SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: October 14, 2023

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Bezalel Academy of Art and Design

Region & Country:Western Asia | Israel

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 14, 2023, media sources reported that Bezalel Academy of Art and Design had suspended at least nine Palestinian students without any investigation or prior notice. The students had reportedly posted pro-Palestinian sentiments on social media.

The students’ dismissal occurred against the backdrop of a surprise Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 that left over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals dead and more than 200 abducted, and the subsequent Israeli military bombardment of the Gaza Strip which, as of the middle of February, has reportedly killed more than 29,000 Palestinians. The violence led to heightened tensions around speech on campuses in Israel and throughout the world.

Bezalel Academy reportedly suspended some of the students without a hearing. Others students were granted a disciplinary hearing; however it is unclear what decisions were made.

On October 22, Adalah, a legal center for Palestinians, sent a letter to the administration of the Academy. The letter demanded that the ongoing disciplinary hearings be stopped and accused the Academy of violating the students’ freedom of expression, access to higher education, and due progress by monitoring and persecuting students for statements made on social media.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary suspension of students for nonviolently exercising their right to freedom of expression – conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party. Higher education authorities have an obligation to ensure due process, transparency, and fairness when engaging in disciplinary action. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.