The president of Tel Aviv University has expressed concern that students are frightened to come to campus after a Nakba Day protest and counter-protest sparked several violent incidents on campus.
In his letter sent Thursday to students and lecturers, President Ariel Porat wrote: “Tensions between Jews and Arabs are regretfully common in Israel. Heaven forbid these tensions should become a legacy of the campus.”
In his letter Porat was referring to a Nakba Day protest held by Arab students on 15 May at the campus entrance last Sunday, which he said, “quickly turned into a violent incident in which radical elements on both sides of the political barricade participated.”
On Nakba Day, which commemorates the exodus of 700,000 Palestinians as a result of the creation of the State of Israel, the right-wing movement Im Tirtzu held a counter-demonstration. Some claimed that Arab students attacked them, while Nakba Day protesters said that one of the right-wing demonstrators had started the violence. Three Arab students were arrested on site, and Israel police said officers were also attacked.
These events fanned further violence, Porat wrote. “Thus, a radical group went to the student dorms area Tuesday night, shouted racist slurs against Arabs and dispersed only after police forces arrived. At the same time, social media was flooded with expressions of hatred and incitement.”
- Arab Students at Israeli University Protest Language Requirement for Mentor Scheme
- Tel Aviv University Quietly Swaps Out Sackler Name From U.S.-facing Medical Program
- As Nakba Day and Jerusalem Day Near, Israel Struggles to Address Main Vulnerabilty
Porat stressed in his letter that “every student is entitled to express their opinion without fear, as long as they don’t cross the line between permitted speech and hate speech and incitement.” Still, he noted, “We will deal harshly against anyone who hurts a fellow student or endanger their well-being.”
The university's president said he hoped that the fear was limited to recent events, but added that “even if such is the case, [the phenomenon] is very concerning.” Porat stressed that the university “condemns and strongly denounces any attempt to hurt students, Jews and Arabs alike.” Porat ended his letter with an appeal to the Jewish students, saying “It is especially incumbent upon those of us among the Jewish majority in Israel to defend minorities living among us.”