Some 30 Haifa University students and faculty protested on Wednesday against the institution's decision to ban a "Nakba Day" event scheduled to take place on campus.
The decision came two days after a "Nakba Day" memorial ceremony caused a riot at Tel Aviv University.
Haifa University officials said that they initially authorized Arab students to hold the event at the school's auditorium because it was presented as a play involving Arab Israeli actor Salim Daw. But management later learned that the function was meant to serve as a memorial for the "Nakba," or the so-called catastrophe that befell the Palestinians with the establishment of the State of Israel 64 years ago.
Moreover, rightist students threatened to hold rallies in protest of the gathering.
Wednesday's rally (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)
"While the event was initially described as a cultural one, students' (online) posts and other sources have made it clear that this is a function of a completely different nature," The institution said in a statement. "For this reason the university decided to bar the event from taking place."
The scorned students then decided to demonstrate their displeasure with what they described as the university's attempt to "silence" them.
'Freedom of speech violated'
Chairman of the Hadash branch on campus, Muhammad Halaila, told Ynet: "From the very beginning, the event was described to the dean as one that is meant to mark Nakba Day in collaboration with Jewish and Arab students and faculty."
Halaila, a third-year political studies and communications student at the school, accused the dean of caving in to pressure from Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and other officials.
"This is a very bold statement indicating that the freedom of speech and academics are being reduced to nothing," he said.
Halaila added that the students are considering going through the appropriate legal channels to compel the university to allow such events in the future.
During Wednesday's rally, the protesters wielded Palestinian and red flags, as well as signs bearing the education minister's image with the saying "Fascism Won't Go Away."
They chanted slogans against oppression and in favor of coexistence between Jews and Arabs. They also sang the national Palestinian anthem, "Biladi Biladi," which means "My country, my country."
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