Anti-racist student protesters acquitted

Issue 

Seven Jewish and Palestinian Israeli students who held an anti-racism speak-out at Haifa University have been cleared of all charges of "provoking a commotion" by a university disciplinary hearing on August 13.

The speak-out, held on July 4, was in response to anti-Arab remarks made by Saar Ziv, the Haifa University Student Union (HUSU) spokesperson. During the speak-out, organised students from the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (DFPE), the students formed a human chain, duct-taped their mouths shut and held signs in Arabic and Hebrew reading, "It is better to shut up than speak racism". They were subsequently charged by university officials with "provoking a commotion" and "wild behaviour".

Uri Weltmann, one of the students charged told Green Left Weekly prior to the disciplinary hearing that "recently, the Israeli parliament legislated the Students' Rights Bill, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech on campuses. Although the formulations in the bill are quite abstract and vague, we feel nonetheless that the case of the Haifa Seven is a political acid test for it: Will Haifa university officials respect the students freedom of expression, which is now supposed to be secured by this law, or will it turn to punish students for an 'unauthorised' anti-racist picket?"

Rami Hod, another of the Haifa Seven, pointed out that right-wing students from the HUSU had held a number of demonstrations that did not abide by university regulations and had often resulted in violence, but no right-wing students had not been brought up on disciplinary charges.

Weltmann told GLW that during the two-hour disciplinary hearing, a 10-minute video of the protest was shown and that this resulted in the students being acquitted of all charges. However, he said the university "will try to appeal and overturn this decision. So by September-October we might expect another disciplinary hearing, to discuss the university's appeal."