University of Haifa Bans Nakba Day Leaflet Mentioning 'Ethnic Cleansing'

The university allows events marking the Palestinians’ catastrophe when Israel declared independence, but says phrases like 'ethnic cleansing' breach the terms of tolerance

A protest outside the University of Haifa against the cancellation of a Nakba Day event, 2012.
Hagai Frid

The University of Haifa has forbidden students to distribute Nakba Day leaflets at the institution containing the phrase “ethnic cleansing.”

The students are from the Arab-Jewish Hadash party, who on May 15 will be commemorating the Nakba (Catastrophe) – when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1947-49 Israeli War of Independence.

The leaflets list Nakba Day events at the university organized by Hadash members. At the bottom, the flyer mentions an “exhibition of photographs of villages and cities that underwent ethnic cleansing in 1948.”

In a letter to the organizers Sunday, Dean of Students Jenny Kurman said the term “ethnic cleansing” breached the terms of tolerance and undermined public order at the university.

According to the university, “under the law and in compliance with High Court rulings, the University of Haifa, like every university in Israel, is committed to enabling freedom of expression in the framework of public activity, as long as it is done while maintaining the laws of the state and the charter. The university’s management has not approved material with the phrase ‘ethnic cleansing’ and indeed takes care and acts to prevent such material from being within its walls.”

According to the university, its approval of Nakba Day activities did not mean it agreed or identified with statements made during the events organized by students.