Hebrew University of Jerusalem has come under fire for a decision not to play Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” during a graduation ceremony to avoid offending Arab students.
The university said there is no legal requirement to play the national anthem at its academic functions.
“At official state ceremonies at the Hebrew University, the national anthem is played as usual,” Hebrew University said in a statement. “At academic ceremonies, there is no obligation to play the anthem.”
Israel’s Army Radio obtained a recording of a student asking a faculty member about the decision not to play the anthem, with the faculty member reportedly saying the move was made out of “consideration for the other side,” in a reference to Arab students.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision “shameful.”
“This is the worst kind of groveling. It is the opposite of national pride,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister added, “We are proud of our state, our flag, our anthem…this only reinforces my determination to pass the nation-state bill that we have been spearheading, to anchor in law the national symbols that we hold so dear.” Netanyahu was referring to proposed legislation stipulating that all Israeli law must be understood based upon the principle of Israel being the homeland of the Jewish people.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said he told Hebrew University that as a public institution, it should respect the state that provides its funding. Similarly, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who graduated from Hebrew University, called on “the heads of the university to reverse this bizarre decision.”