Counter-demonstrators holding copies of "Nakba Bullshit," Tel Aviv University, May 14, 2012. (Photo: JC/ActiveStills)
Hundreds of right-wing Israelis poured onto Tel Aviv University's campus yesterday to protest a student-run Nakba commemoration. Extremist members of Knesset joined their ranks, providing them with official encouragement.
Incited to fevered levels of resentment by the student commemoration of Nakba-- the 1947-49 expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians by Zionist militias-- minister of Knesset Areyah Eldad declared his intent to celebrate the catastrophe. "I am not against remembering the events of Nakba Day, as Arabs call it. On the contrary, I think the State of Israel needs to turn the day into a holiday. It is time to be happy that we defeated our enemies," said Eldad.
Minister of Knesset Michael Ben-Ari, who was recently banned from entering the U.S. for his connection to the terrorist Kach group, also addressed attendees with fury, in an anti-Palestinian tirade. Only weeks ago both Ben-Ari and Eldad were photographed basking in triumph on a sofa outside of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem, after they were evicted by Israeli police acting at the behest of settlers.
Also last week, the Tel Aviv University student union also spoke against the Nakba event in a statement:
The Student Union has no connection to the Nakba day events set to take place on campus next week, and opposes the events in their current form. The Student Union requested from University administration to rethink the event in its current form, inasmuch as it could be very harmful toward the feelings of many students on campus. We are currently waiting for an answer from the University, and will determine our next steps depending on the response from the university.
And over the weekend the Israeli minister of education, Gideon Sa'ar, who previously ordered Nakba removed from public school curriculums, denounced the event. Sa'ar's press advisor said to Haaretz, "The education minister is of the opinion that the decision is wrong and infuriating."
Minister of Knesset Michael Ben-Ari addressing anti-Nakba protestors, Tel Aviv University, May 14, 2012. (Photo: JC/ActiveStills)
The turnout at today's memorial was one of the largest for the Palestinian catastrophe on an Israeli campus, yet the counter-demonstration exceeded the size of the original event. Self-identified Kahanists and other right-wing supporters sealed off the commemoration with a blue and white banner. Behind the Israeli flag motif, one man burned a paper version of the Palestinian flag and some held signs calling Nakba a "lie." Others held entire pamphlets calling Nakba a lie, toting copies of rightist group Im Tirzu's Nakba Harta, or "Nakba Bullshit." The booklet, published last year, is a "land without a people, people without a land" polemical account of early Zionism. At the time of release,+972 Magazine's Yossi Gurvitz wrote:
Im Tirzu tries to convince us that there were no Palestinians prior to the Zionist arrival, and that they showed up only following Jewish immigration in the early 20th century, tempted by the so-called prosperity brought by the Zionists. That is, the 700,000 Palestinians expelled by Israel weren’t refugees at all, since they didn’t live in Palestine all that long, or something of the sort.
Protesters of the commemoration also held signs denying Nakba's existence. "When I arrived to this land there was no Palestinian people," said one poster, quoting former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Mier. Another read: "Israeli Arabs say no to the lie of the Nakba".
And in the leadup to Nakba on a counter-protest Facebook page one demonstrator said those honoring the Palestinian catastrophe should "go study in Jordan or Gaza."
Settlers in Tel Aviv, 1906.
Early photos of Tel Aviv's pioneers on the sand dunes are a central feature of Zionist mythology. However, the site of Tel Aviv University tells another story as it was built over the ruins of a Palestinian village that was destroyed during Nakba, Sheikh Muwannis. The current faculty lounge is located in the home of the village's mukhtar [head of the village] and it is the last original building still standing. About a decade ago a few faculty members and the Israeli organization Zochrot urged the university to place a plaque on the wall of the lounge, recognizing the history of Sheikh Muwannis. To date the administration has rebuffed their request.