.
"The extreme reality is what created the Palestinian identity. Today, the youth feel that their identity is Palestinian," they said.
Guiwara Bader, one of the organizers of the rally, explained the motives behind the rally.
"We believe in the power of the students to influence their reality and surroundings. We don't live in a segregated society. The political discourse needs to be and can be managed within campus. I believe that change and peace will come from campus and the students, he said.
"That's the way the world goes. Waving the Palestine flag is legal. We believe in two states for two nations. The Palestinian flag is not supposed to pose a threat to any Jew. We are for coexistence and collaboration."
Be'er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich called on university president Prof. Daniel Haimovich to take action against students who took part in the rally.
"Palestinian flags are being waved proudly. The Ben Gurion University is a part of Be'er Sheva and the State of Israel, it cannot convey softness and it cannot agree with this. You have to make a clear statement on the matter. Israel has only one flag and no other," Danilovich said.
The university said in response that it had approved the rally since it had no legal basis to prohibit it as Israel holds official ties with the Palestinian Authority.
"We're proud of our students, on both sides, who expressed their opinion and voiced their protest in a democratic manner without devolving to violence as we saw in other places. That's our strength," the statement read.
"We're concluding a day in which the Israeli flag was proudly waved on campus grounds, a day in which our anthem was sung loudly, alongside other flags and songs. Today's events prove that there's a place for a diversity of opinion in this public university in the state of Israel, a Jewish and democratic state. We're proud to march down the path of David Ben Gurion and proud to be a leading higher education institution that plays an educational role along with its academic one."
However, some claimed that the administration prohibited students from entering campus grounds with Israeli flags while the rally was ongoing.
"We strongly condemn the university's decision to not allow law-abiding, tax-paying civilians to enter and wave Israeli flags on its grounds," said Shai Rosengarten, a member of the Zionist activist group Im Tirtzu.
"Waving Palestinian flags in academic institutions shouldn't go by quietly. We'll continue to fight for Zionist principles in all places at all times."
Carla Ben Shushan, a student at the institution, also stated that security did not allow students to enter campus with Israeli flags.