Arabs Expected to Win Safed Student Elections, Despite Ethnic Tensions

Arab students make up over half the student body in Galilee town, which has experienced a wave of racism in recent months.

Arab students at Safed Academic College, who have recently formed their own faction, are expected to win the student elections on Monday, just over a year after a wave of anti-Arab racism erupted in the northern Israeli city.

Two political parties, one Arab and the other mixed Arab-Jewish, are gearing up to face off in Monday's student union elections.

Safed - Kaminsky - Jan 2012
Yaron Kaminsky

Arab students, who make up just over half of the college's 2,490 students, have been the target of a wave of racism that has erupted in the small town in recent months, with several acts of violence committed against Arabs and a call by some local rabbis not to rent them apartments in town.

The atmosphere on campus was calm on Sunday, but campus security guards were instructed to restrict entrance to the college to students only, out of concern for possible disturbances.

Members of "For Your Sake," the exclusively Arab party, said they formed the new group following anti-Arab incidents in Safed in recent months.

The party has the support of several outside groups, including political parties Hadash and Balad, the Arab civil rights organization Mossawa and the student group Aakra, which is affiliated with the northern branch of the Islamic Movement.

Members of "Tachlis" ("To the Point"), the Arab-Jewish faction competing against "For Your Sake" in Monday's election, have criticized the faction for its decision to run as an Arab-only party.

"This is a party that is motivated by nationalism, and that is completely unnecessary," said Osama Ghaneim, a student from the town of Sakhnin and one of six Arab candidates in the mixed faction.

"For Your Sake" head Gabriel Mansour rejected the criticism, saying his party had attempted, unsuccessfully, to recruit Jewish students, and that they were motivated not by nationalism but by concern for Arab students.