Hebrew University students are up in arms over a debate that has been scheduled between MK Ofer Shelach (Yesh Atid) and Muhammad al-Habash, a chief aide to Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas who has been accused of being a primary source of anti-Israel incitement. The NRG news site said Tuesday that hundreds of Hebrew University students have protested against the debate on social media.
Right-wing group Im Tirtzu said that it was “shocking that the university will be turned into a stage for any type of speech, regardless of how badly it hurts the feelings of law-abiding students who serve in the IDF, as well as those who are victims of terrorism or relatives of victims.”
Al-Habash and Shelach, according to the invitation that was distributed to students, will “discuss the relevant issues of the day, including the terror wave, the ‘loner intifada’ that Israel is facing, the ‘martyr children’ who are perpetrating these attacks, the tunnels from Gaza, the growth of IS in the Middle East, the rise of radical Islam, the Israel-Palestinian situation, the peace talks, and more. For the first time – direct from the Muqata! (Ed: Arabic for headquarters) – the top aide to Mahmoud Abbas will discuss these matters with MK Ofer Shelach.”
Al-Habash has made what many Israelis consider to be very inflammatory remarks over the years; for example, after the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrach, Hy”d, in June 2014, al-Habash said that Israel “had used the kidnapping to act violently against Palestinians.” In another statement, al-Habash said that terrorists in Israeli prisons “are there for defending their homeland, for defending their honor. They are freedom fighters, they are not criminals. They have committed no crime except to defend themselves.”
In a statement to NRG, the site reported that Shelach’s office said that the MK had been invited to speak for students, and not to engage in a debate with anyone. In a statement, Hebrew University said that it was “a leader in freedom of speech and pluralistic thought, as long as no laws are violated. The Truman Center, which is sponsoring the event, is well-known for its activities to promote peace, and provides a respectful platform for the airing of ideas to resolve the conflict.”
Students who posted the invitation on social media slammed the event, with many questioning why the university “would invite a terror supporter. Have you gone crazy?,” wrote one, with another writing “I respect MK Shelach, but I do not believe the university should be providing a platform to a terrorist, who does not even represent the Palestinian people. I think Ofer Shelach must withdraw from this event.”