Tel Aviv University (TAU) has formerly barred a lecture sponsored by Hadash students on campus to commemorate the Nakba, saying it would have violated Israel’s “Nakba Law.” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), a prominent human rights organization, maintains that this is the first time the controversial law has been invoked by an academic institution to restrict political activity.
A spokesperson for the university said on Thursday, May 10, that the organizers “provided clarifications” on the nature of the event following the school’s initial response, and that the planned lecture by Hadash MK and Hebrew University lecturer, Dr. Ofer Cassif “is now in a process of being authorized.” The request to hold the event was submitted by Tom Kori, a literature student and Hadash activist.
However, on Wednesday, May 15, Kori received a reply from the dean of students, Professor Tova Most, citing the Nakba Law and contending that, in light of the law, “it is not possible to approve the request in its current form.”
MK Cassif, the planned lecturer, said that any attempt “to silence those who speak about the Nakba will not make the Nakba itself or the stain it leaves on our lives go away. We must recognize crimes committed in the past to have a shared future, with equality and peace for both peoples.” Hadi Waked, a Hadash student organizer at the university, said that “An academic institution that is supposed to educate about values of pluralism is denying students from expressing their pain about a tragedy that befell them, and brutally quashes their freedom of expression.”
Since the passage of the law by the Knesset in March 2011, many events have been held at academic institutions commemorating the Nakba. Last week, for example, on May 15, two such events were held at the main entrance of Tel Aviv University and the on the campus of the University of Haifa. A silent protest was also held at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“It’s a very broad interpretation of the law,” Attorney Raghad Jaraisy of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said to Haaretz on Tel Aviv University’s decision to prohibit the lecture. “The law doesn’t explicitly ban holding events, but the university decided to use it specifically to bar the lecture.” She added “The university isn’t funding this event at all. Even if they would claim that the university is paying for security at the event, the students pay a security fee at the beginning of every year, so it doesn’t relate at all to government funding for the university. The university is going to extreme lengths to inject this event into the context of the Nakba Law. It’s a very problematic step.”
“It is unacceptable that the university administration would not permit such a basic event in the context of student activity on campus,” Hadash MK and former lecturer at the Haifa University, Dr. Yousef Jabareen said. “The dean of student’s decision therefore constitutes a dangerous precedent and severely impairs the students’ right to hold political events on campus as an integral part of freedom of expression.”