Palestinian students were forced to stand to honor an Israeli memorial day ceremony at Western Galilee College in Northern Israel in April, according to new reports. Benches were watered down so the students couldn't sit, they said, and the doors and gates were locked so they couldn't leave the premises.
One guard suggested he would hose them down if they failed to comply: "One of the guards tried to turn [force to her feet] my friend, who refused to get up off the bench. He asked for a water pipe, and he himself will pour water on her."
"We sat on the benches quietly and waited for the ceremony to conclude, until they arrived and forced us to stand up. One who didn’t wish to stand during the ceremony was asked to go inside, but there was nowhere to go as everything was locked. This caused several of us to sit on the ground in protest, or on the wet benches”
“On the same day a class was supposed to be conducted, but it was cancelled and we had a free hour. A group of 12-13 students, including me, sat on the benches outside, when on the other side the ceremony was supposed to start. We didn’t bother anyone. Suddenly the cleaner arrived and asked that we stand up as she wants to clean the benches”
“Now we fear retaliation because we are bringing this out”, said a student. “Our feelings must also be considered. It was obvious that we wouldn’t identify with this or stand silently”.
“Imagine that in Germany they decide to stand for one minute for the soldiers who fought in the wars. Would there be a Jew who would stand in solidarity with the soldiers, at least some of whom took part in the Holocaust?"
I wonder whether this story will get anything like the coverage American media gave the Israeli Palestinian Supreme Court judge who stands for the national anthem but doesn't sing it.
The chairman of the Western Galilee Student Union as well as the "Management of the college" denied that the Palestinian students were forced to observe the ceremony, saying attendance was voluntary. But at the end of the article, Dr. Yehuda Ben Simon, dean of the students, admits Palestinian Israeli students were forced to participate in this activity.
However, he did claim the students had an opportunity to leave the area prior to the ceremony. Though that account is contradicted by the students who reported finding themselves locked in.
“From past experience we decided that the entire ceremony area and that around it will be a sterile area, so that there would be no gatherings and that no one would walk around the area during the ceremony. Therefore, we also ordered that the campus gates be closed. We wet the benches so that people would not sit on them. Those benches not embedded in the ground were turned over......All of this, for only twenty minutes, during the time in which the ceremony was held. 40% of the students at the college are Arabs. It is sufficient that three or four will try to arouse provocations. In order to prevent this, we decided on a sterile area. It is true that we wet the benches, and we will do this in the coming years. To my sorrow, there are those who attempt to be wise guys – to sit close by, talk on the telephone, to smoke during the ceremony. We attempted to prevent this. One who did not wish to be present had the opportunity to leave prior to the ceremony, and I mean all the students”