On Wednesday Sapir students showed up en masse to protest both in support of, as well as against, the controversial professor. The rally followed a university disciplinary hearing whereupon it was determined that Hassam must apologize to the IDF reservist, and film student, Eyal Cohen for having offended him.
Sapir College President Zeev Zachor also demanded that Hassam publicly state that he respects the IDF uniform, thereby reigniting the fierce debate surrounding this incident.
Supporters of Hassam, predominately his cinematography students, demonstrated their support for the embattled lecturer by taping their mouths shut and carrying signs reading “academic headquarters Sapir” and “who is pressuring you, Zachor?”
Freedom of speech Sapir style (photo: Ido Herman)
One of the organizers of this demonstration stated that they are “protesting in support of academic free speech. The fact that Hassam must publicly declare his respect for the IDF uniform is an unfair ultimatum. He will clearly say no such thing. We have nothing against the IDF, but there are Jews and non-Jews at the college and different beliefs and opinions must be respected.”
Hassam’s supporters maintain that the IDF pressured the college president into demanding that Hassam write a letter declaring his appreciation for students in uniform.
Hassam’s attorney, Eti Livini, stated that “the president’s stipulations are racist, discriminatory and unfounded, and are the pure product of capitulation to IDF pressure which has no place in academia….Hassam’s apology to Cohen should have been the end of this sorry affair.”
Rightists protest against controversial lecturerWhile many students rallied in support of Hassam, there were quite a few detractors as well, sporting signs reading “we are proud IDF reservists”. Extreme right wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir, had asked to be part of this demonstration, but his request was denied by the college administration. He did ultimately manage to sneak into this rally through the college’s rear entrance.
Baruch Marzel, Ben-Gavir’s fellow extreme rightist, also demonstrated against Hassam. The two had recently enrolled in Hassam’s cinematography class, but were not allowed to attend having not yet met the admissions criteria.
“We are here because the college cannot allow Hassam to continue teaching under the auspices of free speech,” said Marzel. “Any other democratic country would have tried Hassam for his inflammatory, infuriating words”.