Friday, September 25, 2020

Police presence darkens Nakba demonstration at University of Haifa

By Claire Matsunami - May 14, 2014
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Palestinian in Israel] [Palestinian citizens of Israel] [Occupation] [Haifa]

Over 100 members of the Israeli police arrived at a demonstration commemorating the Nakba at the University of Haifa on Monday. 

Students initially planned for the event to take place in the university auditorium, but the Dean of students and the university canceled the pre-approved event 24 hours before it was set to begin. The student organizers, undeterred, decided to hold the event outside on the campus lawn. “We decided to make it happen regardless of their decision,” said student participant Hanan Darawsha in an interview with the Palestine Monitor.

Approximately 50 Palestinians gathered to commemorate the Nakba or “Catastrophe” – the Arabic word used in reference to the creation of the state of Israel within Mandatory Palestine and the concurrent expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians. They were peacefully sitting together when police arrived. “Two or three police for each activist, including two on horse,” Dawarsha said.  She also noted that the officers were part of Yasam, a special unit meant for handling riots and crowd control.  

After police arrived, students dispersed into smaller groups so that they did not remain in  a group of more than 50 – groups of 50 or more count as an official protest, according to Darawsha. By splitting up, they were able to avoid being arrested for assembling. University security asked the demonstrators to end either protest but they refused.

The demonstrators also met opposition from right wing Jewish students, who came out carrying Israeli flags, shouting to drown out the pro-Palestinian songs sung by participants in the commemoration. There were several confrontations between demonstrators and right-wing Jewish students. Eventually the student union brought speakers and a DJ out, “so our voice wasn’t heard at all,” Darawsha said.  “We covered our mouths with tape, protesting the way that the university didn’t allow us to speak our minds.”

We covered our mouths with tape, protesting the way that the university didn’t allow us to speak our minds.

The family of Milad Ayyash, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy from Silwan who was shot and killed by an Israeli settler security guard in 2011, was invited to campus to give a speech to the students and show a documentary about his death. While the family was speaking, the police surrounded the students. “It was very scary for some of the students, particularly first year students… we don’t know why there were so many police but it was very intimidating,” Darawsha explained.

Afterwards, police spoke with the father of the family, telling him it was illegal for him to be on campus.  Right wing Jewish students were shouting that the Ayyash family was a “terrorist family.”

The police were “surprisingly” not violent with the students, according to Darawsha. 

They simply surrounded them along with the help of campus security, creating an intimidating presence. They also berated students verbally and filmed the face of each participant.  They asked several students for their identification, an indication that they will soon fall into in some sort of trouble with the university, Darawsha explained.  She believes that the police presence was meant, “mainly to frighten [prop-Palestinian students].” 

Muhammad Kanaaneh, once the general secretary of Abnaa el-Balad, a Palestinian political movement in present day Israel, was arrested as soon as he arrived. He had been invited to give a speech during the commemoration. His was the only arrest.

This is the third year that the University of Haifa has canceled Nakba day activities. This morning, the university made the decision to freeze the university’s cells for the Abnaa el-Balad (People of the Homeland), Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) and Balad (the National Democratic Assembly) political parties. 



*Correction: This article originally stated that the University of Haifa administration froze the student group connected to the Balad party instead of Abnaa el-Balad.

**Correciton: Students attending the University of Haifa have informed the Palestine Monitor that on campus activities have been banned for all three groups: Balad, Abnaa el-Balad and Hadash.


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