Dozens of Arabs and left-wing Jewish students demonstrated at Tel Aviv University on Monday to mark the Nakba, or "the catastrophe" of Israel's inception in 1948. The students demanded that the "suffering" of the Arabs be recognized.
Dozens of right-wing activists from the Im Tirzu movement held a counter rally nearby and chanted "We won't lend a hand to hypocrisy."
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In light of last year's clashes, police formed a human barrier between the protesters. Jihad Kial, one of the event's organizers, said the Arab student public "has an obligation to mark this day of mourning over the disaster we experienced in 1948. I wish to thank the university for cooperating and allowing us to hold the ceremony.
Nakba Day rally at TA University (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
"I live two kilometers (1.24 miles) from the village from which my family was expelled in 1948, and to this day it cannot return to it. Just as we recognize the Jewish tragedy in Europe, we expect the public to recognize our suffering as well."
Dan Valfhish, a history student who also took part in the Nakba ceremony, said "you cannot exclude the term 'Nakba' from the Israeli discourse, particularly at the universities, because it is an inseparable part of the country's history and reality. If we want things to change here, we'll have to recognize the suffering of the other."
Rightists' counter rally. Signs read: 'Nakba, nonsense.' (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari participated in the rightist rally, during which one activist yelled out "Kahane was right" – referring to ultra-nationalist political figure Meir Kahane, who was assassinated by an Egyptian-born American citizen in November 1990 following a speech to an audience of mostly Orthodox Jews in Manhattan.
Im Tirzu activist Lev Slodkin criticized Tel Aviv University for allowing the Nakba Day rally. "This institute receives funds from the State of Israel and pays salaries to anti-Zionist lecturers.
"We are here to protest against the lie known as Nakba and against the attempt to tarnish Israel's name and claim we committed war crimes," he said. "This ceremony is a display of hypocrisy. They are welcome to go to Syria."
Matan Peleg, another Im Tirtzu member, added that "the Arab students study in Tel Aviv, live in a democratic society and enjoy various rights – yet they incite against the State. The Nakba is a lie that is meant to hurt Israel, distort history and conceal the fact that the Arabs they are speaking of cooperated with the Nazis and waged a war against us – and lost."
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