News on suppression of solidarity with Palestine in higher education institutions in Amsterdam: FOR AN ACADEMIC BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL

Nieuws, gepost door: Autonomous Student Struggle (ASS) op 23/12/2023 12:12:45

Wanneer: 22/12/2023 - 22:47

News on suppression of solidarity with Palestine in higher education institutions in Amsterdam
This list only mentions three of the higher education institutions in Amsterdam. If you have information about what is going on in other institutions, please send it to us and we will make a second post with more information. Feel free to contact us if you have more examples of reactions at the UvA, VU or Rietveld as well!

1) General "house rules" of the UvA which were publicly re-shared after a pro-Palestinian demonstration on REC campus
2) Prohibition of "expressions of a cultural, political and/or religious nature or with commercial purposes and the organization of activities and/or the distribution of written or oral information with the above purpose"
3) The stance of Geert ten Dam, President of the Executive Board:
“When we take a stand, we fuel polarization”
“Also, I can honestly say that I find it very complicated to take clear sides in this complex conflict, one that has been going on for decades. That also applies to countless students and staff. You sometimes need to have the space - truly - to be able to say: I don’t know.”
4) At a graduation ceremony, a student gave a speech where he talked about his childhood in Palestine. After this speech, Roel Beetsma, the dean of the business faculty issued a message where he condemned the speech. Later, he shared the family name of the student with Israeli media, thus putting the student and his family that is still in Palestine in direct danger.
5) Presence of cops on campus during teach-ins and pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Cops were taking pictures of students.
6) On the 23/11, the Executive board published a statement about the role of university :
- taking political positions would prevent the UvA from fullfilling its role to encourage debate and criticism "within their rules" [see house rules mentioned above].
- "Everyone should be able to form their own opinion, choose not to have an opinion, or choose not to discuss the matter within the university."
- safe environment :
-->"We see it as our shared duty to ensure the safety and well-being of all our students and staff."
-->"We would therefore like to point out that political demonstrations are not allowed in our buildings; there are other places for this."
-->Demonstrations where "people are chanting slogans [...] affects other people's sense of safety".

1) Shared by the VU: "As we have previously emphasised in our coverage, we believe it is very important not to drive further polarisation."
2) Cancellation of a teach-in at the VU called "Gaza in context"
justification: the priority is at "guaranteeing (social) safety and preventing further polarisation within our academic community"

1) In a statement sent out to students and staff, the Executive Board of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy have not explicitly condemned the actions of Israel or acknowledged the ongoing genocide in Palestine, saying they are faced with "dilemmas" and are working on plans to create a dialogue and offer support (vaguely)
2) They also outlined how they no longer support the statement in support of Palestine published in 2021 by the members of the previous executive board and students

1) The management shut down Service Desk as a collective punishment for all students when the sit-ins were happening.
2) Dean and Director of Education called the police on the protesting students. Police did not enter the building.


Our schools pretend that they do not want to take position as they want to ensure 'neutrality' within academia. They hide behind the presumed 'complexity' of the 'conflict' and false arguments of 'safety' to defend their silence on the genocide. Even in the face of 75 years of occupation and oppression, Geert ten Dam hopes that proclaiming ignorance allows them to pretend to be neutral. This false cover of neutrality is dangerous as it hides the fact that academic institutions are repressing pro-Palestinian voices and, by refusing to join an academic boycott, continue to support the ongoing genocide.

On double-standards
Like many higher education institutions, those in Amsterdam explicitly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and stood in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. This shows that these institutions can take a stance when it suits them. Their refusal to denounce Israel's actions shows that they do not care about the lives of Palestinians in the same way that they care about a war in Europe. This contradiction shows that the choice to be outwardly 'neutral' is really a signal that you have the "academic freedom" to legitimise apartheid, murder and settler-colonialism, so long as it is being carried out by a Western-allied ethno-state against Arabs or other people of colour. Meanwhile, the honest academic freedom to learn about Palestine and Israel on the basis of Palestinian histories and lived experiences are marginalised, erased and censored across the West.
[footnote: for example, see here, here, and here].

On neutrality & neo colonial practices
We see that the idea of a 'neutral' university is clearly out of touch to begin with. The censoring of pro-Palestinian events [footnote: Solidarity with Palestine on campus has long been suppressed --this article just covers the recent wave of action since October 7th.] shows that neutrality was always a false front. Academic institutions have never been neutral. Ideas and knowledge produced at Western universities have served the processes of colonialism [footnote: see the Decolonial Dialogues project and their podcast 'Far Too Close' for relevant information about the UvA]. Present-day Western academia often supports liberal narratives that legitimise (neo-)colonial practices (including Zionism) by framing the non-West as undeveloped (read: uncivilised). University campuses and lecture halls have clearly always been political spaces -- sadly often in providing intellectual support for projects of colonialism and authoritarianism.

On neutrality & safety
Universities' declarations about the need to promote a safe (and neutral) space are only figurative. By giving the name of a Palestinian student to Israeli media, business faculty dean Roel Beetsma put this student and their relatives at direct risk. Claiming to ensure the safety of Jewish students, the university administrations have been dangerously feeding the Zionist narrative that all Jews should feel threatened by pro-Palestinian voices. While anti-Semitism is a real danger, treating anti-Zionism as a constant threat of anti-Semitism only serves Israeli propaganda. By doing so, the university fails to truly protect Jewish students, who end up affiliated with a genocidal state against their say.

Although fear and isolation are truly felt by some students, the general fear of pro-Palestinian expressions that is reflected in the current 'safety' discourse represents a projected ideological poistion which equates all Jewish people to the genocidal state of Israel.

This 'safety' narrative appears in response to pro-Palestine actions, but little is said of the rising Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment that affects Arab and Muslim students [footnote: see for example, here and here]. Whilst Palestinian solidarity is portrayed as threatening, our academic institutions are silent on the increasingly mainstream attacks on Muslims and Arabs.

Call for an academic boycott of Israel
The importance of choices in academia for a fight for global justice has long been acknowledged: in 1980, even the UN urged "all academic institutions to terminate all links with South Africa" because the regime was using its academic contacts "to promote its propaganda for [its] inhumane policies" including apartheid. The Israeli state does the same with its own 75-year project of increasingly extreme apartheid and occupation. In this light, Palestinian academics have been calling for an academic boycott since 2004, because they recognise that academic partnerships have been an effective means for (mostly state-controlled) Israeli academic institutions to wash the image of the Israeli state and its policy of ethnic cleansing.

We must organize an academic boycott of Israel within our own institutions for which Students for Justice in Palestine has been calling for a long time [footnote: see their vision statement]. We shouldn't wait in hope that the Executive Boards will take action-- as a student, teacher, researcher or other staff member, it is up to you to publicly refuse to support the genocide by working with Israeli academic institutions.

Tags: AcademicBoycott FreePalestine

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