Protest ban fails to deter Arabs

November 10, 2000

The decision by Israel's university heads to ban political activity on campuses in the first week of the academic year failed to deter the country's Israeli Arab students from their long-term political plans.

Nihad Bukai, chair of the Hebrew University's Association of Arab Students (Hadash political chapter) and a fourth-year student of economics and sociology, said that although Israeli Arab students did not accept the decision to ban political activity on campus, they intended to concentrate on absorbing the new intake of students during the first week.

"We will distribute leaflets outside the campus. We will act within the law," he said. "However, we're in a democratic country - we should be able to express our views. We will never be silent."

The National Union of Israeli Students and the Hebrew University's student union agreed with the authorities' decision to prevent political action, according to student union chair Guy Yarnitsky.

He said that students from all of the country's student unions had met the director of the prime minister's office, Yossi Kucik, and agreed to "try to prevent violence in the campuses. I hope this situation will pass and that we will be able to go to our (main) action - to get the tuition fees down."

With a possible wave of protests planned by Israeli Arab students for the second week of term, Jewish students, at least for the time being "are not planning anything independently - they plan to monitor Arab demonstrations and protest", said Amatzia Bar-Am, head of the Jewish-Arab Center at the University of Haifa.

"Last year, about 150 Arab students demonstrated on Haifa University's campus. Then a group of 50 Jewish students came and wanted to have physical contact. The Jewish students plan to do the same this year," he said.

"The Arabs would like to demonstrate and we have another problem - the university has told them that they're not supposed to wave Palestinian flags."

Professor Bar-Am has initiated a series of meetings between Jewish and Arab students from the department of Middle East history where he teaches.

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