Students at The Hebrew University faced off against each other Wednesday afternoon in a protest over the issue of Christian Arab-Palestinian enlistment to the IDF. The protest was the latest in a series of rallies at the university led by Hadash and Arab students against a recent increase in the rate of Christian Arab enlistment to the IDF, as well as demanding recognition for the “Naqba”.
As many as 200 Arab and Jewish students attended the protest, staged on campus with university authorization, bearing signs with various slogans. Dozen Jewish students staged a counter demonstration opposite, organized by the Zionist extreme-right Im Tirzu organization along with the association of Bayit Yehudi students on campus and the two sides traded verbal blows and chants.
Amir Kardosh, a 24-year old student, and secretary of the Hadash student association at Hebrew University said recent efforts by the IDF to increase Christian enlistment, were part of a plan by the government to divide the Arab-Palestinian community in Israel. “This is a policy of divide and conquer, they want to make Palestinians living in the state into Israelis in order that they will forget their roots in the Palestinian people,” Kardosh told The Jerusalem Post.
Last month, the IDF announced that it was initiating a new policy whereby it would send non-mandatory enlistment notices to Christians informing them of their enlistment options, a policy which was condemned by Hadash and Arab MKs. Back in February, a law was also passed in Knesset that provides legal recognition for Christian Arabs as a separate minority in and of itself, distinguishable from the Arab-Palestinian community in Israel. “I am against an army that conquers my people and I’m against anyone who enlists to this army, and against a government which tries to draft them,” continued Kardosh, who was born to a nominally Christian family but is himself communist. Kardosh also said the protestors were demonstrating because of the actions of the university security services and the police at two other recent rallies at the university which were forcibly dispersed. At one of these rallies at the end of April, three Arab students were detained.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has urgently contacted the President of the Hebrew University, Menahem Ben-Sasson, following the violent dispersal of protesting students by security guards and the Border Police. ACRI made clear that it is “the role of the University is to prepare students to actively participate in our democracy.” In a letter to the University President, ACRI Attorney Sharona Eliahu-Chai noted that all requests by students for official approval to hold a demonstration against the new military conscription law were arbitrarily rejected by the university on the basis of a bizarre interpretation of the law. For example, a request to organize a public activity on the subject of the conscription of Druze citizens to the army were rejected on the grounds that such activity constitutes “incitement to break the law.” Attorney Eliahu-Chai remarked that “the disproportionate reaction by the university’s security services to protest vigils being held without approval was extremely serious… the refusal of a small number of protesters to identify themselves and disperse immediately did not create a danger justifying such a shameful and violent outcome. University authorities possess a wide range of disciplinary and administrative tools… and there was no reason for them to call upon armed border police in response to a peaceful protest”.