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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
University of Haifa students clashed with security officers Wednesday afternoon while protesting a highly charged speech given to a group of Muslim students by the leader of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, Sheikh Raed Salah.
Outraged over both Salah's words and the fact that Jewish students were barred from entering the auditorium as he spoke, some 150 protesters gathered outside the auditorium waving Israeli flags and yelling "This is not Teheran."
Speaking about the idea of making concessions in Jerusalem, Salah told the crowd, "We love life, our families, our homes and our children, but if they suggest that we give up our principles and holy sites, we would rather die and we welcome death."
He also claimed that Israel is constantly digging tunnels under the Temple Mount and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was planning to rebuild the Temple.
Students clashed with the security officers outside, as chants of "Allah hu-akbar" came from the auditorium in response to Raed's remarks. Police were dispatched to the scene but not required to intervene.
University officials said they were unhappy with the event and that they had managed to prevent Salah from visiting the institution for several years, but that recently the university's lawyers had said it could no longer reject students' requests to have the Islamic leader lecture to them.
Addressing the Jewish students' claims, university officials said that they had banned entry to the event so as to prevent disturbances.
"In previous events as well, in which [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman and [former Defense Minister Shaul] Mofaz gave lectures, we barred the Arab students from entering," one of the officials said.
In a statement, the Students' Union said that it condemned, "any racist act which includes hatred and a desire to incite. We hope for coexistence, and such a speech and such a person creates provocations and disrupts the order within the university's walls. We will not sit idly by as such a serious incident takes place in our home."
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