Adalah and ACRI: Haifa University's Cancellation of Nakba Commemoration Event is a Dangerous Encroachment on Freedom of Political Expression


On 16 May 2012, Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) sent an urgent letter to the President of Haifa University, Professor Aaron Ben-Ze'ev, and the Dean of Students, Hanan Alexander, asking that they reconsider the university's decision to cancel the artistic and political event to commemorate the Nakba. The activity was an initiative of the student wing of Hadash (Jabha), the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality.

Mohammed Khalila, the secretary of Hadash's student, submitted a request to hold an event to commemorate the Nakba, and received approval two days before the activity was scheduled. The event included the play "Sagh Saleem," starring the artist Saleem Dou, with the participation of leftist activist Sa'ar Saqali. However, after approving the event, the university began imposing limitations and obstacles on the organizers, including preventing the distribution flyers that included the word "Nakba." The university also forbid Sa'ar Saqali's participation, prevented him from entering the university, and threatened to expel him if he did.

On the day of the activity, Khalila attended a meeting in the Dean's Office where he was told that the university was under pressure from the Minister of Education Gideon Sa'ar, and from the General Student Union, and that permission was being withdrawn. Instead, the university decided to postpone it for a week.

Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher and ACRI Legal Advisor Dan Yakir argued in the letter that events to commemorate the Nakba are part of students' constitutional right to freedom of political expression. Cancelling or delaying the activity denies this right and limits students' freedom. The human rights organizations demanded that the university allow the activity to go forward without delay according to its original permit, and allow distribution of flyers and activist Saqali's participation.

Read More: Student rights, Nakba, Civil and political rights, Freedom of expression