University of Haifa suspends 8 Arab students for alleged praise of Oct. 7 massacre

Rector says students hailed incursion, posted images of Hamas onslaught; students to be barred from campus until end of hearings as rights group decries ‘selective enforcement’

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Aerial view of the Haifa University. September 20, 2018. (Matanya Tausig/FLASH90)
Aerial view of the Haifa University. September 20, 2018. (Matanya Tausig/FLASH90)

The University of Haifa suspended eight Arab students until the end of disciplinary proceedings, over accusations they expressed support on social media for Hamas’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel, according to a Hebrew media report Monday.

The disciplinary committee involved in the proceedings initially canceled the suspension handed down by Guy Alroey, the rector of the university, pending the conclusion of hearings, but then reversed its decision at the end of last week, shortly before the opening of the school year at the university Sunday, the Haaretz daily reported.

The panel said in its decision that it was “taking a broad responsibility for the university community — a responsibility that is required in this tumultuous period.”

The students, most of whom are represented by the Arab civil rights organization Adalah, said the suspension would negatively impact their education, and that the university did not specify what damage their presence would cause to campus life, Haaretz reported.

The university’s academic senate told the students that the charges “could not be taken lightly,” even if the disciplinary measures would impact their learning, the report said.

Alroey told the Haaretz daily that students shared “stirring” photos of the onslaught on their accounts, captioning them with “good morning” and “they deserve it,” necessitating the measure.

File: A Palestinian stands on an Israeli tank at the border fence near the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip after some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst through the border and entered Israel, slaughtering some 1,200 people, October 7, 2023. (Yousef Mohammed/Flash90)

During the October 7 massacre, thousands of Hamas-led terrorists rampaged through southern communities, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping some 240 people others to Gaza.

Alroey reasoned in his request for their suspension that the presence of the students on campus could spark “extreme situations.”

In his letter to six of the students whom he suspended a few days after the war, Alroey wrote the measure was needed to protect staff and students, and that “students affected by the war need our protection and support now, more than anyone else.”

Witnesses present at the initial disciplinary hearing said Alroey controversially showed seven minutes of disturbing footage from the October 7 massacre, intending to justify the swift suspension of the students.

“The complaints against the students brought to the disciplinary committee were serious,” the University of Haifa said in its response to the report. “The decision of the disciplinary committee, which is an independent committee, speaks for itself, and we respect its decisions.”

File: Students seen at the outdoor area during their break at the University of Haifa, on April 11, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Adalah said if the university wanted to prevent a tense atmosphere on campus, it would have avoided the “selective enforcement” of its rules against Arab students.

“This measure doesn’t only harm the students’ presumption of innocence, but it also conveys a threatening message intended to dampen any critical discourse towards the war,” the group stated, adding that the reversal of its decision to cancel the suspension was unfair.

It also said that it was “absurd” that the rector served as the point of contact for an appeal for the decision given that he requested the suspension.

Out of the hundreds of disciplinary processes that have been launched against mostly Arab students during the war for allegations of supporting terror, rulings have been made in 65 cases, according to data from Adalah. Only 12 proceedings have ended in the expulsion of a student.

Half of the rulings have found them innocent, six students have been given an “educational punishment” — such as writing an apology letter or performing community service and 14 processes have ended in temporary suspensions, according to the group.

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