Student groups at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem demanded a controversial photography exhibit entitled “Pictures From Across Palestine” be taken down, asserting that several of the images were designed to inculcate anti-Israel sentiments among its viewers.
The exhibit, launched by the Palestinian student group Watan earlier this week, featured photos from refugee camps and roadblocks, among other subjects, accompanied by captions in both Hebrew and Arabic. Some captions referred to the IDF as the “occupation army” and “the hunters of liberty,” and in one case, Jerusalem was termed a “sewer for Israeli settlements.” The captions were later ordered removed by the university.
Representatives of the right wing organization Im Tirtzu, which has a student chapter at the university, protested near Watan’s photo display and later issued a letter to the university dean requesting that the exhibit be taken down at once, as was done to some other provocative displays in the past.
“The exhibit refers to all of Israel as occupied territory… including Jerusalem, our eternal capital,” read the letter, which was titled “Antisemitism and harm to students at the Hebrew University.”
“The disrespectful and degrading attitude towards an entire population still echoes in my head,” it continued.
The letter, which was also published on the Facebook page of Im Tirtzu’s university chapter chairman Tom Nisani, went on to criticize the university’s response to the display and accused it of having a double standard, as other exhibits had been removed in the past for fear of offending minorities on campus.
Likud-affiliated student group Ta Lavi also protested the display.
Watan chairman Ahmed Asmera claimed that his organization did not intend to promote any political agenda, and instead was focused on bringing to light the “suffering of Palestinians,” the right-wing online magazine Mida reported.
“The pictures are factual, their goal is artistic only,” Asmera said. “I have no stance on the matter.”
Hebrew University, for its part, stated that it would not take down the display, but would remove the captions, as they were not approved by the administration.
“We allow all student activity as long as it is not illegal,” a university statement read. “However, the Watan student group did not submit the captions for approval. Therefore, we have removed them from the exhibit.”
Watan’s display came as university campuses across North America and the UK marked “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW), the tenth anniversary of an annual international protest against the Jewish state.
The IAW is a major advocacy event of the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment) movement, and offers seminars on what is termed the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Israel’s “racist” practices toward the Palestinian people. It also holds public demonstrations.
Pro-Israel groups, such as “Stand With Us” and “The Israel Project,” in addition to representatives of the Jewish Agency, arranged activities to counter the narrative of IAW.