Zuabi Visits University of Haifa Despite Ban, Sparking Clashes

Controversial Arab lawmaker urges students to tell university's donors that she was discriminated against.

Arab lawmaker Hanin Zuabi (Balad ) visited the University of Haifa yesterday, despite being banned by the school from participating in an on-campus student political activity.

During her meeting with students, Zuabi encouraged them to tell university donors that she had been discriminated against.

MK Zuabi became a subject of controversy after her participation in a flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's blockade of Gaza in May, which ended with an Israeli naval raid and on-board skirmish that left nine Turkish citizens dead.

Zuabi's arrival on campus yesterday sparked verbal confrontations between Jewish students and the Balad student activists with whom Zuabi met. Some Jewish students attempted to block her from entering the university, shouted "terrorists" and "Go back to Gaza" at Arab students, and sang the national anthem.

The Arab MK had been barred by the university from participating in a Balad student event focusing on political developments over the past year. The university ended up providing Zuabi with a small lecture hall where she met with students.

During that meeting, Zuabi charged that the university uses its image of pluralism and coexistence between Arab and Jewish students when fundraising, but that it had denied her that very freedom. She called on students to bring the matter to the attention of university donors.

At the end of her speech, Zuabi left via a back door accompanied by police in order to avoid a confrontation between her and protesting students who were shouting insults.

"The university's position is part of the censorship and gagging that is taking place in academia," Zuabi said.

The University of Haifa said Zuabi had been barred from participating in the planned student political event solely due to the threat to public security.

Responding to the event, the school said: "The vice president of the university escorted Zuabi throughout her visit and let her known that the only reason the activity had not been approved initially was out of fear for her safety."