Arab Students Have Been Persecuted, Expelled and Summoned, MK Touma-Sliman

Arab students have been persecuted, expelled and summoned to disciplinary committees, MK Aida Touma Sliman (Hadash-Ta’al) said during a meeting held Tuesday (June 18) by the Education, Culture and Sports Committee of the Knesset chaired by MK Yosef Taieb (Shas).

The meeting was convened to discuss the suspension of students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, following a demonstration against the war in Gaza and the occupation of the Palestinian territories held at the end of May in which Palestinian flags were waved and calls against the war were heard.

According MK Touma-Sliman, “There are those who believe that the solution is to silence as people who do not hold their opinions – to silence as many of these people as possible – but that is not the solution.”

Left students at Tel-Aviv University demonstration against McCarthyism in Israeli universities, May 30, 2024 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

“One cannot hide behind academic freedom in order to incite,” said Committee Chair MK Taieb and Hebrew University student Ella Lotan responded, “The strength of the academia lies in academic freedom, and academia that wants to silence students is not academia.”

After some of the meeting’s participants discussed the bill sponsored by MK Ofir Katz (Likud), which calls to dismiss lecturers who “incite to terror,” MK Taieb said “This legislation has yet to reach the committee. Apparently, some are trying to help the bill’s sponsor advance it.”  

Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan agreed, “If we look beyond this, to the question of incitement, then the bill that was mentioned creates a differentiation – one law for people from the academia, and another for the rest of the citizens. This bill imposes upon people from the academia sanctions that do not exist for other citizens, and that is very dangerous. We have seen throughout history how dangerous laws that only apply to a certain sector are.”

According a special report published by Adalah – The legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, in last May a wave of disciplinary proceedings were taken against Arab-Palestinian students in Israeli academic institutions for their social media use Since the beginning of the war on Gaza in October 2023, Arab-Palestinian students citizens of Israel, have faced an unprecedented wave of disciplinary action from their universities and colleges targeting their freedom of speech and Palestinian identity.

These efforts have been largely focused on the social media posts of Palestinian students, with those who openly reference or express their Palestinian-Arab heritage, religious beliefs or voice dissent over Israel’s onslaught on Gaza becoming the targets of punitive campaigns initiated by right-wing campus organizations, in coordination with academic institutions. In many cases, publications expressing solidarity with Gaza residents, or Quranic verses, prayers, and other religious texts triggered disciplinary proceedings. These efforts have attempted to label all outward displays of Palestinian-Arab identity as “support for terrorism” and have pursued disciplinary proceedings against individual students to punish it as such.

At least 36 Israeli universities and colleges have initiated disciplinary proceedings against a total of 124 Palestinian students for posts on their private social media accounts. Adalah has represented 95 students. Nearly half of these cases (47%) ended in the student’s suspension or expulsion; the majority of these cases involved either an expression of solidarity with the people of Gaza or citations from the Quran, both of which are protected by the right to freedom of expression. Notably, the vast majority of these cases (79%) were filed against female students.