Amidst the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people, we, a group of over twenty academics who have been organizing sessions on Situating Palestine believe it is time for our university to take action. We appeal to students and staff to sign a university-wide petition which has four demands.
On January 17th 2024, the Israeli military blew up Al-Israa University, with a video of this demolition circulating widely online. Israel has destroyed all of Gaza’s seven universities, and 90 per cent of its schools. Alongside this, during its relentless military campaign over the last 3.5 months Israel has murdered 94 academics, hundreds of teachers, and 4300 students. On December 7th 2023, this included the assassination of Refaat Alareer, professor of English literature at the Islamic University and internationally-known writer, poet, and activist. It is reported that, two days prior, Refaat received a phone call by an Israeli officer with a warning that his location was known. On December 7th, he was murdered by direct bombing of his sister’s home, along with his sister and her children.
Israel has now killed over 26,000 Gazans, including 10,000 children, with 8,000 missing under the rubble. This rate of killing dwarfs every major armed conflict in recent history. 1.9 million Gazans have been displaced, with 70 per cent of homes destroyed or damaged, and 90 per cent of Gaza’s population facing famine. Gaza’s healthcare system has collapsed, with only 9 out of 36 hospitals partially functioning. Israel is eradicating the infrastructure necessary to maintain life, while government ministers and settlement companies openly plot repopulating Gaza with Israeli settlers.
On January 26th, the International Court of Justice ruled by overwhelming majority that Israel must face trial for genocide and take emergency measures to prevent it. This came after South Africa laid out a wealth of evidence showing how Israeli actions since October 7th intend to bring about “the destruction of the population” of Gaza. But Israeli crimes against Palestinians did not begin with its response to the Hamas attacks. Gaza has been under siege for decades, subject to repeated bombardment and a blockade which has kept it on the brink of humanitarian disaster. Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights groups have also labelled the Israeli occupation as an apartheid. But more than that, it is clear that Israel’s expansionist Zionist settler colonial project is bent on eliminating indigenous Palestinians.
Inspired by nonviolent resistance against the South African apartheid regime, since 2005, a coalition of Palestinian groups has advocated for a campaign of Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The goal is to isolate and put pressure on the Israeli government to force it to comply with international law. It targets companies and institutions which are complicit in upholding Israel’s apartheid and settler colonial project and, now, its genocidal campaign in Gaza.
Israeli universities are a key target. This stems from their integral role in developing weapon systems and military doctrines used in the current genocide, as well as material and technological infrastructure which enable apartheid. They also provide intellectual justification for ethnic cleansing – with Israeli academics right now making arguments for expelling Gazans into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Finally, they train military and intelligence personnel, and systematically discriminate against Palestinian students. The campaign for academic boycott calls for a boycott at the level of institutions, not individuals. Academic institutions should refuse cooperation with Israeli universities, condemn government policies, divest economically, and support Palestinian institutions. This happened in the case of South Africa, and it should happen now.
Radboud currently has two inter-institutional agreements to facilitate student exchanges with Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the Erasmus+ program. It has also signed ‘memorandums of understanding’ and ‘agreements of cooperation’ with these universities to promote joint collaboration in research and teaching, strengthen cultural ties, encourage exchanges, joint conferences and research programs. It has several active research collaborations jointly hosted by academics at these institutions, as well as other universities across Israel.
Both Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have long been complicit in Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing, and now the current genocide. Tel Aviv University is the birthplace of the military’s ‘dahiya doctrine’, a strategy of warfare which justifies disproportionate force against civilian infrastructure. It has also collaborated with the military on 55 research projects, and hosts a yearly Technology Employment Fair which invites Israeli arms manufacturers and intelligence agencies. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is partially built on confiscated Palestinian land in East Jerusalem. Michael Federmann, Chairman of Elbit, the main supplier of the Israeli military’s land-based equipment and drones, is a member of the Board of Governors. Finally, the university hosts the Talpiot military program, which enables current military personnel to pursue a degree. Neither university has taken stances against ongoing violence against Palestinians, not now and at no point in their histories.
Radboud also has a corporate partnership with Hewlett Packard, which supplies all staff laptops. HP supplies computer hardware to the Israeli military, and technology that supports the database of Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority, a key institution of the apartheid system in the occupied West Bank.
In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it took Dutch universities 11 days to freeze institutional collaborations with academic institutions in both Russia and Belarus, and cut ties with companies primarily based in both countries. They also released statements condemning the Russian invasion, specifically its “ramifications for Ukrainian universities and the academic community”, while Radboud announced tuition fee relief for current and prospective students from Ukraine.
But to this day, 114 days into a genocide, neither Radboud nor any other Dutch university have done anything other than release statements expressing ‘concern’. Despite claiming a proud history of speaking truth to power, university management at Radboud and beyond suddenly shy away from taking ‘political positions’. Nothing is being done for Palestinian students and scholars in Gaza whose lives have been destroyed. Nothing has been done to cut ties supporting a genocidal regime. Instead, universities have created a hostile environment for academics and students committed to taking a position. We, a group of 20 cross-faculty academics who have been organizing seminars on Situating Palestine at Radboud, call on our university to show leadership and take action. The International Court of Justice ruling makes this all the more urgent in the context of possible third-party complicity in genocidal actions.
We express our full support for a university-wide petition initiated by students and staff. This demands four actions.
- Radboud must release a statement condemning Israel’s ongoing genocide and settler colonial and apartheid regime.
- RU must immediately cut ties with Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and end its partnership with HP. It must also disclose additional ties with Israeli institutions and complicit companies.
- RU must promote cooperation with Palestinian universities and actively support Palestinian academics and students who have lost jobs, institutions, and degree programs.
- RU must take proactive steps to protect the academic freedom of those who want to inform others about Israeli oppression and express solidarity with Palestinians.
On Christmas Day last year, Palestinian pastor Munthar Isaac addressed both his congregation in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, and the world about the lack of global action. He said to all of us: “no apologies will be accepted after the genocide, what has been done, has been done. I want you to look in the mirror and ask, where was I when Gaza was going through a genocide?”
Students and staff often say to us that they do not know what they can do to support Gaza. This is what you can do. Reignite a proud history of student solidarity at Radboud, and sign this petition to put pressure on our university to take a stand against the erasure of a people. It is already too late.