Second-year Law in Society students Navid Adelzadeh (19) and Janneke Parrish (32) feel like the current events in Gaza are not sufficiently understood. “I feel that a lot of people have been watering down the situation”, says Adelzadeh, who came up with the idea of writing the letter.
In short, the nine-hundred-word open letter goes over the Netherlands’ reputation of standing up for human rights, condemns the October 7 attack by Hamas and says – with some legal jargon thrown in – that Israel’s response violates international law. It closes with seven demands directed at the government. “We have been very careful to ensure that our language is the language of law. As law students, we are making a legal argument for the cessation of violence in Gaza”, says Parrish.
Packing a punch
At the moment, the letter is only intended for VU students or staff to sign. According to Adelzadeh, their network simply isn’t large enough to open it up to a larger group. He thinks it “packs a bigger punch” to recruit a significant portion of the VU community, instead of recruiting a small portion of a larger audience. Still, the duo hasn’t completely ruled out reaching out to a bigger group of people in the future.
Although signees are asked to check a box which confirms they are either a VU student or employee, this can be signed anonymously. “A lot of students told us that there’s blacklists of people that speak out about Palestine. To protect their privacy for any reason that they may wish, we want it open to them as well – although it’s only being sent to the Dutch government and the International Court of Justice”, explains Adelzadeh. The students say they trust the signees to be truthful about their connection to VU Amsterdam.
On Monday afternoon, the letter had 168 signatures, which they say they got by sharing it in three VU study programme group chats. Parrish: “I’m incredibly proud of that. We are two second-year students. We aren’t anyone particularly notable, but even through the work we’ve already done we’ve got over a hundred and fifty people to sign this. That’s incredible and I’m very proud of where this is going.”