Repression of Palestinian Students in Israeli Universities and Colleges

A special report on the wave of disciplinary proceedings taken against Palestinian students in Israeli academic institutions for their social media use

Since the beginning of the war on Gaza in October 2023, Palestinian students, citizens of Israel, have faced an unprecedented wave of disciplinary action from their universities and colleges targeting their freedom of speech and Palestinian identity. These efforts have been largely focused on the social media posts of Palestinian students, with those who openly reference or express their Palestinian-Arab heritage, religious beliefs or voice dissent over Israel’s onslaught on Gaza becoming the targets of punitive campaigns initiated by right-wing campus organizations, in coordination with academic institutions. In many cases, publications expressing solidarity with Gaza residents, or  Quranic verses, prayers, and other religious texts triggered disciplinary proceedings. These efforts have attempted to label all outward displays of Palestinian-Arab identity as “support for terrorism” and have pursued disciplinary proceedings against individual students to punish it as such.


At least 36 Israeli universities and colleges have initiated disciplinary proceedings against a total of 124 Palestinian students for posts on their private social media accounts. Adalah has represented 95 students. Nearly half of these cases (47%) ended in the student’s suspension or expulsion; the majority of these cases involved either an expression of solidarity with the people of Gaza or citations from the Quran, both of which are  protected by the right to freedom of expression. Notably, the vast majority of these cases (79%) were filed against female students.


These disciplinary policies exclusively target Palestinian students, and have been explicitly endorsed by the Israeli Minister of Education, even as many Jewish Israeli students who post explicit incitement and calls to violence on their social media face no repercussions. They constitute a severe infringement of the students’ civil and political rights, as well as violating procedural and due process rights. In these cases, the institutions are overstepping their legal boundaries, imposing more restrictive constraints on freedom of expression than are even provided for  in Israeli criminal law. Moreover, they lack the legal authority to initiate these proceedings, which go beyond the remit of their codes of conduct for students, which renders the proceedings in clear violation of Israeli law. Though universities are supposed to serve as a bastion of critical thought and free expression for society, instead they have become sites of censorship and mandated support for government narratives.


This campaign of persecution against Palestinian students underscores the reality that in Israel, the protection of rights and democratic principles is exclusively afforded to Jewish citizens; Palestinian citizens, especially during times of conflict, are viewed as an internal enemy and their political views are severely suppressed. The present round of suppression, initiated after the start of the war on 7 October, has further entrenched this reality and set a new baseline level of suppression for Palestinian students. It has also created a hostile, inciting, and unsafe academic environment for many Palestinian students and faculty members in Israeli academic institutions.


Press releases and related documents:

Click here to view an infographic report on the repression of Palestinian students.


Israeli Academic Institutions Persecute Palestinian Students for Social Media Posts Amid Offensive on Gaza 22 October 2023


Temporary Suspension of Eight Palestinian Students Following Adalah’s Legal Intervention 08/01/2024


Haifa University Consents to Mediation Instead of Disciplinary Proceedings and Cancels Temporary Suspension of Eight Palestinian Students Following Adalah’s Legal Intervention 08 January 2024


Adalah’s briefing paper Crackdown on Freedom of Speech of Palestinian Citizens of Israel, November 2023


Adalah’s Report to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education: Israeli Academic Institutions Sanction Palestinian Students for Social Media Posts since 7 October, violating their Rights to Free Expression and Education, February 2024 


Selected Media Articles:


The war in Gaza is spilling over into Israeli universities, NPR Radio, 25 January 2024


Palestinian students suspended by Israeli universities, Times Higher Education, 31 October 2023


Is the right to free speech being curbed in Israel amid the war with Hamas?, CBS, 16 November 2023


Death threats, doxxing, and suspension from school: Concerns grow over free speech in Israel, NBC, 19 October 2023


Israel's Palestinian citizens face a wave of repression amid Gaza war, The New Arab, 25 October 2023


Israeli Arabs arrested over Gaza social media posts, BBC, 21 October 2023


Wartime Israel shows little tolerance for Palestinian dissent, AP News, 30 November 2023


Inside the Israeli Crackdown on Freedom of Speech, The New Yorker, 8 November 2023


The Crackdown Has Begun: Israel Goes After Critics of Its Gaza War, The Nation, 18 October 2023


‘They Are Behaving in a Fascist Way:’ An Israeli-Arab Lawmaker on the Stifling of Anti-War Voices, Time Magazine, 11 November, 2023


Israel’s free speech crackdown: ‘War inside of a war, Washington Post, 12 November 2023


Arabs in Israel fear consequences for speaking out about Israel-Hamas war, NBC, 27 October 2023,


Since Hamas attacks, Israel's Palestinian minority dreads reprisals: 'I'm afraid we'll take 10 steps backward', Le Monde, 28 October 2023

‘People are afraid’: Advocates warn of crackdown on Arab Israeli students, The Forward, 8 January 2024


Israeli University Suspends Eight Students Claiming They Supported Hamas on Social Media Posts, Haaretz, 1 January 2024


Podcasts and webinars: 

Podcast by The Institute for Middle East Understanding about Adalah’s work, The Silencing of Palestinian Students in Israeli Universities, 1 February 2024


Adalah’s podcast, Students under Surveillance: The persecution of Palestinians at Israeli universities, with Attorney Adi Mansour, 20 November 2023


Gaza in Context: A Collaborative Teach-In Series — Present-Absent: Part 1 with Adi Johnny Mansour, Jadaliyya, 13 February 2024


Webinar organized by Birzeit University and The Galilee Foundation: The War on Palestinian Education, 21 December 2023