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(photo credit: Courtesy )
A student distributing leaflets expressing opposition to the new anti-Nakba Day Knesset bill outside the Ben-Gurion University campus in Beersheba on Sunday was arrested by police.
The arrest resulted in a student protest later that night that took place alongside a ceremony attended by the school's board of governors and VIPs being awarded honorary doctorates.
Noah Slor, 27, a master's student in Middle Eastern studies and a teaching assistant, was handing out fliers along with four Arab student activists on Sunday afternoon. After being asked to stand at least a meter away from the school's gate and taking up the issue with a university security guard, she was arrested by police for trespassing and humiliating a public official - the security guard - and questioned at the Beersheba police station for three hours.
The incident is the latest to occur as part of a broader dispute sparked by the university's plans to constrain student demonstrations with bureaucracy and fees.
"Arabs in Israel are a bit afraid to go against such orders, because they always have something to lose," Slor told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "For me as a Jew, it's easy, so I tried to make a couple of phone calls... and I was told I was standing in a private area in which we're not allowed to distribute fliers, which is nonsense."
Slor was then informed by security that if the group did not move, the police would be called. The activists remained and within 15 minutes, the officers arrived and arrested Slor.
Slor said she believed the university realized its actions were "getting out of hand" but couldn't stop the chain of events once they had begun: "They realized they made a mistake, but it was a matter of ego and they had to do something, and charging Arabs would be perceived as racist, so I think I was the right person at the right time."
After two-and-a-half hours of questioning by police, the university's security team called the station to drop the charges, on the direct orders of university president Rivka Carmi. Slor thinks that Carmi's action was a direct result of pressure from professors who voiced outrage at her arrest.
Despite the charges being dropped, she was informed that a criminal file was still outstanding. Slor must now begin an extensive, bureaucratic process to have the file closed. She also intends to file a complaint against the security guard and is lobbying for his dismissal.
Sixty students incensed by the arrest held a demonstration in the evening, outside the university ceremony.
They stood for an hour, with tape covering their mouths to signify being gagged by the university, and holding placards reading: "Security department = secret police."
University president Carmi told students she would meet with them, but failed to appear.
Some of the university's governors conversed with demonstrators, along with artist Dani Karavan and actress Gila Almagor, who both reportedly shook hands with students.
University spokesman Amir Rosenblitt commented on Monday: "Yesterday afternoon, political activists distributed fliers against the government decision about the Nakba. University regulations permit the distribution of fliers on the condition that it's done off campus. The activists, who were distributing fliers in an area considered part of the campus, paid no attention to security guards who tried to get them to stop. The police were called and detained one female activist and one security guard to give testimony, and afterward both were released."
As a result of recent university security clashes with students, an open panel discussion on the topic is to be held next week, spearheaded by Prof. Neve Gordon, head of Ben-Gurion University's department of politics and government.