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Rightists disrupt Nakba ceremony at Tel Aviv University

Hundreds of people attended a ceremony Monday afternoon to mark Nakba Day in front of the main entrance to Tel Aviv University. The ceremony was organized by students – both Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel – and billed as a joint memorial ceremony aimed at giving voice to the Palestinian narrative of suffering following the events of 1948. Organizers emphasized that the event did not seek to reject Israel’s right to exist.

Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills)

One of the organizers of the event, Rula Khalaily, a student at the university and an activist with the Hadash Party, told +972  about the goal of the event:


Before the ceremony began, a group of between 200 and 300 right-wing protesters, including MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), screamed and chanted slogans such as “We brought a Nakba onto you” (to the tune of “We Come to Greet You in Peace”), “No to fascist Islam” and “go back to Syria.” They waved Israeli flags and signs that read, “Left-wing traitors.” A few wore shirts that said “Sheikh Munis Solidarity,” a play on words mocking the Sheikh Jarrah solidarity movement and referring to the destroyed Palestinian village on which Tel Aviv University was built.

Kiryat Arba settler Baruch Marzel wearing "Solidarity Sheikh Munis" shirt (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills)

They were making so much noise utilizing a bullhorn and air horns that it was impossible to hear the ceremony, which included a minute of silence marred by disruption.

Palestinian participants shared their families’ personal stories of displacement and read off the names of villages destroyed in 1948. They asked the crowd to try and ignore the disruptive protesters and avoid engaging in any confrontations with them. The police constantly had to prevent the rightists from getting close to those conducting the ceremony.

At one point a man ran over and grabbed a large banner being held by some students that said “Nakba” and tried to tear it up, but was stopped by the police, who took his ID and escorted him away. A total of three people were reportedly arrested.

Rightwing protester tries to disrupt Nakba ceremony (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills)

I asked a young man (wearing an Israeli flag as a cape) why he came to disrupt the event and what bothered him. “If they want to protest they should do so in their universities in Bir Zeit and not at my university.” He added that his problem is not so much with the Arabs here but with the Jews showing solidarity with them. When asked why not respect the right of these citizens of Israel to conduct their ceremony in peace without disruption, he and others responded that it is a democratic country and he can scream and shout all he wants. “We came here with the specific goal of disrupting the event,” he said.

A Palestinian participant of the ceremony who was visibly upset by the protesters at one point started shouting towards them: “You are Zionists, you are not Jews. Maimonides was an Arab. You are Zionists, not Jews.”

Although the Tel Aviv University dean of students approved the ceremony, the university distanced itself from the event by demanding the students pay for their own security and banned the use of a sound system and Palestinian flags. Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar called the event “outrageous” and urged the university president to reconsider permitting the event to take place.

This was the first high profile Nakba commemoration to take place since the High Court of Justice’s decision to uphold the law last January. The “Nakba Law,” which was first passed on March 22, 2011, grants the Finance Minister the authority to limit the  public funding of institutions that commemorate the Nakba.


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    1. UmmEinav

      It’s amazing how afraid the Israeli right are of the “other” and their narrative. For a long time, the state kept this information hidden from us, and in official archives, access to papers that would shed more like on the Nakba are denied to us. Hasn’t the Israeli government figured out that censorship of information makes us want to know all the more about pre-1948 Palestine and what happened in 1948? Trying not to allow us to hold public ceremonies commemorating the Nakba says a lot about the society we live in. As if it never happened…

      Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      Maimonides was an Arab? Obviously the person who said that has not read his writings. He was driven from his home TWICE by the Arabs, first from Spain (you know, the famous “tolerant-golden age Muslim Spain”) and then from Morocco. He wrote that the Arabs are the worst enemies of the Jews.

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    3. Joel

      Isn’t this what you guys call a ‘mike check’?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Eliyahu Heskel

      Personally, I see no problem with this Nakba ceremony. Let them have it in peace. One can criticize its purpose or the fact it very much overlooks the role and responsibility of Arab states and leaderships in creating this conflict and TWO sets of refugees, Palestinians and nearly 1 million Jews across Arab and Islamic lands. But at the end of the day it is their right in a democratic society to freely express themselves.

      LOL@Maimonides was an “Arab”! Hilarious revisionism! That upset protestor should read a book or two by the Rambam and then decide whether he wasn’t a ‘dirty’ Zionist but a good Arab.

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    5. Rafael

      Israeli Jews are gutter.

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    6. Kolumn9

      The weird thing is that I think that groups acting on ‘raising awareness of the Nakba’ are providing good propaganda for the right. That message is couched in talk of historical memory, justice and rights, but what most Israelis hear is that the Arabs are mourning their inability to destroy Israel in 1948. When that gets tied into the current demands of the extreme left-wing it only justifies the position that any compromise is pointless since the Arabs aren’t going to be happy until they reverse 1948. By making 1948 the problem these people are discrediting those that want to solve the conflict on the basis of 1967. Those that talk about ‘understanding’ as the key to peace fail to understand that it is precisely that ‘understanding’ that demonstrates that the Palestinian narrative has no capacity for accepting Israel. Those Arabs, like some 972mag authors, that complain that teenagers from Seeds of Peace continue to join the IDF understand this point.

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    7. Elisabeth

      You are right Eliyahu Heskel: North African Jews, such as Maimonides were not ethnically Arab: They were Amazikh (Berber).

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    8. sh

      Maimonides was born in Spain as were his parents.
      But speaking of Berbers, the Almohad caliphate that caused Maimonides to flee Spain was Berber not Arab, as were the Almoravids before them. XYZ seems to have forgotten that and that when Maimonides later left Morocco, it was for Egypt – finally an Arab country! – where he is said to have died. In short, Maimonides was not an Arab and was not chased out of Spain by Arabs. Whatever his “ethnicity” Berbers and Jews go back a long way but it’s hard to say whether the Berbers started out Jewish or whether the Jews started out Berbers.

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    9. sh

      The Nakba is about mourning dispossession that went so far as erasing not only a culture and the civilization’s habitations, but also their memory. K9’s allies were in a counter-demonstration today with fingers stuck in ears so as not to hear and shrieking as loud as they could muster in order to drown out the sound of truth. They used the tune of Hevenu Shalom Aleikhem (we’ve brought peace to you), a song that has traditionally been sung by a good few generations of Jews to show goodwill, and shouted the word Nakba where shalom should have been. Hevenu Nakba Aleikhem they howled to drown out the memorial ceremony. Shaking fists, shouting abuse, one irate gramps in a baseball cap obliged to let loose in French because he evidently hadn’t picked up enough Hebrew to do justice to his colère des Titans. But they failed, it took place and was beautiful.

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    10. caden

      It’s about time someone did something like this. Or has they say. Turnabout is fair play

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    11. XYZ

      The Egypt that Maimonides fled to was under Ayyubid rule, who were Kurds, not Arabs, just like Spain and Morocco were not under Arab rule, either, SH.
      We are talking, however, about Muslims.

      Proving Islam is inherently “tolerant” because certain Muslims allowed Maimonides to settle in Egypt, is like saying Christianity was completely tolerant because Holocaust survivors fled Christian Europe to the Christian US. You ignore the first and only focus on the second.

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    12. Eliyahu Heskel

      Rafael (above) says: “Israeli Jews are gutter.”

      To Mairan Zonszein, is there actual moderation of comments here? Just wondering…

      Elisabeth, actually its much more complicated than that. Jews from North Africa were not some homogenous group. They were made up of different groups and migrations of Jews. Jews have lived in North Africa from Roman times, there have been Amazigh converts to Judaism, waves of Sephardim after the expulsion from Spain and elsewhere over the centuries from the Middle-East. But implicit in your comment as in the “upset protestor’s” comment that Maimonides was nothing more than an “Arab of the Mosaic faith” is the erroneous belief that Jews are merely a religious group without a historical ethno-national identity…so while Jews as a people have acquired much diversity we have always identified as a nation, regardless of where we ended up, which seems to bother a lot of people apparently, who just want to define us for us.

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    13. Eliyahu, I can’t quite follow the logic of “implicit in the comment that Maimonides was not ethnically Arab but Berber, as in the comment that Maimonides was nothing more than an Arab of the Mosaic faith, is the erroneous belief that Jews are merely a religious group without a historical ethno-national identity…”
      It seems to me that the erroneous belief is that ‘Jew’ is or ever has been a racial category. ‘Ethno-national identity’ is just vague enough to permit a hint of this belief, because of the ambiguous prefix ‘ethno-‘ but the concept of the Jewish nation, as articulated by the Jewish religion, is almost entirely non-racial. The only formal racial legislation in it that I can think of is the rule that a Cohen may not marry a convert, or the daughter of a couple both of whom are converts. (Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha’ezer 7: 21).

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    14. XYZ

      Traditional Jews view themselves as a nation whose constitution is the Torah with a designated territory which is Eretz Israel.
      Anyone who is serious about accepting the committments that go along with observing the Torah and behaving as a member of the Jewish nation may convert to Judaism and then he or she becomes a full-fledged member of that nation with the same roots in Eretz Israel.
      Obviously, with the breakdown in religious belief that went with the Enlightenment, the realization of committment to observe the Torah has declined, but the basic national identity of Jews continued down to this day, and I should point out that the fact that most secular Israelis accept a certain amount of religious influence on their lives by way of the Rabbinate controlling marriage and divorce and also certain aspects of Jewish tradition being observed in the public space (e.g. not selling leavened bread during Passover, restricting public transportation and certain other activities on Shabbat, etc) shows a certain residual acceptance by almost all Jews of the “Torah constitution” still being relevant today for the Jewish nation.

      This nonsense about “Arab Jews” was part of the 19th and 20th assimilationish view of a minority of Jews that they could ingratiate themselves with the surrounding antisemitic population of both the Arab world and Europe by saying “we are no longer ‘nationalist’ Jews, we are Germans (or Arabs) of the Mosaic religion.” Only a minority of Jews, even secular Jews, ever viewed themselves as such.
      A friend of mine who was born in Iraq said that if you said to the vast majority of Jews and Arabs in Baghdad that “we are all one people, Arabs” they would have doubled over laughing. That’s why there are no more Jews in Iraq.

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    15. sh

      So Egypt was also not Arab, but Kurdish at the time, XYZ. Interesting, thanks, but then you say “We are talking, however, about Muslims”
      You weren’t. But now that you are the picture becomes much clearer. You seem to be talking about a religious war.
      But how come the Christians you mention in relation to attitudes that led to the holocaust have suddenly become more kasher for you than Muslims? To use an old argument, of the two, which religion committed greater crimes against Jewish people? And if we have forgiven – if not forgotten – the greater perpetrator why have you decided in favor of subjecting the lesser – choosing what currently must be the most defenseless Muslims on the planet – to decades of deprivation and abuse? And why are PMs who make no pretense of being religious egging you on?

      An additional clip on yesterday’s Nakba ceremony.

      Reply to Comment
    16. XYZ

      Who says the “Christians are more kasher”? That is the reason for Zionism…Jews are not secure living as a minority in any non-Jewish state, Christian, Muslim, atheist, whatever.

      BTW-If I were to ask the Arab fellow who claimed that “Maimonides was an Arab” if he was an “Israeli Arab”, I’ll bet he would deny it and say he is a “Palestinian forced to carry an Israeli ID Card”. In other words, Palestinians are not Arabs, but Jews (from Arab countries) are.

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    17. I think I agree with you, XYZ. I certainly have no problem at all with the idea of Jewish nationhood. You may recall, a few days ago, I had a little discussion on one of these threads about how, in fact, a non-Jew could ever become a Jew except by religious conversion. The young lady I was talking to about it said there ought to be some consensual, non-religious way for a non-Jew to become a Jew, but I can’t imagine how it could ever work. I’m not so sure about this, though: “most secular Israelis accept a certain amount of religious influence on their lives by way of the Rabbinate controlling marriage and divorce and also certain aspects of Jewish tradition being observed in the public space.” My impression is that the orthodox rabbinates take their control of marriage and divorce for granted despite really substantial public opposition, and that the haredi parties are continually testing their political strength by insisting on shabbat-observant enclaves, at the very least, and other sectors of the public are pushing back against them. I find it very interesting.

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    18. XYZ

      I was amazed when I found out that hardly anyone in England attends Anglican church services, there is no political pressure to disestablish the Church Of England, even though it certainly seems to be an anachronism. Even though the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury has himself come out in favor of disestablishment, it gets no political traction. The reason I found in an episode of my favorite comedy “Yes, Minister”. Humphrey Appleby said regarding institutions like the Church of England, “true, no one goes to it, but most people are happy to know that is there!”.
      I would say the same about the attitude of the secular Israeli to the Rabbinate and the mild amount of “religious coercion” that exists in Israel…they may grouse about it but they don’t take any real steps to get rid of it. I stand by my statement that this represents the secular Israeli’s basic acceptance of Jewish identity that I laid out above, in which the Torah still serves, for them, as some sort of Constitution for the Jewish people.

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    19. The parallel goes further than you might think. Disestablishment gets no traction, as you say, because the C of E is the result of a carefully worked-out compromise which is as loose as possible, theologically, but neverthless excludes Presbyterians, on the one side, and Catholics, on the other. In this way, it maintains English hegemony over the Scots, Welsh and Irish nationalities, particularly in the higher social strata, where marriages between members of different denominations cause loss of ‘society’ status. At the summit of it all, the monarch must by law be an Anglican. By analogy with this system, which is cynical enough in a Lockean way but certainly contributes to stability, I envisage Israeli chief rabbinates which are as loose as possible, theologically, but which nevertheless exclude the Reform, Conservative and Masorti denominations. Thus, among other things, you can maintain Israeli Jewish hegemony vis-a-vis non-orthodox Jewish immigrants. Yair Lapid’s proposal to give parity to the non-orthodox denominations would, in my view, simply force the orthodox into a more entrenched position. I’m aware that there is already what amounts to a caste distinction between orthodox (which is after all ‘modern’) and haredi. Recognising the liberal denominations would create more caste distinctions, to the left of orthodoxy as well as to the right. In any case, marriages between members of different denominations are impractical unless one member adopts the denomination of the other, but I advocate making orthodoxy easier, not harder, to adopt. I can tell you this: converting to orthodox Judaism with an English Beth Din is a fearsome ordeal which few people with any independence of spirit at all would willingly undergo.


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    20. Anonymous

      I don’t see what the left-wing is complaining about. They are the ones who started the whole “counter demonstration” i.e. interruptions, shout-downs, intimidation and general thuggery.
      Just ask Nonie Darwish and Michael Oren, not to mention countless Israeli soldiers and pro-Israel speakers who wanted to share their point of view only to be silenced by hippy college students screaming “Free Palestine.”
      What goes around comes around. I have no sympathy for them at all.

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    21. sh

      “Who says the “Christians are more kasher”?”
      Oh pardon me, I assumed so since so many projects in the West Bank are bankrolled by them. Religious settlement Elon Moreh’s biggest patrons are Christian. I don’t hear you criticising the JNF for planting forests for Evangelical God-TV in return for their money. Doesn’t Rav Waldman from Kiryat Arba also benefit from their munificence? And what about Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and the money he pulls in by schmoozing them up. Perhaps some great West Bank scholar has ruled that if the money goes for settling Eretz Yisrael, no principles, anything goes?
      Something else for you to read.

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    22. Jake in Jerusalem

      Such irony! Everyone seems to have forgotten that 100 years ago, when Hebron and Jerusalem were recognized by everyone everywhere as ancient Jewish cities, Tel Aviv was a new “settlement” stealing land from local Arabs. Tel Aviv University itself is infamously situated atop a former Arab village. The Hypocrisy of the Left never ceases to amaze!

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