“Hamas’s attack on Israel, the ongoing fighting and Israel's response are all of great concern to the UvA”, writes the Executive Board. “Innocent lives are being lost, civilians are in danger, the war is escalating.”
Two PhD candidates affiliated with the University of Amsterdam (UvA) considered this response to the conflict to be insufficient. In an open letter which has been signed over 1,100 times, they call on the UvA to take a stand and speak out against Israeli violence in Gaza.
According to the letter writers, the University of Amsterdam is showcasing “bias and complicity in the extermination of Palestinians”. Why does the UvA teach about decolonisation, holocaust and genocide but maintain a “deafening silence” about what is happening in Gaza? The open letter makes no mention of the violence by Hamas.
The board is taking a different stance than the one it took on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
In its reply to the letter writers, the Executive Board says that it is deeply touched by “the indescribable suffering faced by the civilian population, on both sides of the conflict”. It wants the UvA to be a safe environment for all employees and students, regardless of their origin, background or political beliefs. It urgently appeals to the entire academic community “to maintain peace and unity, and to constantly show consideration and respect for each other”.
Geert ten Dam, President of the Executive Board of the UvA, told de Volkskrant (in Dutch) that the university has received emotional emails from various sides, including from Jewish quarters. This, in part, has prompted the Executive Board to take a different stance than the one it took on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “At that time, there was little division or disagreement in the Netherlands and amongst the academic community regarding Putin’s actions”, says Ten Dam. “This conflict is very complex and highly polarised, including within the UvA community.” She thinks it is up to academics to interpret the conflict. “Their expertise puts them in a better position to do so than we are.”
Delft and Nijmegen
Students at TU Delft are also asking the board to take a position, or not. The latter was done by Muslim student association Ibn Firnas in an open letter published by Delta. Other students asked the board of to condemn the Hamas attack. So far, the board has not issued any statements.
Radboud University in Nijmegen is also witnessing protests. Last Wednesday, roughly 30 students from the Nijmegen4Palestine action group demonstrated there against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, reports Vox. They want the university to cut all ties with Israel. The Executive Board has yet to respond.
HOP, Hein Cuppen