Daily Israel Report

University Students: "We Will Use Violence"

"We will only effect change through violence!" So declared student union leaders yesterday following a raucous demonstration in Tel Aviv protesting planned budget cuts effecting students.
First Publish: 3/18/2005, 8:48 AM / Last Update: 3/17/2005, 5:43 PM

Despite their open call for violent protest, the students have been supported by several public figures who criticized police involvement in forcibly opening the school and unblocking traffic caused by the protest.

Tel Aviv University president Itamar Rabinovich announced today that he agrees with the students and has called on lecturers to join a student protest scheduled for Sunday against budget cuts to higher education.

MK Meli Polishuk-Bloch (Shinui) said the students should not have been confronted by the police, who should only be sent in to deal with residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. "Let the police direct their violence against the settlers and disengagement opponents instead," Polishuk-Bloch told reporters. "The students are merely concerned and [through the protests] are expressing their concern for the future of higher education in the State of Israel."

MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor), who recently opined that violence may be a positive tool in pushing through the disengagement, said that police should be dealing with violent extremists instead of combating the students.

"It seems the police are taking out all their fears and frustrations over the disengagement plan on the students," MK Eliezer Sandberg (Shinui) said.

Chairman of the national student union, Gal Dai, however, was quoted Wednesday saying the students would in fact embrace violence as a form of protest, a tactic eschewed thus far by anti-disengagement activists who blocked traffic Monday and accepted arrest with passive resistance. "The struggle against the budget cuts to higher education has only started," Dai said. "The violent manner in which the police behaved reinforces the opinion that we will only be able to effect changes through the use of violence, and that's likely how we'll operate in the future."

TA University student union leader Yiftah Atzmon was arrested at the protest on charges of blocking roads and refusing to obey police orders.

MK Eitan Cabel, who said of Monday's road-blocking, "This is not a protest, it's pure hooliganism," reserved criticism for the university, not the students. Cabel accused the university of bringing in the police, a claim the university denies, saying police arrived only after students blocked traffic in the area and saying it [the university] helped release those arrested.

The protest effectively shut down an entire day of classes for Tel Aviv University students, most of whom had no part in the protest activities. The university's gates, which were locked by students at 4:30 AM, were only opened in mid-afternoon. Haim Levanoni Street, opposite the University's main entrance, was also shut down for the bulk of the day.

Though there were reports of violence and protest leaders actively advocating its use in the future, the three students arrested for disturbing the peace were all released later the same day on bail. In contrast, the 18 road-blockers from Monday's blocking of the Ayalon Highway were imprisoned over night and released under orders forbidding them from leaving their communities. Police asked the court to put the protesters under house-arrest, but the court ruled that such a move was not warranted.