Two protests were held at Tel Aviv University Monday – one, by a group of Arab and Jewish students protesting against the “nakba,” the defeat of Arab forces that resulted in the independence of Israel in 1948, and the other a group of pro-Israel students from the Im Tirzu organization, counter-demonstrating agains the nakba group.
This is the second year the anti-Israel groups have held a nakba event, said Alon Schwarter, an organizer of the Im Tirzu counter-demonstration. “We realize that these events are part of the attempts to deligitimize Israel,” he said. “We see it in events like this, as well as when they call for a boycott of Israel, and in the academic realm, where professors equate the nakba with the Holocaust. We will not allow it to continue. We have unfortunately found that when there is no one to protest, these things continue, and they are successful. We will not stand by and allow this to go on.”
Sa'ar Szekely, a leftist activist and among the organizers of the nakba event, doesn't see his group as anti-Israel at all. “We believe that it is very important for Israelis to learn about the nakba. This is the one way for justice and equality and peace here. Only when we recognize the injustice can we find ways to correct it and restore relations between the two nations. We all live in one land.
“I see the nakba as a tragedy,” he added. “You can talk about the causes and the reasons on either side – that the 1948 war of independence led to independence or nakba – but there is no doubt that a tragedy took place here. And as a Jewish Israeli, it is my tragedy as well.”
Schwarter said that Sculley's reasoning was unrealistic, even ridiculous. “What is he talking about? If there had been no War of Independence and if we had not won it, we wouldn't be here right now,” as the Arabs would have slaughtered the Jews the first chance they got, he said. “They want us to say that we are sorry that we won. The Arabs are the ones who started the hostilities. The Arab countries are the ones who told the local Arabs to leave the land in order to make it easier for them to win. They are the ones who sought to kill the Jews. They are the ones who joined the Nazis,” and there can be no justification for an event that promotes the view that the Jews were the aggressors who disenfranchised the Arabs.
Inna, an Im Tirzu activist, said that “we are prepared to discuss any historical issue with them, but they do events like this just for the provocation. That is what is so hurtful to us. We are their colleagues and friends here at school, but then we see them protesting and calling us murderers. What about what we experience – the terror we face every day, the harassment, the demands to lower our flag. This is our country and our university.
Former Knesset member Michael Ben Ari, who also attended the protest, said that “these nakba protests are not about freedom of speech, but an attempt to deligitmize our presence in the land of Israel. There are professors here who use university research money to incite against the state.” Referring to the government's decision to pare down the defense budget in discussions Monday on the new state budget, Ben Ari said that “what is going on here is more dangerous to Israel's defense than any cut in defense spending. If we do not believe in the justice of our presence here, we will not be able to survive.”
People like Anat Kam, the IDF secretary who pilfered top secret data from the army and handed it over to a reporter from Ha'aretz, “have their roots in events like this,” Ben Ari said. “That's why we from Im Tirzu need to be here. They have no right to say that we killed Arabs, because not only is it not true, but it encourages terrorism,” he added.
Im Tirzu holds a counter-demonstration whenever leftists hold events like this, said Inna, and so far they seem to have had an effect. “I knew when I came here this was not a very Zionist campus, but things are out of hand here. But I have seen that the more we counter-demonstrate, the less intensive th leftist protests have been. We managed to get them to hold their events outside the campus instead of inside, where they used to be held, and that is a positive step.”