‘Jewish students afraid to go to university’ – in Israel; Knesset debates campus incitement

It appears that the problems Jews experience on college campuses in the U.S. and Europe have spread to Israeli universities.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Jewish students, activists and politicians slammed the recent spate of anti-Israel demonstrations in Israeli universities Monday during a debate in the Knesset’s Education, Culture and Sports Committee.

“We are going through a difficult time here,” Tel Aviv University (TAU) student Orit Eliyahu told the committee. “There are people who live with me in the dormitories and decided to return to living with their parents because they’re afraid.”

“Raising a PLO flag, an enemy flag, has become a routine thing,” she said, “but it’s frightening to raise an Israeli flag. On Yom Hazikaron [Israel’s Memorial day for fallen IDF soldiers and victims of terror], there were Arab students who stuck their heads out the windows and clapped their hands in the middle of the siren commemorating the fallen soldiers. Arab students who sit with us in lectures tell us that they want to murder us.”

National Union of Israeli Students head Elchanan Felhaimer said that for the last two weeks, the union has heard from students from all over the country who “feel threatened and are afraid to come to class.”

“We heard about institutions that didn’t permit students to enter with an Israeli flag,” he added, presumably because this was considered a provocative act. “We want to find out who gave the instructions and have disciplinary measures taken against them.”

The month of May is when anti-Israel protests reach their peak, as many Arab Israelis and Palestinians push back against the celebrations surrounding Israeli Independence Day. The 15th of May is observed by Israel’s enemies as Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when they mourn the official date of the establishment of the state in 1948.

This year, three Arab Tel Aviv University students were arrested at a demonstration that day that turned violent. Several protestors countering the Palestinian flag-holders and anti-Israel speeches with Israeli flags and Zionist slogans were lightly injured in the clash.

Ben Gurion University had refused permission for a demonstration on May 15 but allowed it on Monday. Anti-Israel students there waved Palestinian flags and sang nationalist songs praising the fight against the Jewish state.

Im Tirtzu National Activist Coordinator Shai Rosengarten presented to the committee clips of students calling for another Intifada, shouting support for terrorists in Jenin, and calling for revenge for their deaths that occurred when they clashed with IDF troops during arrest raids in the Palestinian city.

He said the incitement has gained steam ever since last year’s Operation Guardian of the Walls against Hamas, and is not just a May phenomenon.

In fact, just hours before the terror attack in Tel Aviv on April 10, a group of TAU students called for “revolution against the occupation” and shouted for “resisters” to “go out to the streets and cause them to burn,” while waving Palestinian flags

The incitement is not just a police issue, Rosengarten said. “We are calling for the educational institutions to impose changes regarding their discipline and to outlaw calls for terror, incitement, and violence…. We also need the academic institutions to make a moral announcement that whoever incites terror will not remain in an academic institution.”

On a practical level, Rosengarten also called for the universities to implement a hotline for students to call if they feel they need protection.

Committee chairperson Sharren Haskell (New Hope) reacted forcefully to the reports.

“When students turn to the committee and say that they’re afraid to enter the campus, and ask to learn via Zoom for fear of their personal safety, something here is not working,” she said. “Saying ‘With blood and fire we will redeem Palestine’ is incitement to violence. It’s suddenly become permissible on campuses to shed the blood of Jews. The events of the past week have crossed a red line, and it’s unacceptable.”

“I will remind you that the PLO flag is an enemy flag,” she added, “and that to raise it while shouting incitements is a violation of the Counter-Terrorism Law. We are asking the Council for Higher Education to issue a legal letter that will clarify to the university heads that when they allow this, they are violating the Counter-Terrorism Law. Students, if you’re barred from raising the Israeli flag, please report it to us.”

No university heads attended the meeting.