Bar-Ilan University, a academic religious-Jewish institution outside Tel Aviv, this week prohibited a student group on campus from distributing pro-Israel advocacy material about the “Nakba” (Arab term for Israel’s War of Independence) and the “Palestinian refugees.”
The ban was declared earlier this week, ahead of the school’s “student group fair,” to which student groups on campus were invited to present themselves to the students.
One of the student groups, the Zionist “Im Tirtzu,” was denied permission by the university to distribute its pamphlets “Nakba Nonsense” and “The Palestinian Refugee Lie,” the group’s most popular literature, distributed for years on every Israeli campus.
Im Tirtzu’s Bar-Ilan University branch was notified of the university’s decision via email on the evening before the fair, even though the literature had been submitted for review two weeks earlier, as required by the university. The email did not explain why distribution of the pamphlets had been banned.
The school also barred Im Tirtzu from distributing complimentary tote bags to IDF reservists – a decision that was altered only hours before the fair, following the group’s petition.
According to Bar-Ilan’s guidelines for public activities, the university is required to provide student groups with confirmation or rejection of their materials within three days of their submission, in order to provide sufficient time to appeal the decision.
“The university’s conduct is unfitting and goes against its own guidelines,” said Carlos Bigio, deputy head of Im Tirtzu’s Bar-Ilan branch.
“It is unfortunate to see how the university administration, which is supposed to promote discussion and social activities, is working to silence students and prevent their freedom of expression,” Bigio said, vowing to continue “to be the spearhead of Zionist activity on campus and to ensure that the Zionist spirit continues to flourish on campus.”
Bar-Ilan University Spokesman’s Office response:
“Bar-Ilan University believes in freedom of expression and that dialogue can be held between differing viewpoints in a respectful way. Unfortunately, the booklets in question do not meet this principle and, therefore, we did not approve their distribution.
Both booklets, Nakba Nonsense and The Palestinian Refugee Lie, contain material that is offensive to an entire community. Beyond its title, Nakba Nonsense includes many contemptible expressions. The Palestinian Refugee Lie was not approved because of the caricature that appears on its cover. This drawing contains elements that could be considered racist.
If such booklets were distributed on a college campus abroad, with an Israeli flag or a Star of David hanging on someone’s nose, we would all agree that it is anti-Semitic and racist material.”