Tel Aviv University has reversed its original stance and will allow student organizers to hold pro-peace events on campus as part of End the Occupation Week. Following criticism, including requests by its own lecturers and Members of Knesset, the university said on Tuesday that it would permit the Arab-Jewish peace group, Standing Together, to hold activities on campus after initially denying permission for bureaucratic reasons.
The students were initially told that they would have to fund security at the events - which they agreed to do. But the university nevertheless canceled a lecture planned for Monday ostensibly because the students had not submitted a separate permit for that event. The group scheduled activities for Tel Aviv University as well as Haifa University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, both of which approved the events without conditioning them on financing security.
The activities were to include the distribution of leaflets, a lecture by activists from the Combatants for Peace movement, a meeting between students and Elias Zananiri, a member of the PLO’s Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, and a film by B’Tselem. After Tel Aviv U. canceled Monday’s Combatants for Peace lecture, it was approached by some of its lecturers and several Knesset members from the Zionist Union, Meretz and the Joint List, who asked the administration to reconsider its position. The demand that students pay for security was an infraction of freedom of expression and freedom of association, they said.
The university’s regulations require groups wishing to hold public events to obtain prior permission from a committee and approval by the institution’s security office. Last week the office informed the students that they would have to cover the cost of security for these events.
Just before the planned lecture on Monday the university informed the organizers that it was rescinding approval for technical reasons, connected to the permit requests. This decision was reversed on Tuesday.
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In a similar case two years ago, also involving Tel Aviv University, students and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the High Court over the university’s demand that students from Meretz and Breaking the Silence fund security at their own campus event. The case is still pending.
Tel Aviv University responded on Tuesday by stating that “after the group re-submitted its request as required, its planned activities were approved.”