by Gil Ronen
MK Alex Miller, Head of the Knesset’s Education, Culture and Sport Committee, is initiating a bill that would make academic institutions that do not play the national anthem in their ceremonies ineligible for state funding.
The bill was conceived after Haifa University and the Hebrew University’s School of Social Work refused to play the national anthem at their latest graduation ceremonies. The refusals were explained by the claim that Arab graduates would be offended by the anthem.
The bill determines that institutes for higher learning that wish to be funded by the state must play the national anthem at every formal ceremony, including commencement ceremonies and other events that have national meaning.
“In view of the fact that the State of Israel funds the institutes for higher learning and invests tens of thousands of shekels in every student, the decision to keep the anthem out of commencement ceremonies is a particularly insolent and unacceptable one.
“This action has nothing to do with academic freedom and expresses the private will of people to use their position and status in order to express a radical political stance that disrespects national symbols. Some hinted that they decided to forgo the playing of HaTikva so as not to offend certain populations. This is a slippery and dangerous slope. What will be the next stage? Will they also remove the national flag?”
The Knesset’s Education Committee will convene Monday for an urgent meeting in which Miller intends to notify the heads of academic institutions of the legislative initiative. “The Council for Higher Learning and the Council of University Heads should realize that there is a limit to [their] disregard and cynicism, he warned. He hinted that if the obligation to play the anthem is written into the universities’ internal rules and enforced, he would forgo the legislation.