Photo by Gideon Markowicz/TPS-IL on 15 May, 2024

‘We are Not Columbia’: Israelis Counter-Protest as Arab Students Hold ‘Naqba Day’ Rally

Public By Pesach Benson • 15 May, 2024

Jerusalem, 15 May, 2024 (TPS) -- Against the backdrop of Israel’s war against Hamas, an annual student-organized “Naqba Day” protest at Tel Aviv University on Wednesday escalated with accusations of “genocide” and an unusually intense counter-protest.

Around 70 Arab students waved signs and chanted, “Get out of Gaza and Rafah,” and “No democracy with occupation,” between 200-300 counter-protesters waved Israeli flags and held signs saying “Tel Aviv is not Columbia.”

One counter-protester, a middle-aged woman named Michal, told The Press Service of Israel that the Arab student demonstrators “stick a finger in our eye and a knife in our stomach by the fact that they give backing and support to Hamas and terrorism in the State of Israel.”

She told TPS-IL, “We are not Columbia University and not another campus in the USA. We are here in the Land of Israel, a free nation in our own land. We will live the way we want to live and we will not let anyone oppress us and take the wind out of our sails.”

Police kept the groups apart and the protests ended without incident.

The Im Tirtzu movement, which organized the counter-protest, said the Arab rally “desecrated the names of our fallen soldiers, and attempted to take legitimacy away from the State of Israel.”

Israelis marked the country’s 76th Independence Day on Tuesday, with muted celebrations. It was the first time the holiday took place in wartime.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Around 30 of the remaining 132 hostages are believed dead.