More than 400 Israeli university faculty are demanding that disciplinary action taken by Ben-Gurion University against a student who quoted the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish during a campus ceremony marking Nakba Day be reversed. The university’s disciplinary court convicted the student of disobeying campus authorities by using the word “shahid” (martyr) during the ceremony, but it has yet to determine a penalty. The faculty opponents are demanding that the conviction be nullified.
Watan Madi at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva (Photo: Student Union, Ben-Gurion University)
The complaint against Watan Madi, a member of the Hadash front’s Ben-Gurion chapter, was filed by the fascist Zionist student organization Im Tirzu, which staged a counterdemonstration outside the event last May. According “Zo Haderech” weekly, the complaint cites Madi quoting Darwish that said, “We will not forget the martyrs who fulfilled the unity of the country, the people and history.” Following the university’s disciplinary court ruling last month, the prosecution asked that she be penalized.
In a letter sent Monday to the President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Prof. Daniel A. Chamovitz, the signers said that the disciplinary process taken against Madi, had been flawed and violated academic freedom of expression and the principle of equality. “It’s hard to imagine a situation in which a Jewish student speaking at a memorial ceremony referred to the memory of those who had fallen in wars and was then cited for disciplinary offenses,” they said, adding that the process “harmed the student’s fundamental rights to freedom of expression, equality and respect, and due process” and “Ben-Gurion University’s and Israel academia’s good name.”
The letter noted that one of the disciplinary board’s members had resigned before it made its ruling and was replaced by someone who hadn’t heard the student’s defense. The letter was signed by faculty staff members from Ben-Gurion, Tel Aviv, Hebrew, Technion, Open, Bar-Ilan, Reichman and Haifa universities as well as from Bezalel, the academic colleges Kibbutzim College, Kaye Academic College of Education, Tel-Hai, Weizmann Institute, Ruppin, the College of Management Studies, Sapir, Hadassah, Beit Berl and Van Leer Institute.