Around 1,000 people gathered outside of Tel Aviv University’s main gate on
Monday as students held a memorial ceremony to mark “Nakba Day,” the creation of
the Palestinian diaspora after the founding of the State of Israel.
crowd was more or less split between those attending the memorial and a
particularly raucous crowd of counter-demonstrators waving Israeli flags,
singing the national anthem, honking horns and drowning out the memorial
ceremony, with some protesters occasionally chanting “Havenu Nakba Alechem” (“We
brought a Nakba upon you”).
The memorial was the source of a significant
amount of controversy, with Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar calling on the
university to reconsider the decision to allow it, which he called “mistaken and
In the end, the university approved the memorial, which took
place one day before Nakba Day, traditionally held on May 15, but stipulated
that students must pay for their own security and could not use amplified speakers.
one organizer said the university required that they pay around NIS 1,000 for
security, there was also a heavy contingent of Border Police and Israel Police
officers on the scene. In addition, the counter-protesters were able to use a
Police said that two people were detained during the
event for disturbing the peace.
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said
he and others came to protest against the memorial event to “restore a bit of
sanity” to the Israeli public. Ben-Ari added that there is no reason for
Israelis to listen to the Palestinian narrative about the Nakba, because “it’s
not a narrative, it’s a lie. What if they’d won the war? We’d have had another
Another counter-protester, Bar-Ilan University student
Lilach Aviv, 25, held up a sign that said “Israeli Arabs say no to the
“They should do this in Ramallah or Gaza, instead they exploit
our democracy to spit in our faces,” Aviv said.
Past the police
barricades and officers keeping back the counter-protesters, journalists and
photographers, a few hundred students listened as speakers told stories passed
down from their grandparents about the war and villages lost or left behind
during and after the War of Independence.
Waseem Hajo, a 25-year-old
native of Haifa, said he came to the memorial event because his family lost
around 300 dunams of land in the North, after they fled their village during the
war. He added that the loss of his family’s land meant he and his parents
experienced a life in poverty.
“This was my family’s personal tragedy.
We’re not here to cancel Israel’s existence, we just want them to recognize our
suffering,” Najo said, before pointing to the counter- protesters and saying,
“All we want is to raise awareness of the Nakba, and these people are doing our
job for us.”