Israel 'blackmails' university with threat to slash budget over Nakba Day commemorations
Israel's finance minister has threatened to slash funding to a university following commemorations for Nakba Day, according to reports, which marks the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine during the creation of Israel.
Avigdor Lieberman announced plans to reduce the budget for Beersheba's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev after Nakba Day commemorations took place on the campus, reported The Times of Israel on Wednesday.
Hundreds of Palestinian students marked the day, which commemorates the expulsion of hundreds of thousands Palestinians from their homeland, by raising Palestinian national flags and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans amid a heavy police presence.
The students were reportedly banned from staging the protests on Nakba Day’s actual anniversary of 15 May, and were ordered to move the rally to a later date.
Demonstrations commemorating the Nakba are held in cities across Palestine and across the world every year on the day, including London.
The minister and leader of the far-right Yisrael Beytenu party accused the rally of "saying and doing things" that "rejected the existence" of Israel as a "Jewish and democratic" state.
His party has a history of anti-Palestinian policies, while Lieberman has made fiercely anti-Palestinian statements.
He added that he had given instructions "to examine the conduct of the university" in order to "exercise his authority" to reduce its budget, according to The Times of Israel.
Another right-wing member of the Israeli cabinet, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, said the Council for Higher Education would "examine" the rally as "potential incitement".
However, the university stated that the events showed that students from all over Israeli society at the campus are able to "hold a variety of opinions and views", in light of the International Day of Diversity which was marked two days prior.
Other universities in Israel and around the world have also faced threats of budget cuts for espousing solidarity with Palestinian causes.
Earlier this year, Canada's McGill University threatened to withhold membership fees of The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) following a vote in favour of a Palestine Solidarity Policy that labels Israel as a "settler-colonial apartheid" state.
Critics have called such measures blackmail, against free speech.
Israeli authorities regularly threaten, harass and detain Palestinian students in the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and beyond.