Flotilla aftermath affects Israeli campus: Some 1,000 students took part in two demonstrations near Haifa's Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. One group demonstrated support for the IDF, the other demonstrated in condemnation of the IDF's raid on the Gaza flotilla which left nine activists dead and many wounded.
Police arrested eight Arab demonstrators who, police claimed, were trying to break through barriers set up outside the Technion.
Dozens of police officers kept the two groups separated, and calm was mostly preserved. On one side, banners were wielded bearing the words, "We are all shayetet 13", referring to the commando unit involved in the raid, as well as pictures of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. One banner bore the title, "Humanitarian aid store," but the picture beneath was of a mortar.
On the other side banners were wielded with the words, "Humanitarian aid is not a war crime," "Lift the Gaza blockade," and "Stop the war crimes."
"We must get our heads above water, we don't need to justify ourselves," said Yonatan, an engineering student at the Technion and one of the demonstration's organizers. "The real peace activists are the shayetet soldiers who showed restraint before those who wanted to become shaheeds (martyrs)."
Omar Samri, a law student at Haifa University, said the demonstrations would continue. "We'll continue to express our opinion against the fascist policy of the State, which can be seen in the last operation and massacre," he said.
Arab protesters arrested at the Technion (Photo: Shai Vaknin)
At Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, there was a violent atmosphere surrounding the Hadash demonstration of Arab students, which led to a counter-demonstration by students expressing their support for the State and for IDF soldiers.
The two groups hurled insults at each other. Security forces were compelled to separate them after a leftwing student gave the Nazi salute and shouted "Heil Bibi!" and "Heil Lieberman!", referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Students bearing Israeli flags rushed at him and a fight was narrowly averted.
A demonstrator at the Technion (Photo: Shai Vaknin)
MK Talab el-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al) was also present but was compelled to leave when his presence enflamed the proceedings. El-Sana said he was attacked by rightwing students.
'No calm till they listen to us'
"The Arabs demonstrated against the State and against the IDF, and we came with flags to demonstrate, not against them, but in support of the State and Zionism," Roni, a student, said to Ynet. "We were almost forced into violence, but we restrained ourselves. It's a disgrace that they demonstrate like this at a university of the people of Israel. They are a different nation in our midst."
"It hurts us as reserve soldiers," Erez Neeman, also a student, said. "There was a leftwing activist who waved a PLO flag, and someone was brave enough to take it down. After this, she was brutally attacked by the Arab activists."
Huda, a Middle East studies and gender studies student, said she and her friends did not expect such a harsh response.
"We came just to demonstrate, students here don't even know what happened," she said. "They see everything in such an extreme way."
Another Arab student said, "We came to express a message to the university management, to tell them there won't be calm as long as they prevent us from expressing our opinion, as long as they don't listen to us."
The student union called the organizers of the two demonstrations for talks in order to clarify what had happened and calm the campus, and to prevent relations between Jewish and Arab students from deteriorating.
Ilana Curiel also contributed to this report