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Hebrew University students clash over war in Gaza in opposing protests

Israeli leaders criticize university for not taking action against 'terror supporters'

Demonstrators protest calling to end the war in Gaza, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on May 28, 2024. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Tensions were high at Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Tuesday as students made their voices heard in two opposing protests regarding the war in Gaza. The opposing rallies were sparked by the current IDF military operation in the southern town of Rafah, located in southern Gaza near the Egyptian border.

The two protests were separated by a security barrier and protected by Israeli police forces. One demonstration was organized by the Hadash cell and involved both Arab and Jewish students. Students were invited to protest what the organizers described as the “extermination and massacre in Gaza.” 

Videos circulating on social media showed the demonstrators passionately chanting slogans like, “With spirit and blood, we will redeem you, Palestine!” and waving flags of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Others chanted, “No solution but the removal of the occupier,” and “With spirit and blood we will redeem Al-Aqsa.”

On the other side of the street, a counter-demonstration led by the right-wing group Im Tirtzu involved dozens of students waving Israeli flags and chanting, “Go, go to Gaza” and “May your village burn,” before closing with Israel's national anthem HaTikva, or The Hope.

Hebrew University administrators did not prevent the protest and made no public statement concerning the rallies, which drew criticism from organization leaders and politicians.

IDF Major (res.) Shai Rozengarten, the deputy chairman of Im Tirtzu, expressed outrage over the lack of involvement from the university, saying, "The footage from the Hebrew University is shocking. The university administration must bring the police onto campus and arrest the inciting students."

Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu party, condemned the university’s leadership for allowing those who support terror to demonstrate and called for the immediate suspension of all protesters.

"It is inconceivable that the Hebrew University allows a shameful demonstration by terror supporters, who waved Palestinian flags in the heart of the university while our heroic soldiers are fighting on the battlefield," he said. Liberman went on to say he would pursue legislative action to withhold funding from the university if no measures were taken.

Knesset Member Ariel Kallner, chairman of the Knesset Lobby for Students' Rights, emphasized the severity of the protests. 

"I see with great seriousness the support for the enemy expressed at the Hebrew University. Support for the enemy during wartime must be eradicated from the world," he told Israel's Channel 7 news.

Kallner promised to demand a debate in the Knesset on the matter, saying, "We will not allow terror supporters to intimidate the student body."

Israeli Deputy Minister Avi Maoz also condemned the demonstrators for supporting terror.

"While our heroic soldiers risk their lives for the people of Israel, there is a group of anarchist terror supporters who shout violent slogans at the Hebrew University," Maoz said. "Even freedom of expression and protest has limits. It is inconceivable that the university heads will remain silent in the face of such calls supporting terror. These terror-supporting students must be expelled as soon as possible."

Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have sprung up across the United States ever since the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists began on Oct. 7, but have largely been absent on Israeli campuses until now.

However, in April, Hebrew University suspended Law Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian after a series of inflammatory statements she made regarding the ongoing war in Gaza.

According to a Pew Research Center poll in February, Jewish Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 have varying viewpoints regarding Israel’s military campaign since the brutal Hamas terror attack on Oct. 7 that took 1,200 lives and resulted in more than 250 abducted into Gaza.

Still, incidents of hatred during anti-Israel and anti-war protests have left many Jewish students feeling emotionally and physically unsafe on college campuses across the globe.

Some examples of inciteful and violent slogans against Israel and the Jewish people include a poster depicting the Star of David crossed out in red, with “Death to Israel” scrawled in spray paint and chants of “We are Hamas.”

More recently, Jewish student groups have organized rallies to protect Jewish students and help them feel safer on college campuses.

Adam Lehman, president of Hillel International, said the rallies demonstrate that Jewish students are resilient and deserve respect and can also “show empathy to the plight of Palestinians while also simultaneously showing empathy for Israelis.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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