Hundreds of Arab students, Hadash and communists activists, and MKs marked “Nakba Day” at Tel Aviv University on Wednesday, May 20. The ceremony was attended by leader of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, as well as by MKs Aida Touma-Sliman, Youssef Jabarin, and former Hadash MK Muhammad Barakeh. “We can argue about what happened here in ’47 and ’48, but one thing cannot be argued about – that the Arab Palestinian nation, the villagers, paid the heaviest price through no fault of their own,” MK Odeh told Channel 2. Odeh, continued: “The new state [Israel] did not allow those who were exiled to return. We ask to recognize this historical wrong and work to fix it without committing wrongs against others. This is our right.”
Fares Aghrabia, a Hadash activist and student of accounting who participated in the ceremony, told journalists that “acknowledging the Nakba is the sole way to resolve the existing conflict and bring about peace in the future. During the ceremony we gave a message to the Arab and Jewish students that a people lived here in the past and it wasn’t an empty land….Our ceremony was done without noise and shouting. Those who are weak do all the shouting.”
Two students were arrested at the entrance to Tel Aviv University during the Nakba Day event. One was an extreme right-wing activist who tried to tear down the lighting for the ceremony. The other person arrested was one who had tried to stop him from doing so. This is the fourth year the ceremony has been held in Tel Aviv’s Entin Square, just outside the university. Last year, it took place without incident.
As usual, right-wing activists tried to disrupt Wednesday’s ceremony shouting, among other things, “Lies! Lies!” at the speakers. The right-wing activists were organized by the Im Tirtzu movement. Then, in the middle of the event, one activist climbed onto the stage and tore down the lighting at the back. He also shoved the students who had formed a human chain in front of the stage to prevent the right-wing activists from approaching it.
One of the left-wing students who had organized the event then jumped on the right-winger in an effort to stop him. Police detained both students for questioning. The student organizers said police had told them the left-wing student would be released as soon as the ceremony ended. But when MK Touma-Sliman and attorney Shada Amer, who had helped organize the ceremony, went to the police station after it ended, they were told the activist would not be released yet.
Last year, the University of Haifa prohibited Hadash students from holding a Nakba Day event, saying there was a “real fear” it would “disturb the peace and undermine the orderly process of teaching, research, and work on campus.” Consequently, the students held an unauthorized protest at the university on Nakba Day, and the university suspended them from campus activity. This year, an authorized “Nakba Day” ceremony was held by Hadash students at the University of Haifa, last Wednesday, May 13, without incident.