Israeli law professors on Wednesday supported their colleagues at Haifa University's Law faculty, who refrained from playing the national anthem during the department's graduation ceremony, in order not to insult Arab students.
Since the affair went public, the department staff members say they have been subjected to an "ugly mud slinging campaign that involves personal attacks against the faculty heads."
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop
In a letter of support signed by dozens of lecturers from law schools around the country, the petitioners claimed that academic ceremonies are part of civil society and are not national or religious events; therefore, the decision not to play the anthem does not undermine its importance, instead reserving it for state functions.
"We support the freedom of expression and demonstration, but the attempt to present the law faculty in Haifa as an anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli entity is illegitimate," they wrote, adding that "those who regard Zionism only by its external symbols are the ones who lost the sense of direction".
"Zionism and Judaism include fundamental democratic elements of human dignity, tolerance, equality, attentiveness and dialogue," they wrote.
Professor Michael Birnhack of Tel Aviv University Law faculty, who initiated the letter, said the support stems mainly from a deep concern for Israeli society.
"The question of whether to sing the anthem at the end of the ceremony is a legitimate question that is worth debating," he stressed, adding that "what is illegitimate is that those who hold different views from the other side to the discussion immediately get labeled as anti-Zionists".
"There is no connection between the decision to sing the anthem at an academic ceremony and the Zionist or anti-Zionist nature of an individual or institution," Prof. Birnhack noted.
"Life and society, particularly in Israel, are issues far more complex than black and white. Our support aims to bring back the comprehensive public discussion over legitimate questions. Israel, after all, is still a democratic state," he said.
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook