Thursday afternoon’s lunch was disrupted for many due to a protest action by Students for Justice in Palestine in the VU restaurant. They hung a banner with the line ‘Existence is Resistance’, with another line in Arabic below. Someone carried a sign saying ‘Decolonization is not Theory’. The controversial ‘From the river to the sea…’ call was also chanted.
A young man with a keffiyeh covering his face yelled through a microphone that VU Amsterdam doesn’t offer space for debating Israel’s war against Gaza. “Hey VU, shame on you”, sounded from roughly forty throats. VU was pronounced as Voo, otherwise it doesn’t rhyme.
Out of fear for polarization, VU Amsterdam disallowed a teach-in about Gaza last week. Actions and gatherings by Students for Justice in Palestine have been blocked in the past as well. The group accuses VU Amsterdam of suppressing Palestinian voices, as is seen in the announcement of Thursday’s sit-in. They’re also protesting collaboration between VU Amsterdam and Israeli universities and companies.
VU Amsterdam also argues that Jewish students and professors feel unsafe due to actions for Palestine, but in Ad Valvas the Jewish VU-scientists Patricia Schor and Pepijn Brandon said last week that universities should be ashamed for suppressing the debate. In NRC a group of twenty Jewish scientists and students argued for universities to take a stance on the matter.
Nearly all protesters in the restaurant had their faces covered, because standing up for Palestinians is good, but you also have to consider your career. Despite the megaphones it was difficult to make out what was being said. Someone spoke about the systemic violations of Palestinian rights by Israel. Around the protesters, unperturbed students kept spooning in their spaghetti. Though there was a lot of filming and photographing going on with cellphones.
Marcel Nollen of the executive board came by, accompanied by some people from security, Corporate Real Estate and Facilities and communication & marketing. “As long as they behave, we’ll let them continue”, said Nollen.
Because of the celebration of the dies natalis, today in the aula, there was already a lot of security on campus. “That is necessary nowadays”, said someone from communication. Everyone looked at the situation, let the group blow off steam and after a short hour it was over.
In the Aurora space by the restaurant, the university student council held a meeting about sexual harassment, alcohol policy, ICT-issues and accommodating students with attention deficiencies and dyslexia and such during exams. The meeting was shortly suspended and then continued without a discussion about the protest.