Arab students at Hebrew U. protest IDF Gaza assault

Tel Aviv, Haifa universities see demonstrations, both in favor of, and opposing action.

jordan gaza protests 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
jordan gaza protests 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
About 150 Arab and far-left Israeli students protested Monday outside the Hebrew University of Jerusalem against Israel's air assault on Hamas installations in Gaza. The peaceful if boisterous demonstration, which was held on a brisk December afternoon at the entrance to the university's Mount Scopus campus, was met by a counter-demonstration of equal size by Israeli students, with a large contingent of police separating between the two sides. The predominantly Arab protesters, some of whom carried Palestinian flags, sang the Palestinian national anthem and carried placards which read "Stop the Holocaust" and "Peace or Pieces?" "We are protesting because of the awful, inhumane, unimaginable things going on in Gaza, which are against humanity and against international law," said Jeane Aoyda Zbeidy, 19, a second-year law student who defined herself as half-Dutch and half-Palestinian. She said that the thousands of Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians were "not comparable" to Israel's massive air strike against Hamas targets, adding that the democratically-elected Islamist group was in a "legitimate struggle" against a virtual occupation of the coastal strip. "This has to be solved by brains instead of by fire," offered Rami Yassin, 19, a second-year student. The Jewish Israeli flag-waving students in the counter-protest, who sang Israel's national anthem as well as classic Israeli songs like "Jerusalem of Gold," said it was disheartening at best and an outright betrayal at worst to see Arabs living in Israel supporting an organization sworn to Israel's destruction. "It's comfortable for them to live in Jerusalem, study at an Israeli university and then identify with their Palestinian brothers in Gaza," said Ben Shai, 25, a first-year international relations student. "There is something here that just doesn't fit." "It's a very regrettable situation when we let these people into our best universities and in the end, they betray us and serve as a fifth column," said Ro'i Gvir, 25, also a first-year student. His sentiments were shared by most of the crowd. During the demonstrations, the students traded barbs with each other. "Palestine, Palestine," the Arabs chanted. "Go back to Palestine," the Jewish students retorted. "Allah Akbar [God is great]," the Arabs shouted in Arabic. "We'll meet you in reserve duty," the Israelis responded. After an hour, the protest broke up, and the main entrance to the university - which had been closed for the duration of the demonstrations as a security precaution - was reopened. Meanwhile, dozens of Arab teens continued to pelt police with stones in various locations in east Jerusalem in sporadic violence that continued Monday for the third straight day, police said. About 70 people have been arrested in the rioting so far. Two Arabs were also arrested for allegedly setting fire to forests on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the police said. Student demonstrations were held in favor of and against the Gaza operation in Tel Aviv and Haifa. At the University of Haifa, some 300 Arab students protested Monday against the Gaza military operation. At the same time, approximately 100 students at the same location demonstrated their support for Operation Cast Lead. Police were on site at the campus to prevent confrontations between the groups. Meanwhile, some 200 Israeli Arabs protesting the Gaza operation clashed at Tel Aviv University with students expressing their support for it. Three of the Arab protesters were arrested. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.