2022 has been a tumultuous year, which saw many infringements on academic and political freedoms in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Violence on campuses has reached unprecedented heights, with Palestinian students bearing the brunt of sustained attacks on their personal security and freedoms. Against these worrying trends, we have intensified our activity and fought to promote democratization, equality and access to higher education, against silencing of critical voices and complicity with injustices in academia.
January: Political Persecution of Board Member Yara Gharablé At the beginning of January 2022, Tel Aviv University student and A4E board member Yara Gharablé was called in by the police, after taking part in a protest in Yafo, for an informal “chat”. The “chat” with the police turned out to be nothing but an attempt to intimidate and deter her from taking part in political activity. This is part of a dangerous trend of political persecution of young Palestinians acting against the occupation and apartheid regime. As a response, we sent a letter to Omer Barlev, the Minister of Public Security, demanding an immediate stop to all intimidations and harassments - of our members in particular, and against all Palestinian students in Israel.
February: The Tantura Case In February, new revelations were unearthed in the Tantura case - chief among them the confession of some soldiers from the Alexandroni Brigade of committing a massacre and other war crimes against the residents of the village of Tantura during its occupation in 1948. Since then, the authorities have chosen to use concealment and denial to prevent the truth about the massacre in Tantura from coming to light. That included the persecution of Teddy Katz, who researched the Tantura massacre, disqualifying his degree suing him for libel. In light of the new revelations, we approached the University of Haifa demanding to correct the academic and personal injustices. As our letter states, “in the end, the truth comes out - in this case not in academia but outside of it. The testimonies of several … soldiers in the documentary film Tantura, shows that the massacre in Tantura did take place, as the displaced persons of Tantura testified. This fact proves that political and legal pressures of the kind that were exerted on Teddy Katz are wrong, and cannot be used as a substitute for the careful research into controversial issues. Surrendering academic institutions to public, legal, or social pressures, through censorial means and disqualification of theses and degrees, is a recipe for silencing research and turning one's back on finding out the truth." Following that, on May 22nd we held an event marking the day of remembrance for the occupation of Tantura. We discussed the different layers of concealment and denial present in this case: denial that the massacre and the subsequent displacement ever took place; the denial of the validity and truthfulness of testimonies of Tantura residents, who never stopped testifying about life in Tantura before the deportation and the injustices done to them; the denial of evidence in Teddy Katz’s academic work, which was disqualified due to political and legal pressures; and the ongoing silencing of students and researchers wishing to advance the knowledge of the Nakba in Israeli academia.
March: Political Freedom at the University of Washington In March we were shocked to learn that the University of Washington buckled under pressure from donors and closed the Israel Studies program, chaired by Professor Liora Halperin, after her signing of a letter denouncing the violence against non-combatants in Gaza in May of 2021. We at Academia for Equality viewed this as a “regrettable capitulation to donor pressure and a dangerous precedent that undermines the principle of academic freedom”. Alongside many in the academic world, we have expressed our strong contempt for the decision in a letter to the university, in which we demanded that academic freedoms and free discourse be maintained. Click here to read the full letter
March: Protest against the use of police force by students
On March 28, a serious incident took place at the Hebrew University - policemen, who are also students, arrested their fellow classmates because they sang songs in Arabic. In response, a day later A4E members joined dozens of protesters at the university, calling for an end to student arrests.
March: Reestablishing the Assistance Hotline for Palestinian Students In March, following the growing tensions in Israel, we reestablished the assistance hotline that provides support for Palestinian students. The hotline was established in May 2021 to answer inquiries concerning the security of students on campuses, dorms, and on social media. Initially, this year saw a decrease in activity due to the desire to return to normalcy, but following the events of May 2022 the trend has reversed, and we saw more students contacting the hotline for support.
May: Violence and Arrests on Campuses May of 2022 brought with it a new wave of persecution and violence in Israeli campuses. The month began with an onslaught of vicious social media comments directed at our member Anat Matar, after she criticized the grotesque number of flags displayed on campus on her personal Facebook page; It continued with with an ugly campaign of slander and personal attacks against our member Anat Rimon-Or, after a short excerpt from a lecture she gave was circulated out of context by notorious right-wing bully “Hatzel”. Instead of supporting her, the College of Management Academic Studies in which she teaches chose to publicly slander her and to annul her contract. In response we sent a letter to the College’s management, and initiated a financial aid fund aimed at supporting members suffering from political or racial harassment and persecution. The wave of violence reached its apex on the 13th and 15th of May: at Ben-Gurion University and the University of Tel-Aviv, police and Shin Bet forces assaulted students protesting as part of Nakba day and in response to the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh - arresting some students in order to intimidate others and disrupt their organizing efforts. In response, we called on the universities to safeguard the security and wellbeing of Palestinian students, and organized two emergency meetings, with a hundred attendants from universities and colleges all around Israel.
May: Solidarity with Dr. Walaa Alqaisiya In May, we sent a letter to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and to MUMOK museum, to protest the cancellation of a lecture by Dr. Walaa Alqaisiya following pressure from pro-Israeli groups, under false accusations of antisemitism. This worrisome act of censorship joins the dangerous trend of silencing Palestinian voices in European academia, and the deliberate muddying of the term ‘antisemitism’ aimed at turning just criticisms of Israel illegitimate. We expressed our solidarity and support of Dr. Walaa Alqaisiya, and called on the Academy of Fine Arts and the MUMOK Museum to reverse their decisions. Click here to read the full letter
June: Dangerous Normalization of the Occupation at Ariel “University” June brought with it a new low in the legitimation of Ariel “University” in the Occupied Territories. Like many in the academic world, we were appalled by the decision to admit Ariel “University” as a member to the Association of University Heads in Israel. The very existence of this institution - which stands on occupied land and solely serves the population of the occupying force - is a war crime, an expression of clear apartheid policy, and a gross miscarriage of professional and academic ethics. The legitimation of such institutions degrades Israeli society.
June: Mizrahi Identity Seminars In June, we held the last meeting of our Mizrahi identity seminars: a series of monthly zoom meetings, focusing on the religious, gender, class, civic, and political aspect of Mizrahi identity in Israel. During the past two years 14 meetings were held - with around 700 attendants. Key seminars included “Mizrahi thought and where to find it”, “The rural area and its origins”, “Communalism, Liberalism, Pantherism, Academism and feminist binationality in Mizrahi thought”, with talks given by, among others, Moshe (Shiko) Behar, Sigal Neger-Ron, David Ben-Shabat and Avi-Ram Zoref.
July: Academia for Equality’s Annual Assembly
On July 19th, dozens of A4E members gathered for our organization’s annual assembly - in which we provided an overview of our actions this past year and planned for the next one. The assembly opened with a session under the title “what is happening to political life in Israeli campuses?”, followed by a discussion of last year’s developments: political radicalization, institutional persecution, the presence of guns on campuses, Nakba day protests, the presence of extreme right-wing organizations, the new law forbidding Palestinian flags, and more - and about Academia for Equality’s place in these struggles. We also held elections for the board - in which Karin Levy, Arees Bishara, Reut Reina Bendrihem, Leena Dallasheh, Meir Amor, Zvi Ben-Dor Benite and Yara Gharablé were elected.
August: Solidarity with Palestinian Civil Society
Less than a year after Defense Minister Benny Gantz designated six Palestian civil society organizations as terrorist organizations, without a shred of evidence - the State of Israel continues its campaign of suppression of Palestinian civil society. In August, Israeli forces raided the offices of Al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, DCIP, UAWC, HWC and UPWC - confiscated equipment and documents, vandalized their offices and locked them down.
In the year following the announcement, many European countries examined Israel’s claims about the organizations - and unanimously found them all to be false. Without any evidence, proof or concrete claim, the State of Israel treats every act of Palestinian resistance to the occupation and oppression as terrorism, and turns human rights activists and academics into terrorists. For the State of Israel, the truth is another obstacle that must be overcome in order to crush Palestinian society and perpetuate Jewish supremacy.
We stand in solidarity with our friends in the six organizations, condemn the despicable raid by the Israeli forces, and call on the academic community - in Israel and the world - to loudly oppose the regime of Israeli occupation and apartheid.
October: New Procedures Restricting Academic Freedom in Palestinian Universities On October 20th, the new procedure for Entry and Residency of Foreigners in the Judea and Samaria Region went into effect. The new procedure grants the Israeli military the exclusive authority to prevent international faculty, students, and researchers, who wish to teach, study, and conduct research at Palestinian universities, from entering the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This draconian procedure directly infringes on the ability of our Palestinian colleagues to teach and research, undermines academic freedom in Palestinian universities, and harms local society and economy. We strongly condemned this policy, which we see as an arbitrary attack on the Palestinians’ right to education. We demanded the cancellation of all restrictions on study, research, and form academic relationships imposed on Palestinian academic institutions. We sent a letter to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and many ambassadors, demanding full freedom of movement for students and lecturers. Click here to read the full letter
November: Institutional silencing at Ben-Gurion University
On October 20th, a disciplinary committee at Ben-Gurion University indicted Watan Madi - a student at the university - of “disobeying campus authorities”, after she read a text by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish during a Nakba memorial ceremony. In a racist procedure, riddled with flaws, the university convicted the student of reading out loud the Arabic word shahid. In response, we expressed publicly our support for Watan. We maintain direct contact with her in order to support her in any way we can. Simultaneously, the supervisor of the disciplinary court at the university determined that there were fundamental flaws in the disciplinary procedure, and hundreds of lecturers, including many of our members, appealed to the heads of the university demanding that the procedure be canceled.