Breaking the Silence and Meretz have announced that it will hold an event at Tel Aviv University next Sunday, in which its members will read out testimonies of soldiers to showcase alleged crimes and unethical behavior on the part of the IDF.
In response, students associated with the Likud and Im Tirtzu activist group requested permission to hold a counter-event and read out testimonies highlighting soldiers’ ethics. Surprisingly, the dean of students responded tersely: “The event will not be permitted on this date,” with no further explanation provided. Instead, she suggested that they hold their protest on another date.
The head of the university’s branch of Likud, Hodaya Shahar, has strongly criticized the university’s conduct. “Under the auspices of free speech, the dean of students, Professor Tova Most, permits students with Meretz and the radical left group Breaking the Silence to hold events, so why does she not also permit events by the Likud and other right-wing groups? Is there free speech and free assembly only for one side of the political map at Tel Aviv University?”
Shahar added: “The dean of students’ decision to prevent us from holding an alternative event, a demonstration in support of IDF soldiers, is a badge of shame for the university, which allows only one side to express itself and does not contribute to a balanced discourse on campus.
“I call on Tel Aviv University to allow free speech and pluralism, for which it is so proud, also for right-wing students, who do not agree with the political opinions of Meretz and the group Breaking the Silence, despite the support that they receive from the university. My friends and I will continue to fight for our rights to express our opinions in public, and for the dean of students to reconsider her decision.”
Shahar is not alone in her struggle. The president of the student government has offered to help and MK Miki Zohar (Likud) has also stepped into the controversy. “Tel Aviv University must return step back from its decision and allow equal and fair free speech for all sides. The decision to prevent the Likud group at Tel Aviv University from fulfilling its legitimate right to protest is a form of silence and it must be canceled immediately.”
Most universities in Israel allow students to hold political protests. Just this past October, Arab students at Tel Aviv University protested against Israel Police because police officers were killed terrorists at the scene of their attacks. In this case, Im Tirtzu and other students were freely permitted to hold a counter-protest.
Breaking the Silence held a similar event at Hebrew University last month, and the institution allowed protesters to express their disagreement.