The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has called on Israel's Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs to oppose a bill that would ban waving Palestinian flags at Israeli universities.
The Hebrew University Senate decried this bill as infringing on freedom of expression and going against "basic principles of democracy."
In a statement, the university's senate gave three reasons for their opposition to this bill:
Firstly, they stipulated that Israeli higher education institutions shouldn't be responsible for enforcing restrictions on freedom of expression, but rather it should be done by police and the courts. Universities, the senate said, aren't qualified to deal with whether a student's statements constituted a breach of free speech and instead could be inferred as supporting terrorism.
"Enforcement of criminal prohibitions is a matter for the police and the prosecution and the courts," the university statement read.
"Filing an indictment for improper speech requires the approval of the ombudsman, in recognition of the complexity of the discussion on the matter, and the authority in the matter should not be transferred to the disciplinary institutions in institutions of higher education, which are not qualified to deal with it."
"Passing this bill could seriously curtail freedom of expression on university campuses and weaken the status of Israel's higher education institutions internationally."Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Secondly, they said, the bill's prohibitions are far more extensive than those in the anti-terrorism law. The Senate explained that there is "no reason" for an action or statement that would be legal outside of a university campus to suddenly become illegal, and therefore warrant a severe punishment like a fine or jail sentence, just because it happened to have taken place inside a campus.
No indication that waving a flag is supporting terrorism
Lastly, the university argued, waving a Palestinian flag does not necessarily indicate that one supports terrorism. Rather, it could be used to either express one's own Palestinian national identity or to express support for the idea of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
"The statement that waving the flag necessarily expresses support for terrorism is factually incorrect and causes an unconstitutional violation of freedom of expression," the letter stressed.
Additionally, the university added, the anti-terrorism law passed in 2016 is sufficient already to handle statements that encourage or support terrorism.
"Passing this bill could seriously curtail freedom of expression on university campuses and weaken the status of Israel's higher education institutions internationally," they stressed.
Israeli opposition to waving the Palestinian flag
Several Israeli lawmakers have pushed to ban waving the Palestinian flag, with several attempts having been made in previous years.
In January, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered the Israel Police to remove all Palestinian flags from public, saying that flying them shows support for terrorism.
"It is inconceivable that lawbreakers will wave terror flags, incite and encourage terrorism," Ben-Gvir said at the time.
"I have issued instructions for the removal of the flags, which support terrorism, from the public space and to stop incitement against the State of Israel.
"Freedom of expression does not extend to identifying with a terrorist and those who want to harm IDF soldiers," he said.
In April, police arrested four people protesting in Haifa while waiving Palestinian flags on charges of disturbing the peace.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.