Radboud University must sever ties with its Israeli partner universities, Nijmegen for Palestine argues in this opinion piece. If not, the university will be complicit in the disaster unfolding in Gaza and the West Bank.
In the 1980s, scholars across the word advocated for an academic boycott of apartheid South Africa. It was one of many tools of international solidarity with the struggle to put an end to the barbaric apartheid regime. Dutch universities have a similar decision to make today. Do we continue supporting Israeli universities, which play an active role in the maintenance of the brutal subjugation of the Palestinian people? Or do we stand of the side of the oppressed by taking an active stand against apartheid, settler colonialism and genocide by refusing to cooperate with complicit universtities?
The situation in Palestine
Before we go into the part Israeli universities play, we would like to provide some background information, as the Hamas attack on Israel and the resulting military response can not be decoupled from its historical context. The historical context being that Palestine has been occupied since 1948. Palestinians have been fleeing their home since 1948, which is referred to as the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic). Gaza has furthermore been under siege for 17 years now, which means that people are not free to leave, or enter as Israel controls the land, sea and air around Gaza. The current bombings of residential buildings, hospitals, churches, and mosques are a clear example of the ruthless colonial violence by Israel, which cannot be justified as a supposed act of ‘self defense’.
The dismal situation in Gaza of the past weeks is unveiling Israel’s colonialism that is often hidden from the public eye. The indiscriminate killing of thousands of people, including 1500 children, mass displacement, and cutting of access to water, food and electricity has prompted millions of people to flood the street in protest globally, including people in Nijmegen.
Students speak out against the colonization
On Wednesday October 18th, we urged people to join us on the Erasmusplein to mourn the victims of the bombing of Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, which killed 500 people. Despite only being announced the night before, 60 people joined the action at Radboud University in protest. We had a simple demand: Radboud has to cut ties with Israeli Universities. In a recent statement by Radboud on the current crisis, they state: “We speak out against any violation of human rights”. We do not think that this statement is compatible with cooperation with institutions playing an active role in the current attacks on Gaza.
Israeli universities contribute to apartheid
Israeli universities are not politically neutral institutions and play a proactive role in the maintenance of settler colonial relations. They are complicit in development of military technology, educating its students into positions necessary to uphold the brutal occupation and serve as propaganda hubs essential for concealing and justifying the ongoing genocide in the public eye.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is one of the Israeli universities Radboud partners with. One of the honorary chairs of its executive committee, Michael Federmann, is also the head of Elbit Systems. Elbit is Israel’s largest private arms company and prides itself in selling ‘battle-proven’ military technology – made for war and tested on Palestinian civilians. Furthermore, Hebrew University owns several buildings on occupied Palestinian land, has joined efforts to expel Palestinian families from their homes and has lent its rooftops to the Israeli police surveilling Palestinians in East Jerusalem. This is just one of the examples of Israeli universities helping the Israeli regime colonise Palestine.
As students of Radboud we do not want to be complicit in the killing and displacement of Palestinians. The university should listen to its students, and be the ‘place of critical thinkers’ that it pretends to be. Radboud should not look away from the dozens of war crimes and violations of international law. This means that Radboud has to speak out, since not speaking out is siding with the oppressor.
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