Pro-Palestinian Rally at Ben-Gurion U. Sparks Outrage

By Hamodia Staff

On the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev campus in Beersheva, the Solar and Environmental Physics building. (David Shankbone)

YERUSHALAYIM – A pro-Palestinian rally at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva provoked outrage and condemnation from right-wing politicians on Monday.

Hundreds of BGU students of Bedouin origin waved Palestinian flags and sang nationalist songs, after being prevented from holding a protest on Nakba Day last week, which laments the establishment of the State of Israel, The Jerusalem Post said.

The demonstration drew a pro-Israel counter-demonstration, and the two sides were kept separate by barriers, police and security personnel. Non-students were not allowed on campus to take part on either side, which administrators explained as a measure to keep things peaceful.

Ruvik Danilovich, the mayor of Beersheva, condemned the event, writing in a letter to university president Daniel Chamovitz that it was “a disgrace.”

“The Palestinian flag is being proudly raised and songs sung praising Israel’s enemies whose only desire is to destroy it,” Danilovich wrote.

“My heart goes out to the dear bereaved families, who lost those dearest to them and are watching this disgrace,” he said. “Another red line was crossed today.” He went to call for a ban on any political activity on campus, especially “a demonstration which blatantly defies Israel’s sovereignty.”

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, of the right-wing New Hope party, said “the images we saw this morning are unbelievable.”

She said the Council for Higher Education, which oversees Israel’s colleges and universities, would examine the rally for possible charges of incitement.

The Likud party sought to make political capital out of it, asserting that the flags were flown “in the heart of Beersheva” due to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s “government of fraud and weakness.”

“Everyone already understands that a government that depends on supporters of terrorism and the deniers of Zionism cannot fight terrorism and preserve Zionism,” a statement from the party said.

In response, the university was unapologetic. It said in a statement that International Diversity Day was two days ago, and that the events showed that students from all over Israeli society at the campus are able to “hold a variety of opinions and views.”

The campus, it said, is “a meeting point” for people and new ideas, and therefore administrators allowed “two political gatherings with opposing views.”

“We are proud of our students who care about those around them, and express their opinions. Today they confronted opposing views, but maintained public order and conducted the rallies properly,” the university said.

The organizers themselves emphasized that the event was not a “protest,” but rather an “assembly” for Nakba Day. “It’s important to note the difference between their protest and our assembly. There is a huge difference, there is nothing to protest about for remembering the Nakba,” Watan Madi, one of the organizers said.

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