On Wednesday, 7 August, a few dozen Jewish and Arab students at Haifa University, held a quiet protest on campus, in response to racist remarks made by the Haifa University Students Union (HUSU) spokesperson, Saar Ziv, when interviewed by a local newspaper. In the protest, organized by the local student club of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), the protesting students held hands to form a human chain across campus. Their mouths were covered in duct tape and they held signs that read, in Hebrew and Arabic: “Let the Students Union Know—It is Better to SHUT UP than SPEAK RACISM.”
The University officials, who are generally hostile towards any student political activity, and especially the activities of Arab students, has charged seven of the protesting students, both Jewish and Arab, with “Provoking a commotion” and “Wild behavior.” The Haifa Seven, who are to be put in front of a disciplinary committee are: Rami Hod, Reem Hazzan, Arik Zolfin, Osama Amer, Uri Weltmann, Remon Maalouf and Elad Bardes.
“During our peaceful protest, we shut our mouth with duct tape to show our objection to the racist talk, the kind of which came out of the mouth of the HUSU spokesperson,” said Reem Hazan, one of the Haifa Seven. “Now it seems the university officials are keen to shut our mouths by force, for enacting our right to freedom of speech and expression. Had the university been sincere in claiming to uphold pluralism and critical thinking, it would have given us its support, rather than threatening to expel us.”
The protest came about after an interview with the HUSU spokesperson to a local newspaper, in which he made racist remarks towards the Arab students in general, and towards the Arab Students Committee (ASC) in particular. Around 25 percent of the students of Haifa University are Arabs, and they annually elect the ASC as their independent representative body. The HUSU spokesperson claimed that the “Arab Students Committee is against co-existence,” and wished the university would disallow its activities. He further said that he hopes that Arab students “will realize who constitutes the majority around here.” After the protest took place, the HUSU spokesperson was interviewed for the leading news portal NRG.co.il, where he publicly apologized for his remarks.
“What's most absurd is that the university chose to charge with disciplinary actions those Jewish and Arab students who participated together in a nonviolent and peaceful protest,” said Rami Hod, one of the Haifa Seven. “But rightwing activists from the HUSU held several demonstrations, none of which were according to university regulations, all of which almost resulted in violence.” Hod recalled that when the DFPE student club called for an on-campus Jewish-Arab demonstration on June, to protest the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and in support of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, the HUSU activists held a counter-protest, unauthorized by the university. Nevertheless, the university officials took no disciplinary steps towards them. In his opinion, this is a conscious and deliberate policy of Prof. Aaron Ben-Ze'ev, President of the University of Haifa, and Prof, Yosi Ben-Artzi, the Rector of the university, designed to put down all anti-racist and anti-occupation activities.
During the coming months, the disciplinary committee will convene several times to hear witnesses, discuss evidence, and decide whether to convict and punish the Haifa Seven.
You can protest the harassment of the students by contacting Haifa University officials. You may want also to send a copy of your letter of protest to email@example.com
President of the University of Haifa
Prof. Aaron Ben-Ze’ev
Rector of the University of Haifa
Prof. Yossi Ben-Artzi
Dean of Students of the University of Haifa
Prof. Ariel Bendor
Chairman of the Board of Govenors
Prof. Manfred Lahnstein
Chairman of the Executive Committee
Tel.: 04-8249560, 8240585
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