Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Tel Aviv University cancels Land Day lecture

By Jan Walraven - April 09, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Racism]

Mohammed Kena'ana speaks outside Tel Aviv University on Monday 7 April after his lecture was cancelled by the univeristy's administration. Photo Credit: Aida Ka'adan
Tel Aviv University canceled a planned lecture to be given by Mohammed Kena’ana on Sunday 6 April after protests by right-wing students, citing expected problems with maintaining public order.
Kena'ana, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and member of the central committee of the political party Abnaa el-Balad (Sons of the Land), was invited to speak in commemoration of Land Day by student factions belonging to the Israeli-Arab activist movements Hadash and Abnaa el-Balad. 
Although his official lecture on Monday was cancelled,  Kena'ana did manage to speak during a counter protest held by Hadash and Abnaa el-Balad in front of the main entrance of the university, despite the presence of Israeli police and right-wing protesters.
Unfounded security reasons
Tel Aviv University eventually decided to cancel Kena’ana’s lecture a day before it was scheduled, referring to security reasons and disturbance of public order, as the right-wing movements were certain to obstruct the lecture.
One of the right-wing student movements organizing the demonstrations against Kena'ana's lecture at the university was Im Tirtzu, a Neo-Zionist movement. In their call to demonstrate, they described Kena'ana as a "bomber" convicted of "aiding terrorism by transferring funds, materials and tutorials for making weapons." The group is demanding the suspension of all activities by the organizing student groups.
Mohamad Osama, a student member of Abnaa el-Balad and organizer of the Land Day events at Tel Aviv University, explained to the Palestine Monitor that this is nothing new to him. "Every Palestinian who struggles for the rights of the Palestinians will eventually be called a terrorist. Yesterday it was Mr. Kena'ana, tomorrow it could be me," he said. According to Osama, members of Abnaa el-Balad and Hadash are used to severe hate speech and violent threats on social media. 
Kena'ana was supposed to talk about the rights of Palestinians, the struggle for those rights and the history of Land Day. Every year on Land Day, 30 March, Palestinians across the region commemorate the events that took place on the same day in 1976, when thousands of Palestinian Israeli's protested governmental plans to expropriate 60,000 dunams (about 15,000 acres) of land in the Galilee. In clashes with Israeli police forces, six Palestinians were shot and killed with live ammunition, and several hundred wounded and jailed. 
Land Day is known as the first major protest by Palestinian Israelis against the states internal policy of colonization and the systematic confiscation of Palestinian owned land. It is commemorated every year with demonstrations and other events across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
The terrorist label
The right-wing protesters focused on Kena'ana's supposed "terrorist" background. Israeli media apparently followed the protesters’ rhetoric, labeling Kena'ana a terrorist convicted of aiding Hezbollah. But while Kena'ana was indeed jailed for approximately four and a half years, he was not convicted of having funded any terrorist organization or of having ties with Hezbollah. 
In 2004 Kena'ana, who at the time was secretary-general of Abnaa el-Balad, was convicted of having had contact with a foreign agent after a plea bargain. The foreign agent was Jordanian Fatah member, Ibrahim Ajawa, who Kena'ana had met with in public. Charges regarding meetings with other foreign agents were dropped from the indictment as part of the plea bargain. Before the indictment against Mohammed was filed, he was suspected of having ties with Hezbollah during a press conference organized by the Israeli prosecutor. 

Although Kena'ana was never officially accused in court of this fact, it seems that the mere suggestion of being associated with Hezbollah, despite the fact that it was never proven or officially followed up, was enough to label him a terrorist long after the trial. 

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